- Do It Yourself Auto Repair
Cabin Air Filters.......................Knowledge Is Power
The arrow represents the passenger side cowl location of cabin air filter on some cars
Since 2001, automotive manufactures have created a filter that is responsible for trapping and filtering pollutants from getting inside the cab of a vehicle while the user is operating the heater or the air conditioner. However, they failed to educate customers on it's whereabouts as well as how to change it. It wasn't until filter manufacturer's joined in on the production of these filters and finally provided some illustrations as well as some moderate training on the servicing and function of these cabin air filters. Having replaced over 500 of these personally throughout my automotive career, I felt this would be a great automotive part to share with you.
The cabin air filter, which is not the regular air filter that filters the air going to the motor and contributes to a minor increase in gas mileage, is located in 1 of 3 spots on your vehicle IF it even has one. The cabin air filter's sole responsibility is to trap dirt, pollutants, and debris from getting into the cab or your vehicle. It helps distribute the air flow from the blower motor when you desire to run the heater/defrost or air conditioner while driving. Obviously, the cleaner the cabin air filter, the better flow of air you will receive. These filters, which today are in over 80% of vehicles 2007 or newer should be replaced every 15k-30k miles or more frequently if you live or travel or many dusty roads or have high sensitivity to allergies. The average cabin air filter time it takes to change is 10-30 minutes depending on it's locations.
Most cabin air filters are located under what is called the passenger side cowl (see picture). Other locations may include behind or under the glove box which is very common in most domestic vans such as caravan or lumina APV. All cabin filters are geared towards the passenger side of the vehicle.
If you've ever wondered what the rattle was or annoying noise is when your turn on your heater fan, I can't tell you the number of times I've pulled leaves out of customers cars or even dog food stored in the fan by a friendly mouse.
There is no reason why anybody should pay $50 or more for an hour of labor and $25-$75 for these parts. They are readily available at your local parts store and range from $8 to $19 if you do it yourself. The only issue sometimes that can arise is that most of the cabin air filter housings are composed of cheap plastic fittings that can easily break if you aren't careful. If the filter is not reinstalled properly and sealed back up, it can allow rainwater to get into the housing and all the filter which creates mold, that again you literally would be breathing in every time you used you heater. That's the main selling point for these maintenance shops so save yourself the hassle and the extra money by doing it right the first time.
Let's also keep in mind that this filter is not a mechanical part, so there are many of you that may say "My mechanic takes care of that." Check your records! While most mechanics are exceptional at what they do and frankly can tear down and rebuild a motor faster then I can, they are not always into or aware of the 'little things' that take place in cars. Remember, my specialty is to prevent your vehicle from ever having to be in the mechanics shop. Preventative maintenance is the key to avoiding big expenses down the road.
As for the brands this is all based on your preference. They all are acceptable and I wouldn't recommend one brand over another. There are two types of filters particulate (usually white) and charcoal (usually grey). The charcoal filters are a little more expensive but tend to last a bit longer so you get what you pay for.
If you're not sure whether or not your vehicle has a cabin air filter, and most owner's manuals are no help in telling you, simply contact your local part store and tell them the year, make, and model of your car. If you happen to be shopping in a parts store, they have all the filter catalogs available for you to look up and there is a section for the cabin air filter.
If that's to much of a hassle, here is Fram's link on the Internet as well for you to enter your vehicle information and then it will tell you.
Believe it of not, I have seen people put a scented dryer sheet on their new cabin air filter when they install it. They said they would rather do that then have dice or a Christmas tree hanging from their mirror for that clean car smell. Just a thought! Thanks for reading. Hope this provided some good information for you.