The addition of cabin air filters have only recently been integrated into the majority of U.S. automobiles. As a result, many owners do not even realize that their car is equipped with one – and even fewer realize they need to be changed periodically.
Today, more than 80% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. are now equipped with cabin air filtration systems.
“Many people don’t even know they have a cabin air filter in their vehicle and most others aren’t aware of the health benefits of changing it,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Checking the cabin air filter is a simple preventive maintenance step that goes a long way toward protecting passengers, as well as the vehicle’s HVAC system.”
Why change a cabin air filter?
The cabin air filter in your vehicle supplies fresh air to the passengers inside the car when the windows are closed. Similar to the filters found on a home heating system or air conditioning unit, auto cabin air filters prevent dust, pollen, and other allergens from entering the vehicle.
As an important part of the heating/AC and ventilation system, a clogged car cabin filter can reduce the effectiveness of your air conditioning and defroster and can even contribute to lower gas mileage. If ignored, over time a severely clogged filter can reduce airflow and eventually cause the HVAC systems blower motor to fail.
Most auto cabin air filters are made of tightly woven fabric usually folded into a series of ridges and valleys surrounded by a pliable, rubber gasket. The filters are designed to trap pollen, bacteria, dust, and exhaust gases before they can enter the HVAC system of your vehicle, while still providing an adequate supply of fresh air for the driver and passengers.
While nearly every properly installed cabin air filter will prevent the majority of leaves, bugs, and other debris from entering, some filters also contain deodorizing materials such as charcoal or baking soda to further ‘freshen’ the air entering the cabin of the vehicle.
When to change a cabin air filter?
Following the winter driving season, it’s always a good idea to considering changing both the engine and cabin air filter. Months of driving on roads strewn with leaves, acorns, sand, and salt have likely clogged both filters, as intended, and should now be replaced.
Based on typical driving conditions, the Car Care Council, recommends replacing the cabin air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. For many drivers, this equates to twice a year. Here in New England, it makes the most sense to change these filters in the fall and spring.
How to locate a cabin air filter
Although similar, the exact size and shape of your cabin air filter is determined by the make and model of your vehicle. Proper fit of the filter within the filter housing is critical to insuring that the contaminants are captured.
To determine if your vehicle has a cabin air filter, its type, and where it can be found, first check the owner’s manual. Typically, cabin air filters are located behind the glove compartment, under the dashboard, or under the hood of the car near the windshield.
On many vehicles, cabin air filters can be replaced without tools. However, it’s not uncommon for the job to require the use of a few basic hand tools – primarily to gain access to the compartment that houses the filter. The video on this page offers some helpful tips about how to locate and change a cabin air filters.
A dirty or clogged cabin air filter can also create a persistent, unpleasant, musty odor inside the vehicle. That’s one reason why you should never simply clean off a dirty cabin air filter and reinstall it. Often, it’s what you can’t see that may be causing the odors.
If you have already spent the time to find and remove the old filter, replacing it with a new one is an inexpensive way to help you – and your passengers – breathe a little easier this allergy season. Every VIP Tires & Service Center maintains a huge inventory of cabin air filters. Our certified technicians are also on hand to answer any questions or install your new cabin air filter. Don’t suffer this allergy season… turn to VIP -– open 7 days a week .