What Is A Cabin Air Filter And Why Is It Important?

Have you ever wondered how the air inside your vehicle is so clean compared to the air outside? It's all thanks to the cabin air filter.

A lot of car owners aren't aware that they need to replace their cabin air filter periodically (some even don't know that their car even has a cabin air filter). We put together this article to pay homage to the cabin air filter and to educate everyone on what it is and why it's important.

What is a Cabin Air Filter?

Element filter

A genuine OEM cabin air filter for select 2012-2015 Toyota models. Part # 87139-07010

The cabin air filter may be a simple part, but it's instrumental in keeping the air in the cabin clean. It's a big deal because the air outside can be really dirty with all the dirt, dust, pollen, obnoxious odors, etc. floating around. And if you're driving through rush hour traffic, that air is as dirty as you will find anywhere.

A lot of air flows through the cabin of your vehicle when you are running the heat or A/C. Without a cabin air filter, all of that air be un-filtered. The cabin air filter sits somewhere behind the dash (the exact location depends on your Toyota model) between the vents and the rest of the HVAC system. None of the air in the HVAC system enters the cabin without going through the cabin air filter.

An OEM Toyota cabin air filter is a simple square or rectangular pleated filter. The pleated material is porous enough to let air through but not too porous that it can't trap as much dirt and debris as possible.

How Often Should You Replace the Cabin Air Filter on a Toyota?

A cabin air filter typically starts going bad after 12K-15K miles. Your cabin air filter could go bad sooner or later than that. It all depends on the environment you drive your car in. A car in the Sahara desert would need its cabin air filter replaced much sooner than a car in the Rocky mountains where the air is clean and crisp.

A lot of mechanics recommend checking your cabin filter once a year. It's also a good idea to keep an eye out for the symptoms of a bad cabin air filter, which we'll cover in the next section.

What Happens When You Don't Replace Your Cabin Air Filter?

Dirty Filter

Image Credit: YourCarAngel

You'll run into some issues as a result of neglecting to replace your cabin air filter once it gets too dirty. It's always a good idea to replace the cabin air filter as soon as you notice the issues.

  • Heightened allergy symptoms (which is why most people replace their cabin air filter before allergy season hits)
  • Respiratory problems
  • Reduced amount of air blowing through the vents
  • A lot of fog buildup on the windshield
  • Poor window fog clearing
  • Foul odors from outside making their way into the cabin

How Does a Dirty Cabin Air Filter Affect Your Toyota's HVAC System?

A dirty cabin air filter makes your HVAC system work harder. More specifically, the blower motor will work harder than ever. If it burns out, you would have to replace the blower inside the HVAC system, which can be quite a pain to take apart.

The good news is that it's quite easy to replace the cabin air filter in your car. Just order a genuine OEM cabin air filter online and then take care of the replacement yourself in a matter of minutes.

Written by Jason Lancaster