These are small pleated filters made of multi-fiber paper-cotton or some other engineered material. Air enters into a cabin in the form of a stream forming a convection current. Before entering the passenger cabin the air from outside is directed through the filter. This prevents the contaminants from entering the car.
Cars have four sets of filters – oil filters, air filters, cabin filters, and fuel filters. They all catch impurities to make your drive comfortable. Car cabin filters process the air entering the car cabin. This air enters via the air conditioning and heating system.
It is meant to filter the pollen, particulate matter, dust dirt, allergens, and irritants out of the air. As these pollutants are trapped in the filters on the other side of the filter, they do not enter the cabin to make the passengers sick and uncomfortable.
The pollutants build up according to the climate and region you drive through. If you are driving through a dry polluted city your filter will collect dust from the road, carbon particles, etc. If you are in traffic there will be soot and exhaust gases.
The more pollution you drive through the quicker you should change the filters. You will know when the smell of the cabin will change. It will smell dank and dusty. If you have carbon or activated charcoal filters, they will capture bad odor and gases too.
Why Should You Change Cabin Air Filters?
Here are the reasons to change your car filters on time.
To breathe fresh air – Your car is a closed system. Air from outside flows into the cabin keeping you cool and comfortable. The cabin air is filtered of pollutants, bacteria, pollen, and viruses. It traps unpleasant odors and prevents allergic reactions like cough, sneezing, etc.
Avoid visibility issues – You may need to defog the windows. De-clogging the filters and maintaining a proper flow of air is necessary for this.
Extend the life of the HVAC system of the car – The proper ventilation of the heating and cooling system of the car extends their life. Maximum airflow and use keep the filters fresh.
Prevents debris into the cabin – The filters remove the bacteria, dirt, dust, exhaust fumes, etc. out of the cabin. It prevents the leaves, bugs, and other debris from blocking the system. Only vital air comes into the cabin keeping it fresh.
Where Is It Situated in The Car?
The cabin air filter is situated behind the glove box. It may even be beneath the dashboard on the passenger side. The filters on the underside of the dashboard can be accessed without tools. There is an access door that can be removed. If the filters are situated under the hood then you may require to remove other parts.
How Often to Change It and Why?
Most car manufacturers recommend that you change the car filters every 12 months or 15000 to 25000 miles. If you drive through heavily polluted areas then change the filters every 5000 miles. If you suffer from allergies, asthma and other pulmonary conditions then change the filter as soon as the symptoms appear.
There are no warning systems like lights or beeps in the car to inform you that the air filters need to be changed. You have to keep an eye on the quality of the air. The usual signs are the reduction in the circulation in the passenger cabin. The filter is so clogged that it behaves more like a barrier than a filter allowing the air through.
The HVAC systems capacity and performance are reduced. The filter pores are clogged thus the hot or cool air does not flow through and usually has a musty or moldy smell. Indicating deterioration is the structure of the filter.
The filters and the cabin develop a musty moldy odor. This is because the moisture and the pollutants trapped in the filter are decomposing and giving off volatile organic compounds. The filter may also grow mold and give off spores besides harboring bacteria. Thus, the moisture, the spores, the bacteria, gases, etc. contribute to the musty odor.
The intake duct makes a whistling noise – This is because it is struggling to take in air. The pores are clogged yet the air is trying to make it through. The force of suction causes the whistling sound.
What Will Happen If You Don’t Change the Air Filter?
Not changing the cabin air filters will cause them to become more clogged with dust, dirt, hair, mold, etc. It will affect the air quality in the cabin and the capacity, efficiency, and safety of your HVAC system. The volume of the air streaming into the cabin will be reduced while the bad odors will increase. Changing the air filter of your cabin will change the air quality dramatically. It even affects the life of the motor therein.
You can also improve the air quality and prolong the life of your cabin air filters by;
Vacuuming and cleaning the interior of your car regularly. This removes the dirt, hair, dust mites, etc. from the seats, floor mats, etc.
Clean the spills promptly especially when it is food. This prevents the buildup of mold and bacteria.
Wipe down the dashboard, steering wheel, console, and door panels. This removes the dirt, stains, marks, etc. It is especially effective in removing the dust that clings to the car’s surfaces due to static electricity.
Sealed windows and doors and always check the weather stripping along the edge of the doors and windows of the car. This prevents dirt and other debris from entering the car. Thus, the air filter is not strained and its life is prolonged.
Can I Change the Cabin Air Filters Myself?
It depends upon the vehicle and where the filters are in the cabin. Most air filters are behind the glove box. This means you can reach them and remove them easily. Be careful as there are delicate clips that may have to be removed.
The filters of the luxury cars may be a challenge to remove as you may require parts from the Original Equipment Manufacturer. In some models, you may simply need to swap out the old filter and replace it with a new one. The replacement filter can be bought at any auto shop or online.
If you take the car to your auto mechanic and request a change along with some more maintenance work. This may turn out to be more economical. The exact method of replacing the cabin air filter may differ from car to car. But it is usually very easy and accomplished without or minimum tools.
Most people cut the cost of maintaining a car by not changing the cabin air filters. Most car manufacturers recommend that the air filters be replaced every 15 – 25 thousand miles or once a year. Read your car’s manual or if you are allergic or asthmatic change them as soon as the symptoms appear and persist.
One of the most common indicators that the cabin air filters need to be removed is the musty moldy smell in the HVAC system. The basic function of the filter is to prevent debris, dirt, dust, etc. from entering the cabin. Not changing and allowing the filters to clog can reduce the efficiency and output of the engine. the AC’s blower cannot function effectively putting a strain on the system. This may lead to fogging of the windows due to reduced airflow from the air vents.
You could change the filters by yourself or take the car to the workshop for regular maintenance. Some luxury cars may require OEM filters. Others may require tools to change the filters. But most of the time the process is as easy as reaching into the glove compartment or under the dashboard. Removing the cover and replacing the filters.