Cars provide an invaluable service. They:
- Get us from point A to point B each day
- Shelter us from the heat and cold
- Allow us to travel long distances comfortably
- Give us easy ways to transport things we need
- Keep us safe from harm
For all those reasons and more, it’s important to keep your vehicle in good working condition.
When was the last time you thought about checking your vehicle’s filters?
While the oil filter may have been changed the last time you stopped in for an oil change, when was the last time you checked your cabin air filter?
What’s a cabin air filter?
When it comes to filters, your car has several to keep it operating well. They include:
- Air filter – prevents harmful debris, dirt, and contaminants from entering your engine
- Oil filter – removes contaminants from your car’s motor oil
- Cabin air filter – prevents dust, pollen, dirt, and other pollutants from entering your vehicle through the cooling and heating vents
The cabin air filter is the one most vehicle owners miss because they often don’t know it exists. A cabin air filter is specifically designed to help filter the air supply inside your vehicle, creating a cleaner environment while you ride in your car. As you exhale, it takes in the air supply and moves it through the filter. As air comes in from the outside, it filters out pollen and dust to prevent further aggravation for allergy and hayfever sufferers.
Like other filters, over time, cabin air filters can become dirty and clogged with harmful contaminants and debris. They no longer serve their purpose if they can’t filter air through the filter, and instead let the pollutants and contaminants back into the air supply.
If you notice a bad smell coming from the vents as you use heat or air conditioning, there’s a good chance it’s time to replace your cabin air filter.
When should I replace a cabin air filter?
While a cabin air filter might not need replacing as frequently as an oil filter, it’s still a good idea to keep it on a schedule and change it often.
Take a look at your owner’s manual. It will give you an idea of manufacturer’s guidelines, and when your car’s designer suggests you change out the cabin air filter. Typically you’ll find that manufacturers recommend replacing it every 15,000 to 30,000 miles or so.
Timing may be your starting point, but you should also factor in how you drive. Those who drive in urban, congested areas regularly will need to replace the filters more often. If you live in a rural location and dirt roads are a part of your daily drive, the filter may clog with dust and debris faster than by taking paved roads.
Will a dirty cabin air filter show signs of wear?
Like other parts of your vehicle, the cabin air filter doesn’t wear down in an instant. Instead, it will start to provide you with indicators that its clogging and no longer doing it’s job. You may notice:
- Reduced air flow – when you crank the heat or air conditioning up too high and it still doesn’t seem to get the job done, it may be an indicator of a clogged cabin air filter.
- A whistling sound – the higher speed you use for controlling the air supply, the higher the whistling sound coming from the cabin air intake ducts.
- A distinct musty odor – you can’t ignore the foul smell that comes every time you turn your vents on. It may even worsen over time if you continue to ignore the problem.
- Louder noises while the heating or cooling system is running – your heater and air conditioner have to work harder to meet the demands of the system. It’s trying – and you’ll hear it working. The noise will increase until the entire system is well maintained.
- Fog on the insides of your windows – if the cabin air filter is allowing pollutants and contaminants to blow out into the air supply, some of the debris may land on your windows and create a fog. This isn’t moisture, it’s actually particles landing on your window, and preventing you from seeing clearly.
What can you expect from a new, clean cabin air filter?
The good news is that replacing an old cabin air filter with a new one, it will help your car run better. A well maintained vehicle won’t leave you stranded when you least expect it. It will also give you many more years of service, and be a reliable addition to your lifestyle.
Changing out your cabin air filter will give you:
- Better performance – air filtration is a crucial part of overall vehicle maintenance. Your car needs two things to operate efficiently – air and fuel. A clean air supply makes every aspect of your vehicle’s operational systems more effective.
- Better air supply – how much time do you spend inside your vehicle? According to the EPA, people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, where concentrations of some pollutants have been shown to be as much as five times greater than outdoors. Imagine how many contaminants you’re breathing in if you spend an hour or two each day tucked away inside your vehicle?
- Better reliability – how often do you use your heater or air conditioner? Trick question, because you might always have one or the other on, keeping your vehicle at your desired temperature. Every time you operate the heating and cooling system, it depends on the motor for energy. If it isn’t efficient, it requires more power from the engine. That puts undue stress on your engine, meaning it might need repair or even replacement sooner rather than later.
Is it time to replace your cabin air filter?
If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your cabin air filter, now may be the perfect time. Be prepared for springtime pollen season by giving your ventilation system a little TLC.
Changing out the cabin air filter will improve air quality and prevent allergy problems by filtering out pollen and mold spores, dirt, and other pollutants.
It’s one of the easiest ways to ensure your vehicle remains well maintained.