If you’re experiencing excessive noise or weak airflow from your air conditioner system, you might have a clogged cabin air filter.
But can you drive without a cabin air filter?
Driving without the filter won’t impact engine performance. However, you’ll probably experience reduced air quality since it works to prevent pollutants from entering the cabin.
Let’s clear the air on driving without a cabin air filter and discuss some critical impacts to consider.
This Article Contains:
- Can You Drive Without a Cabin Air Filter?
- How Do I Know if My Cabin Air Filter Needs Replacing?
- How Do You Replace a Cabin Air Filter?
- 4 FAQs on Cabin Filters
Can You Drive Without a Cabin Air Filter?
Driving without a working cabin air filter won’t significantly affect the engine performance. However, it can lead to several worrying consequences, like:
- Poor air quality: Harmful debris particles can enter the cabin if your air filter isn’t doing its job. This can impact your health as exposure to pollutants can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
- HVAC system damage: A dirty air filter can completely block the airflow. This causes the heater fan and blower motor to overheat or fail. The blower motor may also pull out the filter with all of the debris.
- Reduced cabin climate control: The cabin won’t receive adequate airflow when air filters get clogged. This decreases the system’s defrosting and defogging abilities, disrupting your driving visibility.
- Increased fuel consumption: A clogged filter requires more energy from the HVAC system to push air into the cabin. This places more stress on the engine, causing it to burn more fuel as it works harder.
If your cabin air filter is bad, replace it as soon as possible to avoid health, safety, and monetary consequences.
Next, let’s see how to determine if you need a new cabin air filter.
How Do I Know if My Cabin Air Filter Needs Replacing?
Ideally, you should change your old filter between 12,000 to 15,000 miles. However, you could also change it if you notice faulty or clogged cabin air filter symptoms, such as:
- Excessive noise from the air conditioning system
- A whistling sound from the car’s cabin air intake ducts
- Poor airflow, even with the air conditioning on high
- A musty smell coming from the air vents
Although you could drive without a cabin air filter, you should still replace it immediately.
Let’s explore the cabin air filter replacement process.
How Do You Replace a Cabin Air Filter?
Replacing a clogged cabin air filter is usually straightforward. But if you’re not confident working with car parts, leave the repair to a mechanic.
Here’s how they would replace cabin air filters:
- The mechanic would remove the glove box to find the dirty cabin air filter.
- Once they’ve located the dirty cabin filter under the glove box, they’ll note its position to install the clean cabin air filter in the same way.
- They’ll release the dirty cabin filter door by pushing the locking clips outwards. Then, pull the car’s cabin filter out.
- They’ll place the new cabin air filter in the same position as the old filter. The “airflow” arrow should point downwards.
There are also different types of filters your car may feature, including:
- Particulate: These filters use a paper-like material to catch fine dust, debris, and allergens (like pollen).
- Activated carbon: Besides filtering the same pollutants as particulate filters, they protect against fumes and odor.
- Electrostatic: This type uses an electrostatic charge to trap several contaminants, which enhances its ability as a debris, odor, bacterial, and pollen filter.
- Anti-microbial: Manufacturers coat these filters with silver or copper, which contain anti-microbial particles. This prevents bacteria and mold growth and offers protection from other debris and odors, too.
Still curious about cabin air filters?
Let’s filter out uncertainties with some FAQs.
4 FAQs on Cabin Filters
Here are the answers to some common questions about your vehicle’s air filter:
1. What’s the Difference Between Cabin Air Filter and Engine Air Filter?
Both air filters protect against dirt and debris in the air. However, they protect different parts of the car:
- The cabin air filter shields the cabin (car interior) from external debris and odors. It’s usually located under the glovebox.
- The engine air filter stops dirt and debris from entering the combustion chamber – keeping the air clean. You can find the engine filter under the hood, either on top or side of your engine.
The air conditioner filter and engine filter also differ in size and material composition.
2. How Much Does a Cabin Air Filter Cost?
Generally, you’ll pay around $130 for a cabin air filter replacement. This includes the cost of a new or clean cabin air filter (between $15 and $50) and the mechanic’s labor charge based on their service hours.
3. What Causes a Clogged Cabin Filter?
Cabin air filters clog naturally over time as pollutants tend to build up. It’s not a problem that often occurs with new vehicles.
However, driving in areas with a lot of dust or a high concentration of traffic can speed up this process as debris accumulates in the car air filter more quickly.
4. What Can You Do to Ensure Good Cabin Air Quality?
The best course of action is to replace your dirty cabin air filter as recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Some additional actions to promote clean air include:
- Vacuuming the interior to remove any accumulated debris, allergens, pollen, or other contaminants.
- Wiping down the door panels, steering wheel, console, and dashboard when they get dusty.
- Checking the weather stripping for damage.
- Cleaning spills promptly to prevent mold from growing and possibly contaminating the clean air.
Keeping a clean cabin will help maintain fresh air inside the car. And if you really want to go the extra mile, you can purchase a car air purifier.
Take a Breath of Fresh Air with AutoNation Mobile Service
Your vehicle’s air filter ensures good air quality by preventing pollutants from entering the car interior. If it’s bad, it compromises your cabin’s air quality, climate control, and air conditioner.
Don’t have the time to visit a service center?
An expert from AutoNation Mobile Service can fix the air conditioner filter right from your driveway. We are available seven days a week (with after-hours support) and provide a 12-month | 12-000 mile warranty on all repairs.
Contact us for a dirty air filter problem or any other auto repair and maintenance requirements.