A cabin air filter helps clean the air in the passenger compartment as it enters the vehicle via the heating, air conditioning, and ventilation system. The filter cleans the air of dust, pollen, smoke, and other pollutants before it enters your vehicle.
Found on many late-model vehicles, the cabin air filter is most commonly located around the glove compartment area, including directly behind the glove compartment with access to the filter either through or via the removal of the glove compartment. Some other areas for the cabin air filter include the back section of the outside air intake, above the blower, or between the blower and the HVAC case. If you are unsure, have a mechanic check where the cabin air filter is located in your vehicle before replacing it.
When to replace the cabin air filter
Knowing when to replace the filter can present a tricky situation. You don't want to change it out too soon and waste money, yet you do not want to wait until the filter becomes ineffective. Recommendations say you should replace the cabin air filter in your vehicle every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, and sometimes longer. Check your owner's manual to find out the manufacturer's maintenance schedule and when to change out your car air filter.
A big factor when determining the best time to replace the filter depends on how often you drive the vehicle, the air quality you drive in, and whether you drive in heavy traffic or not. The longer a vehicle air filter is used, the less it filters out all of the dust, pollen, and other outside contaminants because it becomes clogged with use. Eventually, the air filter becomes more and more ineffective, interfering with the air flow to the ventilation system. At this point you should have it checked by a mechanic to see if you need to have it replaced.
Signs that you need to replace the cabin air filter
While driving, you should keep in mind certain signs that you need to have the cabin air filter changed by a mechanic. Some common signs that a cabin air filter needs changing include:
- A reduction in air flow to the HVAC system as the filter material becomes clogged
- Increased noise from the fan as it works harder to deliver fresh air through the dirty filter
- A bad odor when you turn on the air in your vehicle
The best time to check the cabin air filter
One suggestion for the best time to check the condition of the cabin air filter and see if it needs replacement is before winter sets in. The reason behind this is that your vehicle has worked hard at cleaning the air entering your vehicle during the spring, summer, and fall. At this point of the year, the filter has seen the worst of the pollen. Changing it out now allows you to prepare for the next year's warm weather. When changing out the filter in your car, ask the mechanic what is the best cabin air filter for your specific vehicle.