Useful Car Tips

How to Change Your Cabin Air Filter

December 11, 2020
With COVID-19 continuing to menace the worldwide population, many are rightfully trying to do all that they can to safeguard themselves and their loved ones. This can extend beyond wearing masks and socially distancing; it applies to one’s home and even vehicle as well. If you’ve taken your vehicle in for a service or repairs recently, a salesperson may have prompted you to have your cabin air filter changed, or at least offered the service—for a price. This may seem like an easy decision to make for what could seem like a relatively low cost, but the reality is you can change your cabin air filter yourself more quickly and for a much lower price than what the mechanic or service center is offering. The process itself is quite easy, and depending on the make and model of your vehicle, a replacement cabin air filter can cost as little as $15—a price which handily beats paying a $60 bill.


This is a simple yet fundamentally important question to answer: What is a cabin air filter? As the name suggests, a cabin air filter serves the primary purpose of keeping the air inside your vehicle’s cabin clean. It filters pollutants and keeps unwanted debris from entering and circulating through your HVAC system, including allergens. Cabin air filters are a relatively recent addition to the automotive world, only being equipped in most vehicles since around 2000. To check if your pre-2000 vehicle is equipped with one, consult your owner’s manual or online forums, or read on to find out how to check it out for yourself. The whole process will take less than 15 minutes!


Now that we’ve established what a cabin air filter is, the next important question to ask is when to change it? This simple question has a slightly complicated answer: Anywhere from 12,000 to 30,000 miles, or once a year. Every vehicle is different so consult your owner’s manual or online forums specific to your make and model to check your manufacturer’s recommendation. Although cabin air filters tend to be an overlooked maintenance item, it’s a good idea to keep track of yours and replace it within the recommended service interval, as waiting too long will strain your air conditioning system. On the other hand, changing it out too early is unnecessary and will only waste money.


Equipped with all the preliminary information we need, it’s time to change the cabin air filter—a process which will likely take only a little more time than reading this article. The cabin air filter in most vehicles is located in the glovebox, so begin by opening it and removing its contents. Most gloveboxes will be held in place by the limiting stop arm, which is a small pivot point located on the right side of the glovebox; simply slide it off the pin. The next step may be more complex in some vehicles versus others, but generally, you’ll need to grasp the front and back of the glovebox while squeezing them toward each other—do so until the side clamps pop free. Once this is accomplished, you should be able to easily remove the glovebox by sliding it down and out of the way. Note that some vehicles may have pins and clips holding it in place too, so be very careful and check specific tutorials! At this point, you should have easy access to the cabin air filter’s faceplate. Locate the latches or tabs on the sides of the faceplate; you should engage these and slide the faceplate out of the way. Now, remove the old cabin air filter and note which way the arrows are facing. This orientation is very important upon reinstallation as otherwise the filter will at best not enter into its compartment or at worst function improperly. Before inserting the new filter, clean the compartment with a damp cloth or even a vacuum, being careful not to scatter any dust or debris into the interior of your vehicle. Insert the new filter in the proper orientation, making sure to follow the direction of the arrows. Now, simply replace the faceplate and reinstall the glovebox along with its limiting stop arm and voila: you’re done!


Neglecting to change one’s air filter can lead to a myriad of issues: allergy sufferers can run into potential health problems, the HVAC system will function poorly, foul odors will abound, and even windows will poorly clear fog. Fortunately, many retailers such as AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts, and O'Reilly Auto Parts stock replacement air filters, and changing one yourself is one of the most simple maintenance tasks you can take care of when it comes to your vehicle. All it requires is 15 minutes to learn how to do it and 15 minutes to do it yourself, all for as low as $15—a worthy investment!
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