Blog Car Care Advice Cabin Air Filter Replacement Guide: Signs + How to Change
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Cabin Air Filter Replacement Guide: Signs + How to Change

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Is it the sweet smell of adventure or the lingering aroma of yesterday’s drive-thru feast? 

In the grand scheme of car care, the cabin air filter is often considered the unsung hero – battling dust, pollen, and unpleasant odors. But if your car’s cabin is starting to feel like a culinary time capsule, it might be time to talk about cabin air filter replacement

Buckle up as we explore every little detail about the cabin air filters and their replacement process. 

This Article Contains: 

What’s the Role of a Cabin Air Filter?

The cabin air filter in your vehicle acts like a protective shield — trapping dirt, dust, pollen, and other airborne allergens before they can enter the car’s cabin. This helps ensure the air inside the vehicle is clean and fresh. 

The cabin air filter also helps keep your car’s HVAC system clean so that the air conditioning stays effective and limits the growth of any mold or bacteria. 

However, over time, the cabin filter gets clogged with the filtered-out contaminants, restricting the airflow. So, replacing it regularly is crucial.

But how do you know when your air filter needs replacing? 

3 Telltale Signs You Need a Cabin Air Filter Replacement

Here are the three key symptoms of a clogged filter: 

  1. Poor airflow from the vents: A clogged cabin air filter will restrict the airflow from your HVAC system. Consequently, you’ll have to increase the fan speed to get the desired airflow. This can further strain your heater and air conditioner. 
  1. Unpleasant odors in the cabin: As the filter accumulates dust, pollen, and other contaminants, it becomes a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. When you turn on your air conditioning, the musty odors from the filter circulate throughout the cabin.
  1. Loud fan noise: When the filter becomes heavily laden with debris, it restricts the fan’s airflow. The fan has to work harder to push air through the clogged filter, increasing noise levels. Some debris can also dislodge and reach the ventilation fans, adding to the rattling or buzzing fan sounds. 

If your car is also giving you the above signals, it’s time for cabin filter replacement.

How to Change a Cabin Air Filter (Step-By-Step)

Unlike an oil filter, replacing the cabin air filter is straightforward. However, if you don’t trust your DIY skills, your service center or an independent mechanic can perform the replacement for you. 

But if you still wish to order parts online and do it yourself, here’s a rundown of the replacement process: 

Step 1: Prepare Your Vehicle for the Replacement 

Park the vehicle on a level surface and engage the parking brake. Also, cover the passenger side floor with an old rag or towel, as some debris and pollutants from the dirty cabin air filter may fall out during the replacement. 

Step 2: Access the Old Filter 

Generally, the cabin air filter can be found behind the glove box. To access it, empty the glove box and loosen any screws or bolts securing it to the dashboard. 

Disengage any clips or tabs on the sides and gently pull the glove box towards you. 

Note: Some vehicles require cabin filter access from under the hood. It’s best to refer to your owner’s manual to find its location. 

Step 3: Remove the Old Cabin Filter 

Once you remove the glove box, you should be able to see the cabin air filter housing. Open the housing and carefully pry off the old filter and vacuum the area if needed. Note the orientation of the old filter to install the new one correctly. 

Step 4: Install the New Cabin Air Filter 

Ensure that the new cabin air filter has the same design as your old cabin air filter.

Install the new filter the same way the old filter was installed. Also, see that the airflow direction marked by an arrow on the filter is pointing in the direction of the airflow — towards the cabin.  

Pro tip: You can also install a cabin filter air freshener that fits into the pleats of the cabin filter. The air freshener discretely helps improve the smell of cabin air. 

Step 5: Reinstall the Glove Box

Finish up the replacement by reinstalling the glove box back in its place. 

Now, you may wonder: How often do I need a replacement to maintain clean air inside my car?
Let’s find out next. 

How Often Do You Need to Change Your Cabin Filter?

Ideally, you should schedule service for a cabin filter replacement every 15,000-30,000 miles. 

You can check your owner’s manual, which mentions the manufacturer’s recommended intervals for changing the engine air filter, oil filter, and fuel filter. It also mentions intervals for brake service, transmission service, etc. 

However, you may need to replace it sooner if you frequently drive in heavily polluted areas, endure heavy traffic, or traverse a dirt road. Also, if you’re experiencing a restricted flow of fresh air from the air conditioner or other signs mentioned earlier, take your car to the service center to check the filter out. 

Now that we’ve cleared the air on cabin filters, let’s address some related queries car owners have. 

3 FAQs on Cabin Air Filters

Here are answers to some common questions asked about cabin filters: 

1. What Happens If I Keep Driving with a Clogged Cabin Filter?

A dirty cabin filter is unhealthy for both you and your car. 

Since a dirty cabin air filter can’t filter out harmful pollutants and allergens from the incoming air, it can lead to allergic reactions or breathing troubles. The lesser airflow and prolonged exposure to poor air quality can result in fatigue and poor concentration after long drives. 

A clogged cabin air filter also reduces your HVAC system efficiency, leading to heating and cooling system malfunctions. You’ll find it difficult to clear the fog or condensation from your car’s windows, impacting your visibility. 

So, it’s best to get a new inventory of cabin filters at recommended intervals to maintain clean air inside your vehicle. 

2. What are the Different Types of Cabin Filters Available in the Market?

Here are some of the filter types that use different cabin air filter technology:

  1. Particulate filters: The most common type — designed to capture dirt, dust, pollen, mold spores, and other airborne particles.
  1. Activated carbon filters: These capture airborne particles from the incoming air while also absorbing unpleasant odors and harmful pollutants. 
  1. Electrostatic filters: These use an electrostatic charge to attract and capture pollutants. They can be effective in trapping smaller particles than standard particulate filters.
  1. HEPA filters: Some premium cabin air filters incorporate a cabin air filter technology called High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA). It’s known for its high efficiency in capturing microscopic particles. These are pretty effective for frequent dirt road driving.

Note: When replacing your cabin or engine air filter, use a new inventory that meets or exceeds your vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Also, consider the air quality you frequently drive in.

3. How Much Does Replacing a Cabin Air Filter Cost?

If you plan to get a replacement from the service department of your car manufacturer or an auto shop, it can cost between $50-$100 (including labor charges.)

Here’s an estimate of how much different filter types cost: 

Breath Fresh Air with AutoNation Mobile Service 

The small effort of changing this unassuming filter can result in a big payoff – clean air, improved HVAC system performance, and a more enjoyable time behind the wheel. 

Need help replacing the cabin filter?
Let AutoNation Mobile Service handle this quick replacement for you. 

We offer auto repair and maintenance solutions right from your driveway. All the repairs are also backed with a 12-month | 12,000-mile warranty

Contact us to schedule service for a cabin or fuel filter replacement, brake service, transmission service, or any other automotive repair.