Does your vehicle have a cabin air filter? You may not know the answer to this question. If you bought your vehicle new, the salesperson may have made a point of letting you know of this feature. If you've had your vehicle serviced at a dealership, the service writer may have suggested to you that this filter be replaced. It seems that as opposed to air, oil, and fuel filters, many car owners just don't know if there is a cabin air filter in their car.
Vehicle manufacturers began to factory equip their products with cabin air filters in the late 1980s. At first, it was only European luxury cars that had this feature. Gradually, the auto industry embraced the concept, and today, many new cars and trucks come with this filter. Its location is in the interior of the vehicle, typically next to the air intake for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Over time, the efficiency of the filter has improved. Originally installed to reduce the introduction of dust and pollen to the interior, today's cabin air filters may include activated carbon to reduce or eliminate odors.
Just like any other filter, whether on your car or in your home, the cabin air filter's effectiveness reduces over time. Its ability to prevent dust and odors lessens, and it needs replacing. You as the vehicle owner should check to see if the car's manufacturer has a prescribed service replacement interval. Should you routinely drive in a part of the world that is subject to more dust, air pollution, industrial fallout, etc., you may want to consider replacing this filter more frequently. As the cabin air filter loses its ability to allow air through it, you may also find your vehicle's heating and air conditioning systems losing their ability to heat or cool the cabin.
The cabin air filter looks very similar to the engine air filter, only a little smaller and a little thinner. Access to it is usually rather straightforward, through a panel along the center console. Don't forget this small but important service item the next time you're working on your car! Your nose and your lungs will thank you.