Changing Your Car’s Cabin Air Filter After Wildfires

Kevin Feather
| July 25, 2023 | 4 Minute Read
Michael Campo

As wildfires continue to ravage regions across Canada, Colorado and many other states, the need to keep our air quality as clean as possible, even in the car, has become more crucial. While most of us are aware of the hazards of inhaling outdoor pollutants such as smoke, it is equally important to ensure the air quality within our vehicles remains clean and safe.

With the recent smoke issues from the Canadian wildfires, we explore the significance of changing your car’s air filter regularly, the symptoms of a dirty filter, the different types of air filters available, and how to replace it. Let's take a deep breath and dive in.

Understanding the Cabin Air Filter

The cabin air filter is an often overlooked yet vital component of your vehicle's ventilation system. Its purpose is to filter the air entering your car's cabin, ensuring the air you breathe is free from dust, pollen, allergens, pollutants and other harmful particles.

Over time, however, the filter becomes clogged with debris, reducing its effectiveness and compromising the air quality inside your vehicle.

Air Quality and Health Risks

In regions affected by wildfires, the air quality can deteriorate rapidly, posing serious health risks to individuals. Particulate matter, such as smoke, ash and soot, can infiltrate your vehicle's cabin through open windows or the ventilation system. A dirty filter exacerbates the problem by allowing these contaminants to circulate within the car, leading to potential respiratory issues, allergies and discomfort.

Symptoms of a Dirty Cabin Air Filter

It's important to be aware of the symptoms that may indicate a dirty cabin air filter. If you experience any of the following, it's likely time for a replacement:

  1. Reduced Airflow: A clogged filter restricts the flow of air into the cabin, resulting in weak or inadequate airflow from the vents.
  2. Unpleasant Odors: A musty or stale smell inside the car can be an indication of a contaminated cabin air filter. This is especially noticeable when the ventilation system is running.

Types of Cabin Air Filters

Cabin air filters come in various types, including particle filters, activated carbon filters and combination filters. Particle filters are the most common and effectively trap dust, pollen and other particulate matter.

Activated carbon filters go a step further by also capturing odors, exhaust fumes and harmful gases. Combination filters incorporate both particle and activated carbon filtration for comprehensive protection.

Replacing Your Cabin Air Filter

Now that we understand the importance of a clean cabin air filter, let's explore how to replace it:

  1. Locate the Filter: Refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual to find the location of the cabin air filter. It is typically situated behind the glove compartment, under the dashboard or in the engine compartment.
  2. Remove the Old Filter: Carefully remove the cover or housing that protects the filter. Take note of the orientation of the old filter before pulling it out.
  3. Clean the Housing: While the filter is removed, use a soft cloth or brush to clean the housing and remove any debris or accumulated dirt.
  4. Install the New Filter: Insert the new cabin air filter in the same orientation as the old one. Ensure it fits securely and aligns with the arrows or markers on the filter.
  5. Replace the Cover: Put the cover or housing back in place and secure it properly. Double-check that it is tightly sealed to prevent any unfiltered air from entering the cabin.

Frequency of Cabin Air Filter Changes

The frequency of changing the air filter depends on various factors such as driving conditions, air quality and the type of filter used. As a general guideline, it is recommended to replace the cabin air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles (19,000 to 24,000 kilometers) or annually, whichever comes first. However, during periods of increased air pollution or wildfires, it may be necessary to change the filter more frequently to ensure optimal air quality.

Protecting our respiratory health should be a top priority, particularly during times of heightened air pollution caused by wildfires. Changing your cabin air filter regularly is a simple yet effective step to help safeguard yourself and your passengers from harmful particles and pollutants.

By maintaining a clean and efficient filtration system, you can breathe easier, even in the face of environmental challenges. Stay informed, stay proactive and prioritize your well-being by giving your cabin air filter the attention it deserves.

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