You might find it hard to believe, but the cabin air filter is a relatively new technology — it was first introduced in high-end vehicles in 1989. For the health-conscious and allergy sufferers, it was a great idea that should have come along sooner. According to a Korea Institute of Industrial Technology study, automotive cabin air filters trap between 50% and 90% of particles larger than 0.3 micrometers, such as dust, soot, pollen and insects. Fast-forward three decades, and it’s difficult to find a vehicle not equipped with one.
Where Is the Cabin Air Filter?
Logically, the cabin filter needs to be somewhere in the air conditioning system for it to filter incoming air. Some manufacturers place it where it can also filter recirculated air, depending on the position of the recirculation door.
In general, the cabin air filter can be found in one of three places:
- Behind the Glove Box: Most commonly you will find the cabin air filter located behind the glove box. To access it, you must remove a small panel from the back of the box, or sometimes the whole glove box flops down and out of the way.
- Under the Hood: For many vehicles, the fresh air intake is in the windshield cowl where it’s exposed to air but not the wind. To access this cabin filter, you must lift the hood and remove the plastic cover.
- Behind the Dash: A few vehicles have the cabin air filter located elsewhere in the dash. Most are somewhere on the passenger side, above or below the glove box, but a few are on the driver’s side.
When Should You Replace a Cabin Air Filter?
Because it filters most of the air either coming into your vehicle or being recirculated in the cabin, the cabin air filter will eventually fill up with dust, soot, pollen and other particulates. But there’s no one-size-fits-all cabin filter replacement plan. Some manufacturers recommend replacement every 10,000, 12,000, 15,000 or 20,000 miles or every 6 to 12 months. How often you change yours depends on several factors:
- If you drive a lot, the filter will likely pick up more dirt, so the mileage recommendation might better fit your circumstances.
- If you drive a little, the filter will pick up less dirt, so an annual cabin filter replacement would be your best bet.
- Some areas, such as country roads, are naturally dustier than others, which may clog the filter faster.
- If the cabin filter is visibly stuffed or emitting unpleasant odors, you should replace it as soon as possible.
Fortunately, inspecting and replacing the cabin filter does not require much time and little in the way of tools, if any at all. Check your owners manual for the specific location and procedure. It takes just a few minutes to remove the filter to see if it’s dirty enough to replace.
Check out all the cabin filters available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the cabin air filter located in your car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.