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How Often Should You Change a Cabin Air Filter?

person removing the cabin air filter

Many people don’t even know that the cabin of their car even has an air filter, much less that it needs to be changed periodically. As with any car part, though, a cabin air filter wears out and stops being as effective after a length of time. How often should you change your cabin air filter?

Most carmakers recommend changing your cabin air filter every 15,000–30,000 miles, but there are some telltale signs that you need to change it. Let’s check out exactly what the cabin air filter does, how to know it’s going bad, and more relevant info.

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What Does a Cabin Air Filter Do?

The cabin air filter is just that—a filter that filters the air that your air conditioning system blows into the cabin of your vehicle. Most critically, it filters out airborne contaminants like dust, dirt, pollen, and more. As the filter ages, it collects more and more of these contaminants and stops being as effective at its job.

person holding a dirty cabin air filter
Image Credit: wellphoto, Shutterstock

Signs You Should Replace Your Cabin Air Filter

There are some obvious signs that your cabin air filter is getting clogged up with dust, dirt, and other contaminants. When you observe any of the following symptoms, consider replacing your cabin air filter soon.

Signs Your Cabin Air Filter Needs to Be Replaced:
  • The air blowing out of your vents is very weak. This typically indicates your filter is clogged with contaminants, leaving less room for air to blow through.
  • You notice foul, musty, or stale odors from your air vents. This is a sign your filter is clogged up, and there may be mildew or mold.
  • Dust is blowing through your vents. This suggests that your air filter is damaged or worn, thereby letting dust freely blow into your cabin.
  • Your car is running poorly. When your cabin air filter is clogged, the A/C has to work harder to achieve the same results. This places strain on the rest of the engine, which must work harder in turn.
person replacing the cabin air filter
Image Credit: Jitti-narksompong, Shutterstock

Can I Change the Cabin Air Filter Myself?

Yes! Unlike many other car maintenance jobs, changing the cabin air filter is simple and easy for most makes and models. The location you need to access to change it may vary, but two common locations are under the glove box and under the hood. Some are under the dashboard, though, which may be difficult to do yourself without the appropriate tools and mechanical knowledge.

To see if you can change your filter yourself, take a look at your car’s owner’s manual to find where your cabin air filter is located. If it’s under the dash or hood and you don’t feel comfortable trying to change it, you could always have a professional do it for you. Most shops charge between $50–$80 to change the cabin air filter.

car and road divider

Conclusion

Cabin air filters are commonly forgotten, but they’re an integral part of your car’s air conditioner. When you notice your air filter is starting to affect your car’s airflow, you should get it replaced. Even if you don’t notice symptoms, you should change it every 15,000–30,000 miles just to be safe.


Featured Image Credit: wellphoto, Shutterstock

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