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How Often To Change Cabin Air Filter

How Often To Change Cabin Air Filter? And Why You Should!

When it is hot or cold out there, it is always a great feeling to turn on the AC or heater and enjoy the nice temperature. However, many of us simply enjoy the system without thinking about the air. The air is usually pulled outside and filtered before being sent into your car. Does that mean you have to change your cabin air filter? If yes, how often to change the cabin air filter?

In general, you are advised to change your cabin air filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles if you operate your car under normal conditions. If you use your car in dusty, dirty environments, you may need to change it more often. If unchanged, a dirty and clogged filter may cause your HVAC system to be inefficient, and the air blown out may be smelly.

This article discusses how frequently you should change your cabin air filter. We also explore topics such as how to change the cabin air filter yourself and what happens if you do not check your cabin air filter.

What Is A Cabin Air Filter?

A cabin air filter helps to clean the air in your car’s HVAC system before the air travels into your car cabin. It is usually a small pleated unit with multi-fiber constructions encased in a plastic casing. You install it by inserting it into its slot, usually underneath the glove box.

The cabin air filter in a car helps clean the air you breathe inside the car of harmful pollutants like pollen and dust. This filter is usually behind the glove box. 

The cabin air filter is a small pleated unit often made of man-made material or multi-fiber cotton made from paper. The pleated unit is usually contained inside a plastic casing, allowing the filter to have a solid structure to be inserted into your HVAC system.

When your HVAC system is working, it basically sucks in air from the outside. It then warms or cools the air before blowing it into your car cabin. On its way to your cabin, it passes through the cabin air filter, which cleans the new air as it makes its way through the HVAC system of the car.

The filter is capable of filtering out things such as dust, pollen, and ash. Modern cabin air filters may come with N95 filters or silver ions, which can even filter out or kill microorganisms and harmful bacteria from the air. 

N95 filters would have a filtering capacity similar to your N95 face masks, and the silver ion may help to neutralize and kill bacteria and viruses. Cabin air filters are usually installed into your car’s HVAC system underneath the glove box.

How Much Does A Cabin Filter Cost?

When browsing for the price of cabin air filters online on places such as Amazon, the prices seem to be wide. The lower-priced cabin air filter seems much cheaper than the more expensive variant, which can be almost three times more expensive.

Car Model Average Price
Ford F-150 $7 – $20
Toyota Tacoma $9 – $18
Toyota Camry $4 – $12
Honda Accord $5 – $12
Chevrolet Silverado $7 – $19
Honda CR-V $7 – $18
Honda Civic $7 – $18

The price difference could be for several reasons, mainly the materials used to make the air filter and also the additives added to the cabin air filter:

Multi-Fiber vs. Paper

Generally, more affordable cabin air filters are made with paper. The more expensive ones may be made from multi-fiber. 

Cabin air filters made from paper are usually cheaper, as the materials are cheaper, and they may be easier to make. However, paper-made filters do not last long and are fragile. In many cases, paper filters are single-use items.

Filters made with multi-fiber may feature stronger materials, which means the filter may last longer and may be able to perform better filtering. Some multi-fiber filters may actually be reused multiple times as well. However, they are more expensive. 

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is commonly used to perform one thing, remove odors and smells. This means some cabin air filters may also have activated charcoal added to it. 

It helps filter out possible odors and smells from the air your HVAC system absorbs from the outside, ensuring that the smell does not travel into your cabin. However, if the cabin air filter comes with activated charcoal, it should be more expensive than the others. 

Silver Ion

Silver may be a precious metal, but it is also prized for its antibacterial properties, it is used in water treatment, and even ancient kings used silver cutlery to detect poison in their food. 

As a result, more premium cabin air filters may have silver ions added to their filters. These silver ions help kill off bacteria or other microorganisms in the air sucked into the HVAC system. This ensures that you get bacteria-free air in your cabin.

Microfilters

Premium cabin air filters also may come with microfilters, which can perform more detailed filtering as filters. If you see your cabin air filter comes with a HEPA filter or N95 filter, then your cabin air filter has microfilters. 

The difference with microfilters is that they can filter away finer particles and dust and ensure you have great clean air inside your cabin.

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How Often To Change Cabin Air Filters?

Replace your cabin air filter every 15 to 30,000 miles, depending on your use. The dustier the air, the more often you should change your cabin air filter. You can also change your filter whenever you detect an odd smell, reduced airflow from your HVAC, or a general hissing sound from the glove box.

There are no set rules on changing your air cabin filter. This means you may either set a rule yourself or check with your car maker to see if they recommend anything. 

However, you may apply some approaches to replacing your cabin air filters. 

Smell

When the bacteria-neutralizing ability of your cabin air filter has failed to work, it may fail to filter out the smell of the air. As a result, you may start to smell an odd and funny smell coming out of your HVAC. 

In this case, consider changing your cabin air filters to see if it solves the issue. If not, there may be some larger issue in hand, which may need a diagnosis from an HVAC expert.

Airflow

At times, you may notice that your HVAC system cannot blow out air at a higher volume than it used to. This may be due to way too much dust and things being trapped by the filter. It actually started blocking the airflow. 

In this case, replacing the filter may help restore your HVAC system’s airflow volume. This is because the new air filter may allow more air to pass through it. 

Hissing Sound

If you start to hear a hissing sound coming from the glovebox when the AC or heater is turned on, chances are you may have a clogged air filter. In this case, the air filter may have started clogged up with dust and dirt, causing the air to make sounds similar to whistling. 

Usually, replacing the cabin air filter may be the perfect step to solve this issue. Consider this and see if it solves the sound problem.

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How To Change a Cabin Air Filter?

To replace the cabin air filter, you start by opening the glove box before removing it from its position. You then pull out the cabin air filter and then put it back in the new cabin air filter. You may start your car, run your AC, and see if everything is normal. Once so, you can place back the glove box and then close it back up.

The cabin air filter is usually underneath the glove box for most cars. However, some German cars, such as BMW may have a cabin air filter in the engine compartment. This means you may need to have your user manual on standby when replacing your own car filter. 

However, in general, these are the common steps you can take to change a cabin air filter:

  1. Start by checking your user manual for cabin air filter location. They should be behind the glove box. 
  2. Open the glove box, and then empty everything inside of it. This makes it easier to remove the content later. 
  3. Now pinch the glovebox slightly on both ends to release it. Slowly remove the glove box away from its location. 
  4. If you are unsure how to pinch and release the glove box, you may need to check your user manual.
  5. You should be able to see what’s behind the glove box. Identify the position of the cabin air filter, and pull it out from its slot.
  6. Observe the condition of the air filter. They may not be clean and need to be replaced.
  7. Slide in the new air filter, ensuring they sit properly in the holder.
  8. Start your car engine, and turn on your AC or heater. Observe that everything is good with your HVAC. 
  9. Once you confirm that all is good, you may now reinstall your glove box. 

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