Record heat in many parts of the country is pushing vehicle air conditioners harder in order to keep occupants cool. It also means more pollen, dust, pollutants and allergens are drawn inside the vehicle through the air conditioning and ventilation systems, creating a situation where the interior air can be dirtier and than the outside air. To combat this, the Car Care Council recommends replacing the cabin air filter regularly.
"If your vehicle is a model year 2000 or newer, there's a good chance it is equipped with a cabin air filter. But many motorists have never heard of a cabin air filter," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.
More than 80 percent of new domestic and imported vehicles sold in the US come equipped with a cabin air filtration system, or a slot where one can be installed. Most filters are accessed through a panel in the HVAC housing, which may be under the hood or placed within the interior of the vehicle (see owner's manual).
The cabin air filter is responsible for cleaning the air entering the passenger compartment. Under normal circumstances, it helps trap pollen, bacteria, dust and exhaust gases that may find their way into a vehicle's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The filter also prevents leaves, bugs and other debris entering the HVAC system.
If the cabin air filter is not replaced, it can cause musty odors in the vehicle, and over time, the heater and air conditioner may become damaged by corrosion.
A cabin air filter should not be cleaned and reinstalled. Instead, it should be replaced every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or per the owner's manual. In areas with heavy airborne contaminants, it should be changed as often as necessary.
You can view the council's "Cabin Air Filter" video at: