Changing Automotive Air Filters

With the automotive industry predicting that up to 80 percent of cars sold in the United States in 2005 will have cabin air filters installed as original equipment, it is important for vehicle owners to understand the required maintenance for these filters, which should be changed every 12,000-15,000 miles.

The cabin air filter is responsible for capturing contaminants like dust, pollen and bacteria before they enter a vehicle’s interior. These filters were introduced in high-end European cars in the late 1980s, and are now becoming popular in most new vehicles. Many people are unaware that these filters exist, and thus do not know when and how to change them.

“Cabin air filters are moderately easy for the do-it-yourselfer to replace, and come in many different sizes, based on the vehicle make and model,” says Brian Holliday, Vice President, FRAM. “The owner’s manual can help locate the filter, and the new filter package directions can help with the replacement process. The packaging contains tailored and detailed instructions for the do-it-yourselfer to tackle the replacement service. It is usually a very simple process, and the benefits of improving the air quality for passengers and drivers are innumerable.”

Most cars have one cabin air filter, though some premium vehicles can have two or three. The filters are usually found either under the dashboard, behind the glovebox or in the engine compartment.

Filters housed under the dashboard are usually located between the blower and the rest of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) case. Of the three filter locations, this can be the most complicated to reach. Holliday recommends motorists look underneath the dash for a removable plastic cover in the HVAC case. The filter is most likely inside this case. Remove the old filter, insert the new filter and return everything to its previous position.

Cabin air filters located behind the glovebox are generally the easiest to replace. In some vehicles, the glovebox will have to be removed in order to access the filter compartment. Other vehicles have gloveboxes that can be flexed enough to reach this compartment. Once the box has been removed or flexed open, unlatch or unscrew the compartment door to access the cabin air filter. Pull the filter from the compartment, and then insert the new filter.

Cabin air filters under the hood are usually positioned near the air intake. Remove the air intake screen, as well as any weather stripping that may be protecting this area. The filter may be found in a plastic housing beneath these covers, or fastened into place. Remove the filter, and vacuum any debris or dust from the area. Insert new filter into the housing unit or screw the filter back into place. Wipe the exterior with a damp rag. Return the weather stripping and cover to their original positions.

“Replacing the cabin air filter is usually nothing more than locating and pulling out the used filter, then dropping in the new one,” adds Holliday. “Many vehicle owners can do this themselves. The process should not take very long, and the end result is clean air for all vehicle passengers to enjoy.”

Check out Extreme How-To’s “Product News” section for information on the FRAM Comfortaire Passenger Compartment Air Filter.

Editor’s Note: FRAM is a unit of Honeywell Consumer Products Group. Information about FRAM products is available on the Internet at

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