December 23

When Should I Replace My Car’s A/C Filter?


Automobiles have a lot of systems and components to maintain, so it’s no surprise that some might be overlooked. However, that doesn’t make them any less important. Your vehicle’s cabin air filter is essential to the overall health of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. When your cabin air filter becomes worn or clogged, it stops functioning correctly and negatively affects your vehicle’s performance and air quality.

Fortunately, an old, worn-out cabin air filter is almost as easy to diagnose as it is to replace. It’s also one of the cheapest parts of your car’s air conditioning system. Read on to learn the tell-tale signs that your vehicle needs air filter replacement.

What Is a Cabin Air Filter?

Clean Air Filter  | Dirty Air Filter | Car Filters

Image via Flickr by Ryan Gsell

A cabin air filter is a small box-pleated filter made of multi-fiber paper, cotton, or other engineered materials. Before entering the vehicle’s interior, outside air passes through this filter to trap contaminants and prevent them from entering the vehicle.

A clean cabin air filter can help prevent mold spores, pollen, rodent droppings, debris, dust, and smog from penetrating the air in your car. Eventually, the air filter’s pores clog up, and it starts to falter. A failing filter can mean insufficient air in the cabin, poor air quality, and cause the car’s air conditioning system to use more energy, among other effects.

Just as with many of the features in your car, the cabin air filter needs regular replacement. But how do you know when to change your cabin air filter? Well, you should be aware of signs that indicate you may require a cabin air filter replacement sooner than you thought. Here are some things to look out for.

Poor Airflow

Poor airflow is maybe the most common sign linked to a failing cabin air filter. Poor airflow from the interior vents of your car is a definite warning sign of your air filter needing replacement. A contaminated air filter cannot filter air as effectively as a clean one. If the air vents struggle to blow enough air into the cabin, the cabin air filter might be clogged. In severe cases, the vehicle’s air conditioning system can become overworked, causing a malfunction.

Strange Odors

Another symptom of a spent cabin air filter is an unusual odor coming from the car’s interior vents. An excessively contaminated filter might produce a musty, dirty, or dusty smell. The smell may become unbearable when you turn on the air conditioning system. A cabin air filter is an inexpensive component that you should replace to keep the air conditioning system working as efficiently as possible. If you suspect your air filter is dirty, have the car checked by a professional technician.

Poor Gas Mileage

A common sign of a dirty cabin air filter is decreased fuel efficiency. When this filter is dirty, the heater and air conditioner have to work harder, which causes the engine to work harder as well. By maintaining an efficient, clean cabin air filter, you can save on fuel costs.

Reduced Performance

Since a dirty cabin air filter makes the engine work harder to control the air conditioning system, the engine’s power output is also reduced. Ultimately, horsepower diminishes, and performance suffers.

Excessive Noise From the Vents

Pay close attention to how the airflow sounds when activating the vents in your car. Clogged or blocked cabin air filters won’t let air pass quickly, and that causes a strange high-pitched whine from behind your dashboard. This indicates the system struggles to push air through the filter and out the vents.

High Cabin Temperature

One of the effects of a struggling air conditioning system that has reduced airflow is fluctuating cabin air temperatures. The rise in air temperature due to a bad cabin filter may be gradual or significant. It depends on clogging and additional factors like the outdoor temperature.

Icy or Foggy Windows

The cabin air filter maintains the airflow in your car and helps clear out condensation that develops on the windows. A defective air filter results in weakened airflow, which in turn causes the vehicle’s air conditioning system to malfunction, making it difficult to remove the condensation from windows.

Breathing and Allergy Problems While Driving

One of the best features of a cabin air filter is that it prevents pollutants and allergens from building up in your car. Still, if your cabin air filter isn’t working correctly, you can quickly get sneezes, coughs, and watery eyes while you drive. This is a critical time to have the cabin air filter replaced, as it directly affects your health.

Damaged or Dirty Air Filter

If you can see dirt or damage on your air filter, it might need to be replaced. Check for discoloration, any damage to the filter material, or a build-up of debris. Cabin air filters can be removed and cleaned, but the best option is to replace them if there’s excessive dirt.

Time or Distance

Similar to your oil changes, you will need to change your car’s cabin filter on a routine basis. After about one to two years, you should probably have your air filter replaced, even if it doesn’t look that dirty. Or you can return it every 12,000 miles. However, while this is a good rule-of-thumb, you’ll want to check with your car owner’s manual or the Huffines Chevrolet Plano service department for more specific guidelines.

If you’re ready to have your car’s cabin air filter checked and, if needed, replaced with a new one, you can count on the service team at Huffines Chevrolet Plano. Our service technicians are well-trained and equipped to handle all types of auto services and maintenance. You can schedule a service appointment with us, and we will have your automobile back to its proper working condition in a timely fashion. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or drive to our service center in Plano, Texas. Be sure to check out our current service specials, new vehicle inventory, pre-owned vehicle inventory, and auto financing options.


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