How to change a cabin air filter (Pt. 1)

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Cabin air filters in a Mercedes E500.

Even Mercedes E500 owners should know how to change a cabin air filter. A little do-it-yourself work builds character. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Cavanman/Wikipedia)

You know that your car’s engine has an air filter that keeps dust and grime from impeding the combustion process, thus hampering optimal engine function and reducing fuel efficiency. Fewer people are aware that there’s a cabin air filter in most newer vehicles that must be changed on a periodic basis. Unless you like dust, soot, gases and other odors to circulate within the passenger compartment of your vehicle as you drive, you should know how to change a cabin air filter.

A cabin air filter helps you breathe

If breathing clean air while you drive is important to you, you should pay attention to your car’s cabin air filter if it has one. These fibrous particle traps are an essential part of your vehicle’s ventilation system, removing pollutants from the air that circulates within the passenger compartment. That’s why these filters are also referred to as passenger compartment filters – they help the humans on board breathe more easily by contributing to cleaner air. Considering that the air surrounding roadways – particularly around major roadways during rush hour – is teeming with automotive exhaust fumes, dust and soot, the cabin air filter is your last line of defense against inhaling these hazards into your lungs. If you have one of those air circulator/ionizer plug-ins in your passenger compartment to help, more power to you. Most people don’t.

What’s your cabin air filter made of?

The physical composition of the cabin air filter will be either particle or carbon filter. The latter has a layer of activated carbon that absorbs odors in addition to contaminant particles that are in the air. The standard particle filter does the important work of cleaning the air that enters the passenger cab, it just doesn’t do the overtime work of eliminating those musty, gassy smells.

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How often should you change your cabin air filter?

Once the cabin air filter begins to lose its effectiveness, you’ll know it. The air will smell musty and dirty, and your air conditioning and heating systems will perform at below optimum levels due to restricted air flow. When you open the hood and look in at the filter, the fibrous surfaces will appear gray and dirty. It’s time for a change.

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How often should the cabin air filter in your car be changed? Approximately once per year, or every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, most experts indicate. This can change if you live in an area where air pollution and dust are heavy. If you live in an area that experiences major fires, you’ll want to consider replacing the cabin air filter more often, too. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure of the specifics.


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How to replace your car’s cabin air filter


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