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Cabin Air Filters.......................Knowledge Is Power

Updated on March 4, 2012

The arrow represents the passenger side cowl location of cabin air filter on some cars

Dirty- left New- right This is common if not replaced when needed.
Dirty- left New- right This is common if not replaced when needed. | Source
Photo of cabin air filter that is located behind glove box
Photo of cabin air filter that is located behind glove box | Source
Top left shows dirty cabin air filter from passenger side cowl. Pretty gross when you think about that is what your breathing.
Top left shows dirty cabin air filter from passenger side cowl. Pretty gross when you think about that is what your breathing. | Source

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.


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    • KDF profile image

      KDF 5 years ago from Central Illinois

      LOL, yep good for the mechanic, many don't even bother to check those. You've got a good one, keep em!

      Thanks for the read!

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Thanks for the information. I found out about cabin filters a couple of years ago from a mechanic who pulled it out from behind the glove box of my honda. Nasty, dirty thing it was.

    • KDF profile image

      KDF 5 years ago from Central Illinois

      Thanks Kris-

      I am an asthmatic as well. Although my asthma is controlled with inhalers now, as a kid I had to have injections on many occasions. Those dirty cabin air filters are horrible for people with allergies. Nothing is worse then having dirty air blowing right in your face. Thanks for sharing and passing it on!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      I had not heard of cabin filters until recently when a friend of my parents went through horrible asthma problems every time she was in her car. They finally narrowed it down to an very dirty cabin filter. Very informative hub! Voted up and sharing:)

    • KDF profile image

      KDF 6 years ago from Central Illinois

      LOL, nice work sunshine, you have the power!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Air Filters are awesome! I postponed changing my cabin filter because I didn't want to spend the few bucks, I gave in and WOW it's so refreshing and smells like a new car even though my Toyota is 9 years old!

    • KDF profile image

      KDF 6 years ago from Central Illinois

      Thanks for the reading alanfish91, you're right many don't know hence the hub! I appreciate your following!

    • alanfish91 profile image

      alanfish91 6 years ago from Greenfield, Massachusetts

      I'm glad you made this hub. I agree that very few people know how to locate and replace their cabin air filter. Many don't even know whether or not their car has one. Good job!

    • KDF profile image

      KDF 6 years ago from Central Illinois

      Yes, your 1991 Civic does not have one. As for cleaning the air ducts, the only thing we used to do was start at the blower motor area (same vicinity) as where you would be cabin was, and spray compressed air. Then we would do the same from the front vents and floor vent area, this was a bit time consuming and usually we removed the dash. Let me do some research and see if anything different has come up.

      On the sports fan issue, yes I have been a Miami Dolphins fan since I was literally born along with a St Louis Cardinals fan and NASCAR Jimmie Johnson. I remember the Camaniti story as well. Glad you like my hubs, keep in touch! Thanks

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Couldn't find it if it does, however what might make and interesting hub is any advice that might lead to cleaning you air ducts in cars, or is that something that is a concern.

      I perused your Hubs and not surprising, considering your profession, your a sports fan. I'm a baseball nut from Colorado living in TN and work part time as an Umpire during the summer months.

      I saw your piece on Hamilton and it reminded me of Ken Camaniti, went from MVP to crackhead. As a recovered addict and alcoholic, I can relate, but it is an interesting subject worthy of many hubs!

    • KDF profile image

      KDF 6 years ago from Central Illinois

      What did you find out? I think it's a bit to old. 1991 was a few years before they really started producing these in vehicles. Thanks so much for reading and your response.: )

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Awesome, I have often wondered if my 91 Honda Civic has one of these and will go check it out as the heater just doesn't work like it used too.


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