Every motorist knows that a car has an engine air filter that needs to be kept clean if you want your engine to perform at its best, but what is a cabin filter and what does it do? Does it have any effect on your car’s performance? A cabin filter is installed in your car’s heating and air conditioning system. It filters outside air that enters the cabin.
The cabin filter is probably the only maintenance item that has no effect on your car’s performance, so why do you have to worry about it? There are a few reasons: first, when the cabin filter is plugged up, it causes reduced airflow from the vents, even with the blower motor running at full speed. A dirty cabin filter can also cause unpleasant smell from the air conditioner. Health concerns are the most important issue, as the air you and your passengers breathe inside your car passes through the cabin filter. Dirt on the cabin filter can promote mold, fungi, and bacteria growth on its surface. This can cause allergic reactions and other health issues.
Keeping the cabin filter clean is especially important if you’re driving with kids. Is it expensive? Cabin filter replacement can be done at your dealership or in an independent repair shop. It can cost from $60 to $95, depending on the car. Recommended replacement intervals vary between 15,000 and 30,000 miles. Some car manufacturers recommend cleaning the cabin filter every 12-18 months. For example, for the 2010 Camry, Toyota recommends cleaning the cabin filter every 18 months or 15,000 miles and replacement every 36 months or 30,000 miles. The cabin filter should be replaced more often if you regularly drive on dusty roads or if you often park your car under trees, as was the case with this car in the photo above. Can it be done as a DIY project? The answer is yes, however a lot depends on the car. In older Volkswagen New Beetle, for example, you’d have to take apart the whole top portion of the dash to get to it. In some Nissan and Mazda vehicles, the cabin filter is located in the lower portion of the dash, closer to the firewall, which makes the replacement quite difficult.
On the other hand, in many Toyotas, the cabin filter can be replaced within five minutes, as it’s located right behind the glove box: squeeze in the glove box edges, swing down the glove box (in the photo), release a few tabs that hold the filter cover, remove the old one, slide the new one in and it’s done. In some cars you can find the direction to change the cabin filter in the owner’s manual. When changing the cabin filter, it should be removed slowly not to let the debris fall inside the heating and air conditioning system. Leaves and small twigs can get stuck and rub against the blower motor fan blade causing the noise. Are there different types of cabin filters? Yes, if you want to reduce unpleasant odors in the cabin, look for the cabin filter made with the activated carbon. Activated carbon particles are known to absorb odors. We tried, it does work better. A cabin filter can be purchased from your dealer or online. We found online prices to be cheaper, however your dealer always has this part in stock, so you don’t have to wait.
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