Proper maintenance can help vehicles perform as designed, positively affecting fuel economy, emissions, and the overall drivability. This effort investigates the effect of one maintenance factor, intake air filter replacement, with primary focus on vehicle fuel economy, but also examining emissions and performance. Older studies, dealing with carbureted gasoline vehicles, have indicated that replacing a clogged or dirty air filter can improve vehicle fuel economy and conversely that a dirty air filter can be significantly detrimental to fuel economy. The effect of clogged air filters on the fuel economy, acceleration and emissions of five gasoline fueled vehicles is examined. Four of these were modern vehicles, featuring closed-loop control and ranging in model year from 2003 to 2007. Three vehicles were powered by naturally aspirated, port fuel injection (PFI) engines of differing size and cylinder configuration: an inline 4, a V6 and a V8. A turbocharged inline 4-cylinder gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine powered vehicle was the fourth modern gasoline vehicle tested. A vintage 1972 vehicle equipped with a carburetor (open-loop control) was also examined.
Results reveal insignificant fuel economy and emissions sensitivity of modern vehicles to air filter condition, but measureable effects on the 1972 vehicle. All vehicles experienced a measured acceleration performance penalty with clogged intake air filters.