Simple Guide to a Cabin Air Filter

What do I need to know about a cabin air filter?

Cabin Air Filter Maintenance

While the majority of people are aware that the engine’s air filter needs to be changed, far fewer people consider changing the cabin air filter. But if you’re taking the proper steps to make sure the air going to your engine is clean, why not do the same for the air you’ll be breathing? The cabin air filter inhibits dust, pollen, and other pollutants from entering your interior cabin through the HVAC system.

The general rule of thumb is to replace the cabin air filter every 15,000-25,000 miles. However, other factors, such as your driving environment, can affect the lifespan of these filters. For example, if you frequently drive in a heavily trafficked urban area, the filter will need to be changed more often due to increased dust/pollutants being filtered. However, this can also be the case when driving in a more rural area due to the large amount of pollen that will be filtered. Either way, it’s important to be aware of the age of your filter.

Additional factors to consider are any existing reparatory or allergy issues. If these are of concern, you may want to consider more frequent changes to your cabin filter. Some studies show that the air inside of your vehicle can be up to six times sores in quality in contrast to the air outside of your vehicle.

When to Replace Cabin Air Filters

A sign that your filter needs to be replaced is a noticeable reduction in air flow when using the heat or A/C. Another sign is the presence of bad odors when using these systems. However, if you have kids, it may be difficult to discern this from the usual bad odors, so if you aren’t sure when it was last replaced it’s a good idea to get that done. You should also be able to get an idea of whether or not it needs to be changed by simply looking at the filter. If you’re able to see that dirt, dust, leaves or bugs that have built up, it’s probably a good idea to replace the filter. If it’s as sparkling white as freshly fallen snow, let it be.

Where is the Cabin Air Filter Located?

The location of the filter will vary by vehicle. While some are fairly easy to access and are located behind the glove box, others can be more difficult to replace. The cabin air filter replacement is a service that can be performed the next time you take your vehicle in for maintenance service. It can be helpful to change this filter at the same interval as your engine air filter.

When you use CarAdvise, all of your maintenance history is stored at your fingertips. You will receive reminders based off of your mileage and OEM recommendations when your cabin air filter should be replaced along with all of your other scheduled and routine maintenance. If it has been a while since you have last replaced your cabin air filter, it is recommended to have it checked during your next maintenance service.

Ask the mechanic to show you the filter so that you can take a look at the condition yourself. Here is an example of a new cabin filter along with another that is long overdue for a replacement.
cabin air filter

There are circumstances where a filter may contain smaller quantities of contaminants and do not require replacement. To determine if a filter can still be used, there are two common tests that can be performed.

1. The Flashlight Test – Shine a flashlight on one side of the filter and observe if the light from the flashlight can penetrate the pleats of the filter. If light shines through, the filter does not need to be replaced.
cabin air filter

Here is an example of a filer that does not pass the Flashlight Test
cabin air filter

2. The Daylight Test – Take the filter outside and hold it up to the sky to see if sunlight can be seen through the pleats of the filter. If light shines through, the filter does not need to be replaced.
cabin air filter

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