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Replacing Your Car Air Filter: Breathe the Benefits of a Clean Filter

A clean cabin air filter compared to a dirty one.

Whether your car has a foul odor or your heating and air conditioning just aren’t working as well as they used to, a dirty car air filter is a likely culprit.
Cabin Air Filter: Clean vs. Dirty
Most manufacturers recommend that a car’s cabin air filter be changed every 12,000–15,000 miles, but where is it and how do you change it?

Breathe Easy

Older cars, especially American ones, were not equipped with cabin air filters, but nearly all late-model vehicles are outfitted with them as a standard. This filter catches dust, pollen and debris from outside the car and prevents it from coming inside when you run your heat or AC.

Reduced airflow or a consistent, foul odor from the HVAC system are signs that your filter needs to be replaced. Even if your car doesn’t demonstrate these symptoms, the filter should be changed at least once a year.

Replacing Your Car’s Filter

The location of your car’s air filter will vary between make and model, but in most cases it can be found behind the glove box inside your car and accessed by simply freeing the glove box from its mounts. Refer to your owner’s manual or consult with your local NAPA AutoCare if you are uncertain as to where it is located. Once you’ve reached it, you can pull it right out and slide a new filter directly in its place. Simply reattach your glove box and you’ll be all set.

Cleaning an Old Filter

Most vehicles are outfitted with non-reusable paper filters, but in some cases they are made of carbon or cloth, which can be washed and reused. If yours is a reusable model, remove the filter, vacuum any large debris trapped in it and wash it down with warm water and a mild soap. Once your filter is completely dry, it’s ready to be reinstalled.

Consult the Experts

If you feel like changing the cabin air filter is beyond your mechanical grasp, ask your local NAPA AutoCare expert to change the filter when they perform your next service. Ask them to inspect the filter and show it to you if it needs to be replaced.

Changing the cabin air filter is simple and can be done in your own garage. Although it may not seem important, your car air filter works to keep your car clean and smelling fresh — and, if left unattended to, can impede the performance of your interior heating and cooling systems.

Check out all the air filters available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on replacing your car air filter, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr

Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

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