Cabin air filters are critical to keeping the air in your car’s cabin clean and breathable. Outside pollutants, as well as toxic gases from engine combustion, can enter your cabin and wreck havoc on your health. That’s why having a cabin air filter is important. That’s also why it’s important to make sure that filter is clean and changed whenever necessary. When you replace your cabin air filter depends on a variety of factors such as your vehicle’s make and model, the air quality in your area, and your average commuting time.
What happens if You Don’t Replace Your Air Filter
Cabin air filters are similar to any other kinds of filters. Over time as the filter collects pollutants, dust, and other particles from the air, it begins to fill up and perform less efficiently.
Air filters that collect dust and pollen can eventually grow mold and other bacteria, which can lead to allergies and unpleasant smells.
When filters get bad and toxic fumes are allowed to enter the cabin of your car, not only are you put at risk, but so is your vehicle itself. If airflow is restricted there is an added strain on your ventilation motors and other systems. If not addressed, this strain could result in a break, costing you more money in the long run.
3 Signs it’s Time to Replace Your Air Filter
Even though you may not be “due” to replace your filter, there are several signs that you should replace it sooner rather than later.
A musty smell coming from your vents may be a sign that it’s time to change your air filter.
New (bad) smells
Like we just mentioned, dust particles and pollen that accumulate in an air filter can eventually grow bacteria and mold if left to sit too long. The result of this is a musty, off-putting smell coming from your air vents.
Another sign that it’s time to replace your air filter is weak airflow and ventilation in your cabin. When debris begins to build up in your air filter, air flow becomes restricted. When this happens, the air in the cabin itself isn’t able to circulate properly, and your A/C and heating system won’t be as powerful. If you begin to notice a sharp decline in the air coming from your vents, it may be time to change your filter.
More dust in the air
Going along with poor airflow, you may begin to notice that there are more dust particles than usual in the air and settled on your dash. This buildup is caused by the inability of your filter to properly filter out particles.
Cabin Air Filter Replacement Timelines
Depending on conditions and your car’s manufacturer your filter could technically last 20,000, even 30,000 miles.
However, standard maintenance schedules recommend at least checking your cabin air filter every 15,000. While it may not need to be changed right at 15,000 miles, it’s good to keep an eye on it to make sure that you’re not driving around with dirty air filter (and therefore, a dirty car).
Things like pollen, A/C heating and cooling system use, weather conditions, smog, etc. can all effect how long you air filter lasts you.
Though Seattle typically has pretty mild temperatures throughout the year, 2021 showed us that that’s not always the case. Blistering heat and deep freezes can wreck havoc on a car’s air filter, speeding up any timelines since that filter will be working overtime to keep pollutants out of your cabin.
For some of us, mileage can be difficult to translate to maintenance schedules. If you don’t track your mileage (which you should), we suggest changing your cabin air filter at least once a year. Even if you forget, most auto shops typically take a look at your air filter during trackable routine maintenance like oil changes.