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How Often to Change Cabin Air Filter

By Kathleen Burgess


Updated on

Many car owners probably have no idea about the need to change cabin air filters from time to time. To educate them, we are going to provide answers on how often we should change cabin air filters.

Reasons to Change Cabin Air Filter

Let’s explain first the benefits of cabin air filter maintenance so more people will take this responsibility seriously:

Increase Fuel Efficiency

If your cabin air filter is deteriorating, the vehicle’s passenger compartment does not gain enough cold. Because of that, your air conditioner exerts more effort. What works the hardest, however, is the engine. If your engine works harder than necessary just to support the AC, your fuel efficiency is affected.

Faster Cooling

Are you living in a predominantly hot climate? Is summer a hellish time for your area due to scorching heat? If you said yes to at least one of these questions, then you surely know how it feels to enter a hot car. However, that is only a small struggle if your AC instantly blasts cool air. Now, what if your filter is clogged with dirt and debris? You will suffer longer in a hot car for the AC needs more time to cool down the entire space.

Quiet AC

A clogged cabin air filter leads to an AC that works harder than usual just to push cool air. The AC’s excessive effort produces too much noise, making your ride a stressful one.

Reduce Allergens

Cabin air filters help in decreasing the number of allergens entering the vehicle’s passenger compartment. Pollen is something you get easily from the outside world, even more so when it enters a small space. It can make a buildup on your filter, stopping the component from blocking other allergens. If you are living in an area with too many oak trees, your cabin air filter is more likely to catch pollen.

Catch Debris

Believe it or not, cabin air filters can actually catch twigs, leaves, acorns and other big debris from the environment. This may happen if you always park your car in places where there are many bushes and trees.

Block Pollution

We saved the most common one for last. Pollution is actually the number one reason why you should observe cabin air filter maintenance. Filters can block huge amounts of smog and dirty exhaust from other vehicles.

Fresh Air

A malfunctioning cabin air filter releases a strange odor. To be more specific, the odor may come across as musty or dusty. When you blast the AC, the odor becomes more apparent which might get you and your passengers nauseated.

How Often to Change Cabin Air Filter

There are conditions if you have no basis for the frequency of changing your cabin air filter. If you change it too often, you waste money. On the other hand, if you wait longer than you should, your filter might get ineffective when you need it the most.

Fortunately, we prepared a range for you based on the recommendations of experts. The standard interval is 12,000 to 15,000 miles. To help you decide on whether to go for the minimum or maximum numbers, consider your usual route, place of residence and driving habits. For instance, if you are stuck in traffic every day in a city that is too polluted, do not hesitate to get your cabin air filter checked as soon as you reach 12,000 miles.

You may also check your owner’s manual for you might find suggestions on how often you should change your cabin air filter.

How to Change Cabin Air Filter

Based on the materials needed, changing a cabin air filter is easy enough for DIY novices. Here is a brief guide on how to change your cabin air filter:


There are only a few materials needed for this activity. You just need a rag, a vacuum cleaner, a set of screwdrivers, a pair of goggles, and a breathing mask.

The rag and vacuum cleaner will clean the housing compartment. In particular, the vacuum cleaner will suck all impurities from the ventilation system. Regarding the screwdrivers, your cabin air filter might have been installed in a complex manner. At least when you encounter some hardware, you are ready in an instant with your screwdrivers.

Meanwhile, the goggles and breathing mask are for your own safety. Something might suddenly come out of the housing compartment and hurt your eyes. The breathing mask makes a lot of sense for you will surely encounter a lot of dust as you clean the cabin air filter’s location.


Removing the old cabin air filter requires unscrewing or unclipping the component’s compartment. The filter has three possible locations: below the dashboard, behind the glove compartment, and below the hood.

Once you completely have the old filter in your hands, inspect it first to make sure that it really needs replacement. If you see a gray filter covered with dirt and grime, you need to replace it.


Installing the new cabin air filter is as easy as removing it. You got that right; we are almost done. Just clean the housing compartment and the air intake duct before you put the replacement into its designated slot. To secure the new filter, screw or clip the compartment again.

Cabin Air Filter vs. Air Filter

As bonus knowledge, there is actually a big difference between a cabin air filter and a simple air filter. “Cabin” is the only word that differentiates these two components at first sight, so it is interesting to know more differences between them.

Let’s get straight to the point, an air filter is also called an “internal combustion air filter” for its main function focuses on the engine. It stops dirty air from entering the engine. On the other hand, a cabin air filter blocks dirty air to keep everyone safe in the passenger compartment from pollutants and allergens.


Cabin air filter maintenance is recommended to happen for every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. We need this type of automobile care since nobody wants to inhale dirty air in such a small space. Additionally, we need a clean cabin air filter to quickly cool down a hot car.

There is another type of filter that is extremely essential for automobiles. Check out what makes the best car oil filter!

About Kathleen Burgess

Kathleen started her career in journalism writing about cars during her Journalism degree at CUNY and even though she didn't like it at first, she quickly became an ace, writing news, reviews and comparisons like one of the best car writers out there. Today she writes content focusing on the latest trends in the car industry, looking at sales, policies and green alternatives. Learn more about GCB's Editorial Process.

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