What's a Cabin Air Filter and When Should You Replace It?


The cabin air filter, a feature found on most late-model vehicles, cleans the air that comes into the interior through the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. It catches dust, pollen and other airborne material that can make riding in a car unpleasant, particularly if you have allergies or other respiratory problems.

Recommendations on when it should be replaced vary by manufacturer — some say every 12,000 or 15,000 miles, others longer — and how often can depend on how much you drive and where. Check the maintenance schedule in your owner's manual. If you drive in heavy traffic in an urban area that has poor air quality, you could need to replace the filter annually or even more often. However, that also could be true in a desert climate where there is a lot of dust.

Some signs that you need a new cabin air filter are reduced air flow through your HVAC system, such as when you crank up the fan too high and you get more noise than results. Another is persistent bad odors. Even if you don't have these warnings, you should have the filter checked at least once a year, and you may be able to do that yourself.

Many cabin air filters are located behind the glove box and are easily accessible by freeing the glove box from its fasteners (instructions should be in the owner's manual). Others are located under the dashboard and may not be easy to reach, or under the hood where fresh air enters the HVAC system. Some of these filters are expensive, as in $50 or more at dealerships, so you could save money by buying a replacement at a parts store and doing it yourself.

If a dealership service department or repair shop recommends you get a new cabin air filter, ask to see the current one. Depending on how long the filter has been in service, you might be shocked at what you see: leaves, twigs, insects, soot and grime that literally cover the entire surface that comes in contact with incoming air. You'll know it's time for a new cabin air filter.

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What's the musty smell coming from my A/C vents?

By Rick Popely | May 2, 2013 | Comments (29)


anonymous guy

I just remove mine. It seems to impede air flow and, for as often as I drive with my windows down, the car is going to get dusty inside anyway.

Chuck Johnson

Why are these fool things so EXPENSIVE!
Jiffy Lube wanted to charge me $40. I found one on eBay for $10, but that still seems like a lot for some folded paper :-)


My cabin air filter was only $14 from Autozone....


If you want to change by yourself cabin air filter you can find on http://filterlocation.com how to do this step by step with pictures!


What if I took the air filter out and not replace it?

Presumably the air coming in will be very much like the air one breathes outside without a filter.

However, I sometimes see leaves and large debris. Where would that go without a filter? What would it jam up? Or is that in the acceptable risk category?


I also want to know what the big deal is with these cabin filters, what changed they became mainstream some 15 years ago. We own 2 cars with it, 1 without, In normal situation i prefer to roll down my windows do not like A/C. i guess my system is so messed up that it prefers and cannot function without contaminated air.

Air filters cleans the air that comes into the interior through the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. ac repair Bellaire, TX


Had a stale odor, changed it, the odor is gone...got mine at auto zone ($18)


Stealership tried to stick me for $60 PLUS LABOR to put in a new cabin air filter. Found a perfectly good one on Amazon for $17 that some reviewers are claiming is better than the OEM one.

TAKE NOTE, DEALERS: The days of screwing your customers on easily-replaceable items are over.

Justin Jackson

I never realized these existed lol. But I had noticed a stale smell in the cab of my Corolla. Bought a Fram filter for $10. At Walmart. Real easy install. I can definitely tell a difference in the smell in the car now.


Look on this blog if you want too see how to replace your car cabin air filter. I find article for Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Buick Cadillac, Chevrolet, Citroen, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Lincoln, Nissan, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Skoda, Toyota, Volksvagen an Volvo. Every article has picture to see how to do step by step.

Luis Moreno

I just replaced mine 3 days ago. The previous owner never replaced it since it still had the original one. Just imagine how bad it was after 113k


My AC works on and off, but when it works it works well, then it will blow hot air ...the car is at 127k never changed te air cabin filter...could this be why??? Honestly I am scared to pull that thingout!

Air filters are features that cleans the air that comes into the interior through the Heating and Air Conditioning Units. Some signs that you need a new cabin air filter are reduced air flow through your HVAC system, such as when you crank up the fan too high and you get more noise than results.


Just buy a large piece of foam and cut it to size. its much cheaper. :)


I paid $100 for this piece of crap. I should have tried to replace myself.


I just use a house air filter and cut it up to size. You can get many uses out of the leftovers if you get a big enough filter. Works just fine and is the cheapest way imo.

Justin Urias

I found this page because I was wondering how to tell when my cabin filter needs replacing...(without looking at it.) I'm wondering because I think my air conditioning has been spraying a fine, sticky dust into my car. It feels like spray paint over-spray. I noticed in the last few months that the face of my radio has this fine grit on it. So does the face of my phone that I use in the car. Then the other day I noticed a piece of paper that I had just printed off that morning had the same grit feel to its surface. So now that I know how to check the filter I'm going to because it sounds like it's the most likely source of this grit.


Just changed my cabin filter after Seven years the old one was full of dirt and bugs it took only five minutes on a 2007 ford edge


After a failure in blower motor resistor i searched for the cause and i found that if the filter are too dusty it will cause that (honda civic 2003), i bought the pair for 12$ and changed them by myself using utube:) what i discovered there were no filters at all although on the car manifest they are writing that they had changed on a previous date it seems BAD Technician). i was searching what for are these filter and i found this topic here and i thought to share my experience.

Joanne Thorp

My daughters car started blowing hot air out of the driver side vents yet the air conditioning was working fine on all the other vents....stopped at the dealership and the cabin filter was filthy. He replaced the filter and it started blowing cold air again.

I'm right now at the Hyundai dealership doing the regular maintenance to my car. It only has 20k miles and the person in charge is telling me that it is time to change the cabin air filter as I didn't on my last visit for maintenance. They just want to charge me $60. Guess what I'm going to tell them?... exactly.

j f

I was told to replace my cabin filter it cost $40.00. ever since I have gurgling noises could this be the cause,happens with the air on or off


j f... you might want to check the a/c drain plug. If you are hearing gurgling, condensation could be building up from a/c system.

Changing your cabin air filter is an important part of regular vehicle maintenance. If the cooling effect of your AC system has decreased, probably it is the time to replace your cabin air filter. It can help improve the circulation and performance of your car's air conditioning system. Air Conditioner Repair Miami is a very good company for getting all your AC unit related problem solved.


To those of you saying to take it out and not replace it, or think that it's a pointless filter, have fun when your evaporators and heater cores get plugged with all the crap that these filters catch.


Get from amazon

scott minardi

I have a 2003 nissian exterra and being 12 years old I did want to check filters out,their is 2 and I did have to take entire glove box casing off,and that really was easy, well I took clip off and pulled filters out and oh my the pine straw dirt animal hair etc. was crazy,its sceemed impossible that any air could get through,and I also attached a small long tube to a high powered vac and cleaned out inside condersor box and coils etc..and I just cleaned up the filters and put back,now this did solve my main big problem which was my ac lines were frosting over on the out side of them from compresser to fire wall it was really weird,but I was worried that that over frost could harm compresser,and the fact is the compresser was stuck on,i think due to the filters being so clogged,also lines can frezze up if low on charge and also their is a little thermostat in the black box that the filters are housed that has know to go bad and frezze up exterior lines,and I hope that's not my case but afther cleaning all up the system finally shut down,you really got to investigate car problems or you will get ripped off at a station,well my name is scott minardi and I think everone should clean or replacr their cabin filters every 5 years atleast.


Purchased a new filter at O'Reilly's and replaced it myself in 5 minutes. Cost $15 + tax.

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