Replace a Car’s Cabin Air Filter: Step-by-Step Directions & Photos
How to change your vehicle’s climate control system filter yourself in five easy steps
It’s important to trust a professional mechanic to care for your car and keep it running smoothly, but there are some simple maintenance tasks you can save money on by performing yourself. Replacing the cabin air filter, for instance, only takes a couple of minutes and no tools.
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Step 1: Buy a new air filter
You don’t have to purchase this through a dealership; you can find it at any car parts store or Walmart. Find what specific cabin air filter part number you need (they’re not one-size-fits-all) by either searching online via Google or — what I prefer to do — use the massive printed catalog to look up the make, model, and year of your car to determine the part number. Grab the box off the shelf and pay the cashier.
Step 2: Locate the cabin air filter compartment
The loading location of your vehicle’s cabin air filter can be hard to find. Often, it’s somewhere in the dashboard, either underneath it or behind the glove box. It might also be in the engine bay (but make sure you don’t get it confused with the engine air filter, which is also under the hood). It’s a well-hidden compartment, so your best method of finding it is consulting your car’s owner’s manual. You may have to twist or remove some knobs to access the compartment.
Step 3: Remove the old filter
Once you discover how to access the air filter compartment, open it up by pinching the cover and sliding it off. Notice the existing air filter underneath. If it hasn’t been changed in a while, the fabric will be dark and grimy.
As you slide it out, pay close attention to which direction the airflow arrow on the side of the filter is facing. It’s important to remember this orientation so you can match it exactly when you replace it with the fresh filter.
If you notice any debris in the compartment, take a moment to vacuum it up or take a dry rag and wipe it out.
Step 4: Slide the clean filter in
Slowly put the cabin air filter in place so it doesn’t stick out or get caught on anything. It should fit snugly into the slot, facing the same direction the old one did.
Step 5: Close the access plate
Replace the panel the same way you removed it, pinching or twisting it as necessary to reattach it. Put everything back the way it was, and make sure nothing is loose. Clean up after yourself, throwing out the packaging and old filter.
The cabin air filter is an important part of your car’s climate control system, blocking harmful allergens and debris from spreading through the vents and the vehicle interior. Make sure you perform this task at least once a year.
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Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.