While cabin air filters are often overlooked during routine maintenance, most vehicles on the road today have them. And it’s too bad that they’re sometimes forgotten, because adding a regular cabin car air filter replacement to your maintenance schedule is one of the easier ways to care for your vehicle and the people inside it. If you’re thinking of replacing this filter, here are some handy tips to keep in mind.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Cabin air filters filter the air that blows into the cabin. Shocking, right? This means their job is to keep out particulate matter both large and small, such as bugs, dust, mold spores, pollen, leaves, twigs, pollution — pretty much all the things you wouldn’t want to breathe in that might otherwise find their way inside your vehicle. This makes them a must-have for people with allergies and asthma.
But more than that, cabin air filters also keep your HVAC system running effectively. If your filter is clogged, the airflow in the system will be stymied, and affected components will have to work harder, which could cause them to wear prematurely.
Do You Need a New Filter?
Recommendations on how often to change these filters vary, so it’s important to consult your owner’s manual. Usually, the baseline replacement interval is every 12,000-15,000 miles or once a year, but that could easily change based on driving conditions. If you’re often driving around in low-quality air or on dusty roads, you’ll want to check your filter more often. Look out for telltale signs that the filter is getting dirty and clogged, such as a musty odor, low airflow from your vents or even a whistling noise from behind the dash.
When you choose a new cabin air filter, you can go with one from the manufacturer, but it isn’t necessary. There are plenty of quality aftermarket filters to choose from. The biggest choice to make is whether or not you want to go for one that’s reusable, and that decision will depend on whether you feel like cleaning it when it gets dirty.
Single-use filters offer options such as activated charcoal and baking soda coating to reduce odors, but the more important features to look for are quality materials and filtration efficiency. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your new filter is the same shape and size as the old one.
Out With the Old, in With the New
Most cabin air filters are located either behind the glove box or under the dash. They can usually be accessed pretty easily, either by popping a few panels or removing some screws. Again, your owner’s manual is the best resource for this. Note that some cars have more than one filter, so be sure to look out for that as well. Also, pay attention to the orientation of your cabin filter, as it will need to be set in a specific direction for optimal airflow, which is usually denoted by an arrow. Once the old filter is out, vacuum or otherwise clean the area before installing the new one.
Changing this filter regularly will keep the air you breathe fresher and better for your health, and it will help maintain your HVAC system to boot. It’s an easy maintenance item to add and check off.
Check out all the filters available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on a car air filter replacement, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Images courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.