Automobile technology has come a long way throughout the decades. Yet, many of the basic principles behind car engines have remained exactly the same. For instance, cars today still require a steady stream of fresh air in order to generate power. This air mixes together with gasoline before being combusted inside of your car's engine.
To prevent unwanted problems, the air flowing into your engine must be as clean and pure as possible. Your air intake system contains an air filter designed to remove debris and contaminants. Over time, an air filter becomes more and more clogged with such debris, which will eventually reduce airflow and impede efficient combustion.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the importance of regularly changing their car's air filter. If you would like to learn more about why you must perform this important maintenance task, keep reading. This article lists three key warning signs of a restricted or otherwise non-functional air filter.
1. Decreased Gas Mileage
As noted above, when your engine cannot get a proper amount of air, it’s not as efficient as it should be. This decline stems from the unwanted alteration in the air-fuel mixture. As the air supply becomes more and more restricted, the air-fuel mixture becomes richer and richer. In other words, the proportion of fuel gradually increases.
Ultimately, rich fuel costs you more money. The lack of air means that not all of the gasoline will end up being combusted. Instead, it will move out through your exhaust system. Until you can restore the proper air-fuel ratio, you will likely have to fill up your gas tank much more frequently.
2. Engine Misfiring
The problems caused by insufficient airflow extend far beyond mere inefficiency. Before long, your engine will begin to misfire. In other words, combustion fails to occur inside of one or more cylinders. Misfiring leads to a lack of power, as well as an even more pronounced decrease in gas mileage.
Once again, the problem stems from an overly rich air-fuel mixture. The incomplete combustion of rich fuel generates a much greater amount of soot and exhaust, which quickly accumulates as deposits on the tips of your spark plugs. Known as carbon fouling, these deposits make it harder and harder for the spark plugs to fire. Eventually misfiring will occur.
3. Black Exhaust
As discussed above, rich fuel means that a certain percentage of gasoline will pass through your engine without being combusted. This fuel then flows on into your exhaust system, where it often catches on fire, producing large amounts of black smoke. A well-working engine, on the other hand, should produce little to no black smoke.
Black smoke creates problems in many ways. For one thing, the smoke has a terrible effect on the environment. Black smoke also means that your car — and specifically your exhaust system — may be at risk of certain problems.
Uncombusted fuel often spontaneously combusts inside of the exhaust system, thanks to the elevated temperatures of your exhaust pipes. When this happens, temperatures inside of the exhaust system grow even higher. Such temperatures can quickly cause damage to your catalytic converter.
Most catalytic converters can only handle temperature up to around 800 degrees Celcius. Spontaneously combusting fuel generates much more heat than this. As a result, the converter's substrate may melt, preventing it from doing its job. As a result, your exhaust will only grow more toxic.
The effects of a clogged air filter can be truly disastrous, both for your car. Fortunately, you can prevent most of these problems by having a trained technician change your air filter regularly. For more information, please contact Birmingham's auto pros at Palmer Brothers Auto Parts.