how often to change cabin air filter
vehicle maintenance

How Often To Change the Air Filter In a Car and Why It’s Important

Most people think they have things figured out when it comes to vehicle maintenance, but this is rarely the case. While it’s easy for people to know when their tires need to be pumped, wipers changed, and oil replaced, most car owners ignore the cabin air filter. Yet, a good cabin air filter is critical in determining how well you enjoy using your vehicle. Thankfully, cabin air filters are low maintenance. This article will cover everything you need to know about when and how to change the air filter in your car as well as its function and maintenance.

What Is a Cabin Air Filter? 

The cabin air filter is the part of your vehicle responsible for ensuring that the air from your heating or air conditioning system is clean and safe for you. As the name implies, a cabin air filter filters the air and generally determines the quality of air in your vehicle. Consequently, it prevents you from having mold spores, dust, and pollen in your car.

This is very different from the engine air filter. The engine air filter caters solely to the engine. It ensures that the engine gets a good supply of clean air for the vehicle to run smoothly. On the other hand, the cabin filter caters to the comfort of the vehicle occupants. 

The cabin air filter is usually found behind the glove compartment, the hood, or the dashboard. 

How Often Should You Change Your Cabin Air Filter? 

You can’t prevent your air filter from becoming clogged — however, you need to replace it when that happens. 

Mileage is important in determining how often to change the air filter in your car. Typically, a cabin air filter will need to be changed after a car has recorded 15,000 miles. This can be measured to mean after every 12-15 months for an average car user. However, some cabin air filters can continue working perfectly for as long as 30,000 miles.

Drivers who live in a desert climate or places with a lot of dust should replace the cabin air filter after every 7000-8000 miles. Regardless of the timing, there are other clear indicators that you need a cabin air filter replacement. We’ll go over some of them below.

how often to change cabin air filter

Increased Dust Settlement 

If you start to notice dust or pollen slowly building on the surfaces of your vehicle interior, it’s a telltale sign that you have a dirty filter and need a replacement. It should be especially concerning if you see dust or pollen in your car and don’t drive with your windows down. This implies that the cabin air filter is greatly weakened and can no longer filter the air getting into your car. 

A Lingering Unpleasant Odor

Usually, the air cabin filter ensures that external odors do not permeate the air in your car. Consequently, if the cabin air filter needs to be replaced, these odors can penetrate and stay trapped in the car, giving your car a bad smell or damp feel. This can, in turn, generate mold spores and lead to poor air quality. 

Excessive Noise From Vents 

Normally, the vents should work without making particularly noticeable sounds when on. However, when the cabin air filter is clogged, air won’t pass through it easily, and this can cause a whistling sound to be generated as the AC struggles to push air through the air filter and out the vents. If left unchanged, this can cause the air conditioner to stop working completely. 

Poor Airflow 

If you have to check repeatedly to ensure you put your air conditioning on, the chances are you need to replace your cabin air filter. A dirty air filter won’t let air through. Poor airflow is a good way for people who ply dusty roads to know when the filter is clogged. This is often the most common and least damaging sign. 

Still, the best place to find the answer to how often to change the air filter in your car is in your owner’s manual. Each vehicle has its peculiarities, which are best known to the manufacturer. 

What Happens if You Ignore a Bad Filter?

While you may be able to manage the noise or odor coming from your vehicle, one area that will be surely affected is your health. This is because the air you breathe directly affects your quality of life. Since a dirty filter means that your car gets weakened airflow, this can affect your respiratory health, and your general wellbeing may deteriorate over time. 

In fact, delicate respiratory health can determine how often to change cabin air filters. 

How Much Does an Air Filter Cost?

A cabin air filter is typically pretty cheap. The average cost of a cabin air filter ranges between $15- $70. The model of the car specifically determines this. Luxury cars have more expensive filters. If you want to save on this cost, check if your manufacturer has car service and part specials

The cost of labor itself can vary depending on your region and mechanic. Mechanics often offer to change them when you go in for your regular maintenance. However, you do not always need to concede. It’s best to inspect the filter yourself to determine if it truly needs a replacement before agreeing to it. Besides, you can easily change a cabin air filter yourself when it needs to be changed. This is fairly easy if you are good with your hands. 

How To Change a Cabin Air Filter 

Changing a cabin air filter can be easy, depending on if you have the right information beforehand. It’s not very different from changing a filter in your home air conditioner or your vacuum cleaner. Below are a few steps you should follow to change your cabin air filter successfully:  

Locate the Cabin Air Filter

To locate your cabin air filter, you can check your owner’s manual. The owner’s manual usually specifies the exact location of the air filter.

Generally, the cabin air filter is behind the glove compartment or under the hood. However, in some cars, it can be found under the dashboard. Because this position can be harder to access for an amateur, it may be best to change this type of filter at a repair shop. Also, note that some vehicles have more than one filter. 

Protect Yourself

Changing a cabin air filter is not necessarily risky. However, you may have to deal with a lot of dust, which can trigger allergic reactions such as rhinitis. Since the air filter may be clogged with dust and pollen, it’s best to use a mask and gloves when changing it. 

Remove the Glove Box

When the cabin air filter is behind the glove compartment, you will need to unscrew the pins holding the box in place. After this, carefully pull the glove box out of the dash. 

Remove the Cabin Air Filter 

At this point, the cabin air filter should be visible. Next, gently remove the clogged filter without knocking it around. You can also place a towel under the area where the cabin filter is. This ensures that the dust particles that would have settled on it do not get blown back into the cabin or your car. 

Clean the Cabin 

Use water and a soft towel to carefully clean out the cabin area. You can also make use of a handheld vacuum cleaner. Use the vacuum cleaner on low pressure to clean out the dust in the cabin. 

Change the Filter

Install the new filter according to the directions on the box, or you can simply install it in the same position as the filter that you just replaced. Take note of the airflow indicator mark to ensure it’s facing the right direction. 

In addition, make sure you are using a genuine OEM filter to maintain your warranty. After this, return the glove box and screw the pins back in place. 

Final Thoughts

The cabin air filter can easily be overlooked when servicing your vehicle — however, it is essential to take into account if you want to enjoy using your car. It is important to first understand how often you have to change the air filter in your car. The general average is after every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. 

Luckily, changing the cabin air filter is a really easy thing to do at home! Just ensure you have all the tools you need before getting started. If you don’t think you have the necessary supplies or skills to change it, don’t worry. You can still get your cabin air filter changed at an affordable rate even if you consult a service team.

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