Everyone should be familiar with the usual routine maintenance items like oil changes, transmission fluid changes, tire rotations and coolant flushes. There's one that's really easy to overlook, though, and that is replacing the cabin air filter.

The what?

Some drivers don't even know their car even has one, let alone knowing the cabin air filter replacement interval. So, let's clear the air on a few questions:

Is the Cabin Air Filter the Same as the AC Air Filter in the Car?

Yes, the two terms are pretty well interchangeable with each other. It's an integral part of the car's HVAC system, with air circulating through it to trap any dust, pollen and other particulates before they can contaminate your car's interior.

What Does a Cabin Air Filter Do?

The cabin air filter is a small pleated-paper or paper/cotton filter, not unlike your engine air filter, with pores that are small enough to trap particulates. Think about the HVAC air filter in your house, and it's essentially serving the same function. We all know how hot and sticky the South Florida area can get (and know the air quality sometimes isn't great) and your cabin air filter can really help make your drive more comfortable

Where Is a Cabin Air Filter Usually Located?

Beginning back in the late 90s, manufacturers decided on a location behind the glovebox for most cabin air filters. It's just a matter of pulling the glovebox down until it's wide-open. Usually you can push the sides of the compartment to disengage the glovebox's stays and either drop it down completely or remove it. Other types of gloveboxes might have two cables to serve as stays and support the glovebox -- just disconnect these short cables and the glovebox can be removed. After that, you should easily be able to see the cabin air filter.

The air filter may snap in with plastic snaps, or may be held in with a pair of Phillips screws. It's probably a good idea to wear gloves and possibly a mask while performing this job, as the filter itself can be rather messy.

This is a general rule of thumb; sometimes, cabin air filters might be under the hood near the firewall, or even under the dash. Most vehicles, though, will have the filter situated behind the glovebox for easy access.

What's a Cabin Air Filter Replacement Cost?

That's the question of the day -- in most instances, the replacement cost for a cabin air filter is under $20 or so. The replacement itself can either be done by your dealer, by an oil-change shop as part of their usual maintenance, or by yourself in your driveway. Should you decide to have this done at the dealership, you can probably figure on spending $40-80 after parts and labor.

How Often Do I Need To Change the AC Filter in My Car?

Volkswagen recommends a cabin air filter service interval of 15k to 30k miles. That can all be dependent on where you live and what kind of driving you do, though -- for instance, if you live in a rural area with a lot of gravel roads, the caliche dust from the road might be enough to saturate that filter before 15k miles. Just be mindful of things like:

  • Weird smells (stale, sour, musty, dusty) coming through your HVAC vents
  • Excessive amount of dust settling on surfaces in the vehicle's interior
  • Impaired air flow from the HVAC vents
  • Poor HVAC performance
  • Whistling sounds around the HVAC vents
  • HVAC fan seems excessively noisy
  • Sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes or other allergy symptoms while driving

Any of these can be signs that your cabin air filter is about at the end of its road and needs to be replaced soon.

We hope that answers any questions you might have about cabin air filters, aka AC filters. The cabin air filter isn't as important as your engine air filter when it comes to keeping your car running right, but it's sure important for the comfort of you and your passengers.

If you're thinking it might be time to change your cabin air filter, just schedule an appointment at Gunther Mitsubishi and our service department will be happy to take care of that for you!