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How to Change the Cabin Air Filter in Your Car

As awful as it is to experience a hot summer day in the car without AC, most people don’t think much about their car’s air conditioning system until it stops working. Many of us might be surprised when the cabin airflow suddenly begins to ebb, but did you know there’s a piece of standard maintenance that can help prevent this? That’s right, we’re talking about replacing your car’s cabin air filter. It’s a routine car maintenance task that any mechanic can perform for you, however, it never hurts to learn how to do it yourself.

What is a cabin air filter and what does it do?

Learning how to change your cabin air filter starts with knowing what a cabin air filter is! The cabin air filter is a screen of multi-fiber paper cotton or other engineered material that filters contaminants out of air entering the cabin. This ensures that you and your passengers are breathing clean air, free of fine particulates like pollen and dust.1 The filter gradually collects more and more contaminants over time, eventually causing it to clog and need replacement.2

Where is the cabin air filter located in the car?

Perhaps you’ve noticed your vents blowing with less vigor than they should and decided it’s time to change your filter. Great! But where is the cabin air filter? Your cabin air filter is located directly behind the glove box in most vehicles. Some are built so that you can change the air filter with the glove box still in place, however many require you to remove it completely to access the filter. Others also may harbor the air filter under the hood. Your owner’s manual will have detailed information on where your air filter is and how to remove it.2

How often should I change my cabin air filter?

Knowing how to change it won’t do you much good if you don’t know how often to change your cabin air filter. Cabin air filters should be changed every 15,000 to 30,000 miles, however, your owner’s manual will be able to give you more detailed instructions.2 Filters also accrue more particulates the more they are used, so if you live in a very hot or very cold climate and frequently run your vehicle’s fan, you may find that you need to replace it more often. You can always look for the signs it’s time to change your filter: weakened vent performance, a whistling noise when the air is on or a musty odor pervading the cabin.1

How to replace your cabin air filter

Step 1: Access the filter

First thing’s first, you’ll have to get to the filter to change it. For these instructions, let’s assume your filter is located behind the glove box. Consult your owner’s manual to determine if the glove box needs to be removed. If it does, you may need a screwdriver, or otherwise, you’ll be able to remove it by pressing down on a couple of tabs.

Step 2: Remove old filter

Remove your old filter and clean the area of any debris or dust that comes off it. You may want to put on protective eyewear and put down a mat in preparation. Take note of the old filter’s position so you know how the new filter should be inserted.

Step 3: Install the new filter

Insert the new filter, using the position of the old filter for reference. The filter will usually have arrows indicating airflow direction. After the new filter is in position, replace your glove box.2

The importance of car maintenance

Replacing your cabin air filter on a regular basis is an important part of regular auto maintenance much like changing your car oil. Performing this and other kinds of routine car maintenance keeps your vehicle safe and running as efficiently as possible. It’s always best to expect the unexpected too, so keeping your car insured is just as important. Get a free quote from Nationwide today and learn how auto insurance can protect you and your vehicle.

1https://www.championautoparts.com/Parts-Matter/automotive-repair-and-maintenance/breathe-easy-with-new-cabin-air-filters.html, Accessed December 2021.

2https://www.autozone.com/diy/filters/cabin-air-filter-replacement, Accessed December 2021.

Disclaimer: The information included is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided. Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, and the Nationwide N and Eagle are services marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.

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