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What Are the Different Filters in a Car?

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Types of Car Filters

Your vehicle relies on a countless number of parts to power it down the road. Some are key to safety like brakes; others, like filters, ensure that the engine and other systems operate properly. The filters in your vehicle are designed to screen out impurities that would hamper performance. There are four main filters in a gas-powered vehicle:

  • Engine air filter
  • Oil filter
  • Cabin air filter
  • Fuel filter

Check out this infographic to learn more about each of these filters and how they keep your vehicle running in peak condition.

Different filters in a car diagram.

Engine Air Filter

Champion Engine Air Filter.

Whether you drive on the highway or do more city driving, dirt and debris can get into your engine, significantly affecting its performance. Typically made of pleated paper, the air filter traps debris that enters the air intake system and filters it out before it enters the engine.

The more dirt, dust and abrasive debris that is removed from the air entering your engine, the more efficiently your engine will perform and the longer it will last. Changing your air filter according to the manufacturer’s recommendation ensures that your engine gets the clean air it needs for the combustion process.

Oil Filter

Mechanic holding out a new Champion oil filter in his hand.

The oil in your engine plays an important role in its performance by lubricating the internal components. Keeping out combustion contaminants, dirt, and carbon deposits from the oil is the job of the oil filter. The oil filter stops the debris and contaminants prior to passing through the filter and traps them inside so they don’t find their way into the engine, which could cause excessive internal engine wear, tear and damage.

Your engine requires a tremendous volume of clean oil to operate properly. If the oil filter is not changed periodically, the filter can become severely clogged, reducing the volume of oil passing through the filter and into your engine. Without this oil, your engine can suffer severe damage. The oil filter is typically replaced as part of an oil change, a key part of your vehicle’s routine maintenance. Your vehicle’s owner’s manual will give recommendations on how often to change your oil and filter.

Cabin Air Filter

Mechanic replacing a cabin air filter with a new Champion cabin air filter.

Your vehicle relies on clean air to run properly; your car’s engine air filter ensures that clean air reaches the engine. In the same way, your car’s ventilation system counts on the cabin air filter to keep a steady stream of clean air flowing inside the vehicle so you and your passengers can breathe easy.

The cabin air filter keeps dust, dirt, pollen, bacteria and exhaust gases from entering the HVAC system of your car. It also prevents bugs, leaves and other debris from clogging up the system. If you don’t change your cabin air filter, the filter will become more clogged with dirt and debris and the efficiency of the filter and your car’s heating and air conditioning system will be compromised. Consult your owner’s manual for when to change your cabin air filter.

Fuel Filter

Mechanic replacing a fuel filter.

Just like other parts of your vehicle, your vehicle’s fuel injectors rely upon a clean flow of fuel to power your vehicle down the road. The fuel filter removes contaminants like dust, grit and rust that may be lurking in your vehicle’s fuel supply. By filtering out these impurities, the fuel filter protects the fuel injectors to help keep the engine running smooth.

If the fuel filter gets clogged, it can reduce the flow of gasoline to the engine, which can weaken the performance of the engine. A clogged fuel filter causes the fuel pump to work harder. Signs of a clogged fuel filter include hard starts, poor acceleration and stalling. Check your owner’s manual for specific guidelines on when to replace your fuel filter.


The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

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