Takeout food. Pet odors. Gym clothes. Lingering, unwanted scents can be trapped by your car’s air cabin filter and recirculating indefinitely—especially if it’s been a long time since the filter was last replaced.
Before you take your vehicle to the dealer or your local mechanic, take some sound advice from Cars.com on how to take care of it. Besides, what they save you might equal a tank of gas (or two!).
Time it right
When you should replace your filter varies by manufacturer: some say every 12,000 miles, some every 15,000, and some even longer. And how often can depend on how much you drive and where: urban area with poor air quality? Desert climate with a lot of dust? In those areas, you’re looking at needing to replace your filter more often than in a rural area with great air quality.
Know the signs
The two main signs you need a new cabin air filter are reduced air flow through your climate control system (think: when you crank up the fan and get more noise than results) and persistent bad odors. But even if you don’t have these problems, you should have your filter checked at least once a year—and luckily, you can do it yourself.
According to Cars.com, the majority of filters are located behind the glove box and are easily accessible by freeing the box from its fasteners. Others are located under the dashboard, or are under the hood where fresh air enters the climate control system. Check with your owner’s manual in all situations to make sure you’re accessing the filter safely and correctly.
Some filters are expensive—weighing in at $50 or more at dealerships—so another way to save money is to buy a replacement filter at a parts store and install it yourself. Advanced Auto Parts, for instance, sells many filters between $14.99 and $24.99. With a little bit of work, you’ll reap a lot of time and savings.