Cabin Air Filter Buyer's Guide
- Air cabin filters keep out pollen, dust, pollutants, debris, and other harmful substances from entering the passenger cabin of your vehicle. They can contain specialized layers made from fine material and even charcoal to effectively provide you with clean and fresh air as you drive.
- Cabin air filters usually need to get replaced after a year or after 12,000 miles. Though, you need to consult your owner’s manual for the recommended service interval.
- OE replacement cabin air filters can cost you anywhere from $2-$106. The type of car cabin air filter you choose should rely on the requirements of your vehicle’s year, model, and make. CarParts.com has a wide variety of replacement cabin air filters from reusable types to carbon filter types.
Air quality plays a vital role in every activity that we do and that includes traveling. As pollen season comes each year, a lot of people try to maximize every protective measure to avoid allergy attacks. When it comes down to it, are you sure you’re safe from pollen and other microbes while you’re inside your car?
That largely depends on the condition and quality of your cabin air filter. It’s often overlooked and people tend to mistake it with engine air filters. Are cabin air filters necessary? How do you know when to change yours? This guide will walk you through things you need to know about cabin air filters.
What is a cabin air filter?
A cabin air filter is a multi-fiber material tailored to keep pollen, dust, and other particulates from getting inside the passenger cabin of your vehicle. It also helps keep out bugs, leaves, and other slightly larger objects from going inside your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system. Basically, your cabin air filter helps make sure that fresh and clean air enters the cabin.
Cabin air filters usually sit in the HVAC casing that’s located under the dashboard. Although, the cabin air filters of other vehicles can get found under the hood or behind the glove compartment, too. It’s best to consult your owner’s manual on where to find it and if it’s possible to replace it.
The filtering capacity of your cabin air filter depends on the size of the particle it can catch. You measure the size of the particles in microns. So, for example, if your filter can remove particles that measure 100 microns, it can’t stop smaller particles like mold spores (around 3 microns) from passing through.
Types of cabin air filters
There are several types of cabin air filters according to their filtering capacities and other functions. Note that some filters combine multiple functions and designs to filter out particulates and gases more effectively. Below are just some types available in the market today.
Particulate filters remove pollutants in the air like pollen, dust, and soot. This is the most basic type of cabin air filter available.
HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters are particulate filters designed to provide a filtration efficiency rate of 99.7% at 0.3 microns. That means that it can block out allergens like pollen and dust and other particulates that can enter your vehicle. However, they’re not as good as activated carbon/charcoal filters when it comes to filtering out harmful gases and odors.
Combination air filters are similar to particulate filters because they both clear the air of pollutants. However, combination filters have added features such as odor control and multi-stage filtering. Combination filters are made with several layers of different filtering material that work together for more efficient filtering. Baking soda and activated carbon/charcoal filters are the most popular varieties of combination filters.
Activated carbon/charcoal filters
In activated carbon/charcoal filters, an activated charcoal layer filters out harmful substances like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and other volatile organic compounds (formaldehyde, benzene, etc.). They also help keep out powerful odors from entering the passenger cabin. This combination filter is especially helpful if you regularly drive through heavy-traffic and heavily polluted areas.
When should I replace my cabin air filter?
While some filters can get washed and reused, most cabin air filters only last for a year or approximately 12,000 miles. If you drive through places with dirty air regularly or if you have allergies, change them more often. However, It’s still important to check your owner’s manual to get information on when to get a cabin air filter change.
If you don’t change your air cabin filter at the recommended interval, your filter can get clogged up with all kinds of dirt and gunk that will affect air quality. You might even put your vehicle’s HVAC system at risk for more expensive damage. If your cabin air filter needs replacing, you’ll see some very telling signs.
Reduced air circulation and quality
Towards the end of its lifespan, your cabin air filter will have accumulated enough dirt and other larger debris. The dirt and debris will prevent your car’s air filter and HVAC system from functioning effectively. If you don’t change your cabin air filter, you’re putting yourself and your family at risk because you’re breathing in more fumes, contaminants, and allergens.
Diminished HVAC system performance
Faulty or oversaturated cabin air filters lead to poor climate control. If your car is made in the last decade or so, this means that your onboard computer works twice as hard. It tries to make up for the faulty air filter by altering the power that goes to the fans. This can damage your car’s HVAC system or reduce its lifespan.
Musky and unusual odors
Molds can grow within a car if the cabin air filter doesn’t receive proper maintenance and replacement. As a result, your car’s passenger cabin can smell musty and damp. Molds also pose a serious health risk as it can trigger lung infections, skin and respiratory irritations, and asthma.
Unusual sounds from fans and air intake
An audible whistling sound can come from a running cabin air intake. Some particles may be large enough or have accumulated enough to obstruct most of the airflow going inside the cabin. Your car’s fans can also emit unusual noises when they’re turned up high. This means they’re being overworked because of the lack of airflow through the filter.
Broken air filters can affect fuel efficiency and cause engine strain. The HVAC system tries its best to compensate for the reduced airflow, and for it to function it needs more power from the engine. This can lead to even more problems for your engine and the rest of your vehicle.
How much does a cabin air filter replacement cost?
Here at CarParts.com, we have a wide variety of cabin air filters to choose from. We have reusable cabin filters and carbon air filters, plus other high-quality OE car cabin air filters for a great price.
OE replacement cabin air filters can cost you anywhere from $2-$106. You must input your vehicle’s year, make, and model to get the perfect replacement part. With our vehicle selector tool, you can narrow down your search for a cabin air filter replacement in less than a minute. Shop now and protect yourself and your family from all kinds of harmful airborne particulates and substances.
Cabin Air Filter: Installation Made Simple
If you frequently drive through industrial areas, then you should check your car's cabin air filter. This filter removes allergens and other kinds of debris from the cabin air stream. Without it, the air that you'll breathe inside your vehicle will become dirty and unhealthy. However, after some time, this filter gets clogged or too dirty. If this happens, the filter has to be replaced immediately to keep cabin air fresh and clean. If you want to replace your car's cabin air filter now, this guide will teach you how you can do it in the safety of your own garage.
Difficulty level: Moderate
Things you'll need:
- Replacement cabin air filter
Safety tip: Always wear protective gloves and glasses when working on your vehicle to avoid accidents.
Step 1: Park your car on level ground.
Step 2: Locate your car's cabin air filter. Typically, it can be found in the glove box. If you're unable to find it, refer to your car owner's manual.
Step 3: Open the glove box. Then, remove all its contents so you can have better access to the air filter.
Step 4: Loosen the screw that is securing the glove box stop arm at the lower right side using your screwdriver.
Step 5: Remove the entire glove box. Do this by pulling it past the retaining tabs. Make sure that you loosened the stop arm loop so you can easily pull the box free. Once you removed it, you will see the air filter housing.
Step 6: Uninstall the air filter housing by clasping the tabs that are holding it in place. If you removed the housing properly, you will see the old air filter.
Step 7: Slide the filter out of the housing. Make sure that it is facing upwards so that dust and other kinds of debris won't spread inside your vehicle.
Step 8: Put the new air filter in place. Be sure that the up arrow written on the filter is facing you.
Step 9: Close the air filter housing. Check if the tabs that you clasped earlier are securing the housing properly.
Step 10: Install the glove box. Do this by pushing the box and squeezing its sides carefully.