Cabin Air Filter Buying Guide

BY MICHAEL D.

Even if you don’t own a convertible, there’s no reason why you can’t go cruising with the sensation of cool wind blowing through your hair and over your face. By installing a top-notch cabin air filter, you’ll ensure that the quality of air coming through is nice, fresh and clean. Easy to install and maintain, cabin air filters like those you’ll find here, on our site, keep things pleasant and breathable for you and your passengers. Check out this guide for expert advice and pro tips on picking and installing the right cat converter for your vehicle.

GENERAL INFO So, here’s the thing. If you’ve never thought about checking your cabin air filter, or even knew you had one in the first place, you’re not alone. Not many drivers know about it — especially those who don’t live in their car and simply use it as a means of getting from A to B. The time will eventually come — around about the 15,000-25,000-mile mark — when the difference in air-quality will become clearly, perhaps even brazenly apparent. Heavy air, a sluggish stream and a slightly off odor will alert you, but how do you track the source if you’ve never heard of a cabin air filter, and how do you get the thing uninstalled?

The culprit’s location may vary from vehicle to vehicle. Some, like the one in the image above, are located above or behind the glove box, which you’ll have to pop open before pulling the filter out. Others may be found beneath the dashboard, usually on the passenger’s side. Typically, you won’t need any tools, but filters located under the hood of your vehicle may call for the removal of other parts.

Our site offers a respectable list of manufacturers for your replacement needs, and as such, choosing a replacement may seem a bit difficult. Take your time, though, as you scroll through our assortment of ACDelco, Denso, K&N and Wix filters. Each has its own set of features and warranties — not that we think you’ll be taking advantage of that.

The best part about cabin air filters is that they’re a one-time buy, so as soon as you’ve tossed your stock filter, you’ll only have to invest in a top-notch replacement once.

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HOW DO THEY WORK? Don’t feel bad if you’re not too sure, but it’s really quite simple. It may help, however, to discuss the composition of your cabin air filter in order to understand how it works. Most filters — like those made by K&N — feature a fan-folded, single layer of thermally-bonded, nonwoven synthetic material, housed and protected by wire screening. Designed to trap pollutants, bacteria, mold and mildew, the filters do so by electrostatically attracting the unwelcome debris and holding it there. This design allows for superior airflow, even as the filter grows dirtier and dirtier over time.

THE CLEANING PROCESSUse the manufacturer’s cleaning kit to clean your filter as needed. First, you’ll want to pick out debris — leaves and stuff like that — before spraying down the filter with your bottle of cleaner. Soak it in to make sure that everything dissolves. Do so thoroughly to both sides. The cleaning agent provided by K&N, as seen in the image below, is formulated with safe, biodegradable ingredients and is meant to increase the electrostatic properties of your filter. You should do this once every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Let your filter sit, but don’t allow it to dry completely. After 10 minutes or so, take your garden hose and rinse the filter with a low-pressure stream, clean side to dirty. This is to avoid flushing the contamination into the fibers of your filter. Gently shake out all the excess water, then let it air-dry.

Next, take your can of air filter oil and spray it evenly along every pleat. Don’t leave any dry spots. Wipe off any excess oil that may linger, then re-install the filter. From start to finish, this process shouldn’t take more than an hour or two — just for the sake of the air-drying.

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DIFFERENT TYPES So, while we already know about the washable and eternally reusable cabin air filters you can buy, there are also replacement filters, which isn’t exactly the kind of cost-effective investment as a reusable one but if price isn’t an issue, then these may be what you’re looking for. The consensus among expert auto mechanics is that replacement filters should be swapped about once every 15,000-25,000 miles. About once a year. Check your owner’s manual first for absolute certainty. Replacement filters also adhere to precise standards set down and maintained by the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST).

There are also what are known as “activated charcoal filters” and “particulate filters.” The first type is designed to filter out odors and harmful gases, which is ideal for motorists who spend a lot of time in gridlock. Particulate filters, on the other hand, are (as we’ve already stated) designed to filter airborne threats like dust, pollen, mold spores, etc. While activated charcoal filters cost more, urban drivers may be more satisfied with them. One example of an activated charcoal filter that we carry would be from ACDelco.

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CONSIDERATIONS So, summing up, the things you want to keep in mind as you make your selection are the following: maintenance requirements, how often you want to clean and/or replace your filter; ease of installation; and making sure you enter your year, make and model in the top right corner before searching to make sure you find the perfect fit.

The types of people who will most appreciate or benefit from a new cabin air filter range from soccer moms and cross-country drivers to people who suffer terribly from allergies.