If your vehicle is model year 2000 or newer, there’s a good chance it is equipped with a cabin air filter. You may not have known that such a part existed in your vehicle, much less if it ever needed to be changed. But still, a cabin air filter is an essential part of your car’s ventilation system that removes pollutants from the air before they get inside the passenger compartment. Cabin air filters clean the incoming air and remove allergens – especially beneficial to pregnant women, seniors, children or people who suffer from allergies. Cabin air filters also prevent leaves, dirt, bugs and other debris from entering the HVAC system and negatively impacting the operation of the heater, air conditioner and defroster.
During every day use of your vehicle, contaminants, such as pollen, dust, mold spores and smog, can easily enter a vehicle’s passenger compartment through the air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems, making the air in the car six times dirtier than the air outside, according to the Car Care Council. A dirty or clogged cabin air filter can cause containments to become so concentrated in the cabin that passengers actually breathe in more fumes and particles when riding in the car compared to walking down the street. If the cabin air filter is not replaced, it can also cause musty odors in the vehicle, and over time, the heater and air conditioner may become damaged by corrosion. Motorists can protect themselves and their passengers from these containments by replacing the vehicle’s cabin air filter at least every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or at least once a year, or whenever heating or cooling efficiency is reduced.
So, how do you know if you need to replace your cabin air filter? Well, if you have never replaced it since you have owned the car now would be a good time. However, other tell-tale signs include:
• There is no other reason why your cabin should be fogging up and your defroster is working inefficiently.
• Musty, stale smell in the cabin
• Air conditioning and heating are not working as well as they should. (NOTE: there may be larger issues at play here than just a dirty cabin air filter, and you should have a certified mechanic investigate).
Cabin air filters are typically located under a vehicle’s dashboard, attached to the glove box; others may be located in the engine compartment. Some vehicles may even be equipped with two or three filters, located next to each other, one in front of the other (in series) or in completely different locations. You should check your owner’s manual to see where your cabin air filters are located. There are two basic types of filters – particulate and activated charcoal. The first type filters out road dust, bacteria, mold spores, pollens and other pollutants. The second additionally filters harmful gases and odors. If you have an odor problem or drive your vehicle in polluted areas or gridlock traffic, opt for the more expensive activated charcoal filter.
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