Saving money and protecting your car's engine when replacing the air filter

Air Filter Flim-Flam!

by Rich Finzer

To operate efficiently, your car's engine needs a couple of basic things. It needs good fuel, a hot spark, and nice clean air to mix with that fuel. So periodically, it's a good idea to replace your air filter. You want to avoid, however, a serious hosing when paying for it.

During a recent oil change at one of those "instant" shops, the kid performing the work informed me that my air filter was dirty and needed replacement. Depending on how many miles you drive, you may need to replace your car's air filter twice annually, so his recommendation seemed helpful. I asked what a new filter would run me. He replied, "Thirty dollars." With the sales tax added in, that new filter was going to cost $32.40, making it more expensive than the oil change. After the wave of nausea subsided, I eschewed his professional advice and chose instead to look for a less expensive replacement on my own. My quest took almost 10 minutes.

I cruised over to the big orange auto parts store (you know the one) and checked out their air filter prices. A brand new Fram(r) filter was going to cost me $10.59 plus tax, which worked out to a savings of about $18. Fat City! Had I stopped by a week earlier, the sales associate told me I could have gotten an even lower price, because Fram® filters had been on sale. Ah well, you win some and you lose some.

Now some folks are somewhat "automotively challenged," and if this describes you, don't worry. The guys at the auto parts store will install your new air filter for you in the parking lot at no charge. If you watch how it's done, you'll be able to perform the work yourself next time. The parts store will even dispose of your old air filter, so you'll miss that headache as well. Follow this advice twice annually, and the savings will net you the price of an oil change.

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