You’re probably aware that your vehicle’s engine has an air filter. But are you also aware that your car’s heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system may also have an air filter?

The HVAC air filter is commonly called a cabin air filter, and it performs similar functions your engine’s air filter does for your car’s engine to the HVAC system.

What Is A Cabin Air Filter?

A cabin air filter is a vital component of your vehicle’s heating and cooling system. It functions to help protect passengers from contaminants in the air they breathe.

It also helps to remove harmful pollutants, as well as pollen and dust, from the air you breathe inside your car. 

The cabin air filter is often situated behind the glovebox and cleans the air as it passes through your car’s HVAC system.

If you feel that your car has an unpleasant smell or the airflow has reduced, consider changing the cabin air filter to give your vehicle and yourself a breath of fresh air.

How Does The Cabin Air Filter Work?

The cabin air filter is a small pleated unit, sometimes made of paper-based, multi-fiber cotton, or engineered material. 

Before air can circulate into the interior of your car, it will first pass through this filter that traps any contaminants contained in the air to prevent them from penetrating the air you breathe.

The cabin air filter keeps dirt, bacteria, dust, pollen, and exhaust gases from infiltrating the HVAC system of your vehicle. 

Read more: How long does a cabin air filter last?

It also keeps away leaves, bugs, and other debris from clogging up the system. Clean air is essential inside the car, and so the cabin air filter helps keep the air fresh so you and your passengers can breathe freely. 

Many late-model cars contain cabin air filters to trap airborne materials that can make it unpleasant to ride in a car. This is something you will be grateful for years, particularly during allergy periods.

How Do I Know When My Cabin Air Filter Needs Replacing?

The ideal way to ensure the air is clean is to replace the cabin air filter as frequently as the auto manufacturer advises.

This recommendation is contained in your car’s owner’s manual. You might discover mileage stamps for recommended cabin air filter replacements, though it varies depending on the type of car and manufacturer.

Each vehicle manufacturer has its recommendation, so going through the manual for your specific model will provide you with all the information your cabin air filter needs. 

Read also: How to change your cabin air filter

Your driving location can also influence how often you replace your air filter. If you reside in a place with desert weather, your cabin air filter might get clogged with dust faster, requiring frequent replacement.

Also, those who drive in urban, congested areas or locations with poor air quality might need to change their cabin air filters more frequently.

In case you don’t have your owner’s manual, or you’re just interested in knowing the signs that your cabin air filter needs replacing, watch out for:

  • A whistling sound originating from the cabin air intake ducts
  • Low or weak airflow, even when the heat or air conditioner is set to high
  • Too much noise when the heating or cooling system is running
  • Musty, less pleasant smell coming through the air in your car

If you experience any of these signs in your car, consider changing your cabin air filter to see if that solves the issue.  

Failure to replace a dirty, clogged cabin air filter will affect the effectiveness of your vehicle’s heating and cooling system.

Poor effectiveness can result in other issues, including bad smell in the cabin, a loss of air volume, or even early failure of HVAC components.

Simply changing a dirty cabin air filter can go a long way in the car’s air quality.