It’s not surprising that for most people who own a car, the question of how often to replace cabin air filter has never ever crossed their mind. We all know a vehicle is full of components that need to be serviced, maintained, and checked every once in awhile, and while sometimes this requires professional attention, there are plenty of parts that you can check on your own. For example, the vehicle’s cabin air filter is generally something that car owners can deal with on their own, and doing so requires little to no mechanical experience. In most cases, the cabin air filter is accessible, the accessibility may depend on the make and model of your vehicle.
Since it’s completely out of sight, it’s easy to forget about the cabin air filter, and as far as things to be worried about, it’s not particularly high on the list. However, it is an air filter, and like all other air filters, this one needs to be changed as well.
What Is a Cabin Air Filter?
The cabin air filter is simply what filters the air coming into the cabin of the vehicle. These are located inside of the air conditioning system, and they are designed to filter out dirt, dust, and other particles that may not only lower the air quality inside of the vehicle, but may also contribute to allergies and other respiratory conditions. They essentially work in the same way your air conditioning filters work at your home.
Most of the time, they are located somewhere behind your glove compartment or somewhere under the dashboard, and your owner’s manual should provide some insight into how to access it.
Cabin filters reduce the pollen, dust, smog, and mold spore content inside of the vehicle so that passengers can enjoy better air quality during travel. However, all of this filtering means that your cabin filters will eventually get clogged, and once they are clogged, all of these pollutants can make their way into the cabin.
How Often To Replace Cabin Air Filter?
How often you need to replace your filter may depend on the vehicle and the quality of the air filter. Higher quality filters last longer and they don’t need to be changed as often.
However, there is a general rule that says you should replace your air filter about once a year or every 12,000 miles. The number of miles can actually vary from vehicle to vehicle, and your owner’s manual will give you the most accurate number. Some say to change the air filter every 15,000 miles, and others might allow you to go longer than that. Most people don’t drive this frequently in a year, so how often you change the air filter might depend on how often you drive.
More specifically, it will depend on how often you run the air. Somebody who is either heating or cooling their vehicle every time they drive might have to replace the filter sooner than a person who avoids running the HVAC system as much as possible. The less often your air filter is collecting particles, the less frequently you will need to change it.
If you’re unsure if your air filter needs to be changed, you have two options. You can check it, which will require removing the glove box, or you can wait until it becomes obvious.
When to Replace the Cabin Air Filter
If you wait long enough, it will become obvious to you that your cabin air filter needs to be replaced. Extremely dirty filters will dramatically reduce air conditioning efficiency, and the two most common signs of a filthy air filter are poor air flow and unusual odors.
The air going into the cabin of the filter must first pass through the filter, but the dirtier the filter gets, the more difficult it becomes for air to pass through it. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how a dirty filter could result in poor air flow. If your cabin air filter is caked in dirt, dust, and other particles, air will struggle to pass through, and you will notice that it isn’t coming out of your vents with as much force as before. As a result, you have far less cooling capacity, and your cabin may feel uncomfortable. In the most severe cases, you may not get any air flow.
Additionally, a dirty cabin filter can generate some unusual odors in the vehicle. A cabin air filter that is coated in dust and dirt can produce dusty or musty smells, and this indicates that it’s time to replace the filter.
Why Replace the Air Filter?
Replacing the air filter is important for several reasons. A clean air filter ensures that the air you are breathing inside the vehicle is clean and fresh, and if you have allergies, this is even more important. You also rely on your car’s HVAC system to defog your windshield and windows, but this can be hard, if not impossible, to do with an extremely dirty filter.
Lastly, regularly changing your air filter gives your vehicle’s HVAC one less reason to break down. Running your heating and cooling system with a dirty filter can have some damaging effects and could one day result in a costlier repair.
How to Change the Filter
First, you want to take a look at your owner’s manual. Your owner’s manual should give you all of the most important information such as the type of filter, how often it should be changed, and hopefully how to access it as well. Most importantly, it should tell you where the filter is located so that you can change it.
In most cases, cabin air filters can be changed by opening the glove box and removing any limiting stop arms, popping free any side clamps. There might be a faceplate behind there that needs to be removed, and once you remove any obstacles, you should be able to access the filter, remove it, and replace it with a fresh one. In doing so, you can clean the filter chamber and surrounding components. If you don’t know where the cabin air filter is or how to get to it, professional removal is typically inexpensive.