The limited experience most people have with their cars or trucks extends as far as putting gas in the tank, jump-starting a battery, checking the oil and making sure all of the car's fluids are full. Some people may also know how to check their air filters, but those that do often look for a specific type of filter. If you have recently tried to locate your vehicle's air filter by looking for a tire-shaped filter and found nothing, you may be looking for the wrong size or shape of filter. There are several other shapes and sizes of filters, and you should look for each of these until you not only find the filter, but also discover what shape and size it is.
Cylinder-shaped air filters are often small, somewhere between four and eight inches in diameter. They have a small, circular opening through the middle that looks like it would fit over a peg. Some are tall and slender while others are short and wide.
You will find this shape and style of air filter inside a box-like compartment near your engine block. When you open the compartment, the filter slides out like a wall. They are very flexible to the point of being floppy, so you have to be very careful when removing them and inserting a new one. You want to avoid tearing the filter's fibers because it can hinder your engine's performance. The panel-shaped filter is rectangular or square, and is almost always less than a foot in length and width.
Cone-shaped filters include filters that start out looking like cylinders but gradually switch their shape over to a flattened cone, either on the top or the bottom of the filter. They fit in a very unusual way, so it should not be difficult to spot this type of filter under your hood if your vehicle uses it. You may have to change it more often than other shapes because it does not filter air uniformly from top to bottom and all around. When you find it and remove it, it may have more dirt crammed in around the base or to one area of the filter than on the top or another side.
Stretched Oval Panels
If you spot something that looks like an elongated oval, gently pull it out. This is probably your vehicle's air filter, since some cars and trucks have an air filter that is shaped like a stretched-out oval. The air filter portion is wrapped all the way around underneath the plastic oval top, and it is compressed into this form to fit the space in your engine block.
Perhaps one of the oddest looking filters of all is the "lazy square." There is a plastic square top you can grab onto, but when you lift the filter out, the bottom resembles a melted square on its side or a flattened triangle. The total surface area of this type of filter is less by comparison than virtually all other filters, so you will have to check it regularly to make sure it is clean.
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