Why Are Oil Filters and Air Filters Important?

Toyota is one of the best-selling automakers in the world and the top automaker in Japan. The brand got a following early on for making inexpensive, reliable and efficient passenger cars. They've since increased their lineup to include nearly every style of vehicle, from the flagship Camry sedan to the rugged Tacoma pickup and a family-friendly line of SUVs including the 4Runner and Land Cruiser. Toyota vehicles are still well-known for their reliability and, with routine maintenance, can last longer than nearly every other vehicle on the road. Keep your Toyota running great by replacing your air and oil filters regularly.

What Oil Filters Do

The basic job of an oil filter is to remove contaminants from your oil. Without an oil filter, engine oil would eventually collect contaminants as it breaks down. Those particles are abrasive enough to damage the oil pump and engine components. Oil filters should be changed with every engine oil change, which varies by vehicle and vehicle age, but a common recommendation is every 3,000 miles. Most modern vehicles can go longer than that, however. Make a habit of checking your engine oil for both level and color. Dirty engine oil is a medium to dark brown color.

An oil filter looks like a metal can on the outside. It has a sealing gasket that fits tightly against the engine surface, and it has perforated holes on the ends. Inside the can is the filtering material, which is usually made with synthetic fiber. Your car's oil pump pushes oil into the filter on one end and then it is cleaned and pushed back out through the other hole where it goes back into the engine. Most oil filters look roughly the same, which is why it's important to find out exactly what size of oil filter your vehicle takes. With some cars, the filter size might vary by engine as well, even if both engines have the same number of cylinders. Typically you can look up oil filters with information such as your engine type or VIN.

With oil filters, like many other important car parts, you get what you pay for. Cheap, low-quality filters tend to be made of thin metal, and have poor filtering material and gaskets that don't seal very well. Quality filters provide a tight seal, durable metal and filtering material that can filter out very small particles, keeping your oil cleaner longer.

What Air Filters Do

Your vehicle's air filter is another important filtration device for your engine, and like the oil filter, it helps to prevent contaminants from entering the engine. Most air filters are made of various materials including paper and cotton. They are typically located in the top section of the engine and may be in a plastic box or other configuration. The engine pulls in air as it runs and air filters trap dirt and small particles, keeping them from interfering with the engine. When air filters become clogged and dirty, you may notice engine performance suffering. Typical symptoms include a lack of power or hesitation upon acceleration. You may also notice a rough idle and reduced gas mileage.

Air filters should be checked every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or so. More often if you routinely drive in a dusty or sandy area. If the filter is noticeably dirty and you have experienced some loss of engine performance, it should be replaced. Like oil filters, you should always replace your air filter with a quality part so that it will do its job efficiently and last longer.

Replacing Oil Filters

Replacing an oil filter is one of the easier jobs you can do yourself on a car. Typically you replace an oil filter at the same time you change your motor oil. It's also one of the most important routine maintenance tasks on a car. Before you get started, make sure you have the following items:

  • The correct amount of engine oil for your vehicle
  • A high-quality oil filter made for your vehicle
  • Funnel
  • Socket and oil wrench
  • Oil pan or bucket to drain old oil
  • Newspapers and rags
  • A jack to lift the front of a lower profile vehicle and jack stands

Once you have the necessary equipment:

  1. Before you drain the oil, allow the vehicle to warm up, which makes the oil easier to drain. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, it may be high enough where you won't need to jack it up to get under it. For safety reasons, you shouldn't get under the vehicle when it's only supported by a jack.
  2. Lay the newspapers down beneath the vehicle and also the oil pan or bucket. You may also want a flashlight to help locate the oil plug. Loosen it with a socket wrench, then remove it the rest of the way by hand and allow it to drain into the pan. Be aware that the oil may be hot. Once the oil has fully drained out, put the plug back in.
  3. Under the hood, use the filter wrench to remove the oil filter. You may need different sizes of this tool depending on the size of your filter. Apply some new motor oil to the gasket part of the filter, which helps guard against cracking. Put the new filter in and tighten it. 
  4. At this point you can now add the new oil. Remove the cap on the engine marked engine oil or something similar. Place the filter in the hole and then start adding the oil slowly. Once you've added the correct amount of oil for your vehicle, remove and check the dipstick to make sure it's at the full level.
  5. The final step is to put the old engine oil in a jug and take it to a recycling station.

Replacing Air Filters

Air filters are fairly easy to replace, even easier than oil filters. On most modern vehicles, you'll find the air filter under the hood in a large plastic box. A large hose, called an air intake hose, is connected to it. You'll need to loosen the hose clamps and any other fasteners holding it to the box. Put the fasteners in a safe place so you can find them easily later. You can then lift the top part of the box off to reveal the air filter. The air filter itself is not fastened down. Pull the filter out and hold it up to a strong light source. If you can see light shining through it, then it doesn't need to be replaced. Some air filters you can clean with a vacuum or rag. If the air filter housing has debris or dust in it, you'll want to clean that as well.

If the air filter does need to be replaced, simply remove the old one and put a new one in its place. Replace the top of the box and fasten it back on. When cleaning the box, you'll want to put duct tape over the air intake hose so no dirt gets in during the process.

Find Toyota air and oil filters at OEMpartsquick.com. We stock a huge catalog of OEM parts at great prices. It's simple to search our inventory with a VIN, part number, keyword or your vehicle info. Replacing your worn Toyota parts with OEM parts is the best way to get an exact fit and the same performance. Don't hesitate to get in touch with our Toyota parts experts if you need any help finding what you need.