You may be neglecting an important aspect of vehicle maintenance without even realizing it. Most modern cars have a cabin air filter that should be changed regularly. Cabin air filters trap dust, fumes, and allergens from the air inside your car's cabin. Changing them at regular intervals is essential to good clean air.
If you want advice on how to choose the best cabin air filter, then read on. We compiled this buying guide and even added reviews of a few favorites at the end. Our pick for Best of the Best, the Fram Fresh Breeze Cabin Air Filter is so quick and easy to install, you'll wish you would have gotten one sooner.
Considerations when choosing cabin air filters
In order to get a properly fitting cabin air filter, take note of your car's year, make, and model. You'll need to use that information to select the right filter. Don't try to put an ill-fitting filter into your car, as it probably won't work properly.
Particulate vs. combination filter
The two primary types of cabin air filters are particulate filters and combination filters. Particulate cabin air filters are designed to remove pollutant particles in the air such as soot, dust, and pollen. Combination filters are designed to do the same thing, but they have the added feature of removing odors from the air as well. Baking soda and carbon filters are two of the most popular means of doing this. Filtering ability is determined by the particle size that can be captured within the filter, which is measured in microns. For example, if you have a filter that can only remove particles as small as 100 microns, it might not stop mold spores, which can be as small as 3 microns.
There is an inverse relationship between size of particles that can be filtered, and airflow. The smaller the microns filtered, the less air that flows through it.
Multistage filtering is a feature whereby a filter has more than one type of filtering materials in order to remove different types of particulate matter from the air. Some combination filters have this feature, but not necessarily all of them do.
While most cabin air filters should be thrown out after a single use, some can be cleaned and used for another cycle. The number of times a filter can be reused is dependent on the specific model. If you want a reusable filter, then search for one that's advertised as such. Never clean and reuse a disposable cabin air filter.
Most cabin air filters cost between $4 and $20 (or more). For $4, you can find a budget air filter that will probably fulfill your minimum requirements. If you spend around $10, cabin air filters often incorporate activated carbon for improved odor removal. Filters that cost $20 tend to have name brands associated with them, such as Arm & Hammer baking soda for odor absorption.
Q. How often should I change my cabin air filter?
A. You're recommended to change your cabin air filter about every 12,000 miles. If you notice bad odors or are having difficulty breathing, then you may want to change the filter before reaching that milestone.
Q. Where can I find the cabin air filter in my vehicle?
A. If your vehicle has a cabin air filter, it's probably located somewhere near your glove compartment. Some are also located under the hood. To find out for sure, check your vehicle's owner manual.
Q. What will happen if I forget to change my cabin air filter?
A. If you don't change your cabin air filter regularly, you may start to notice an unpleasant odor, and your AC or heating system may begin to struggle. That's why it's important to change your filter regularly.
Cabin air filters we recommend
Best of the best: Fram Fresh Breeze Cabin Air Filter
Our take: Easy install and baking soda odor control make this a top pick.
What we like: Up to 98% of dirt, dust, and allergens are removed using a combination of baking soda and carbon.
What we dislike: Expensive, but worth the extra money for a fresh and clean cabin.
Best bang for your buck: EPAuto Premium Cabin Air Filter
Our take: An inexpensive model that still gets the job done.
What we like: Perfect fit for Honda and Acura vehicles and it won't break the bank.
What we dislike: Because the filter is grey carbon, it's difficult to visually inspect.
Choice 3: ECOGARD XC36080 Premium Cabin Air Filter
Our take: Quick installation and keeps outside pollutants where they belong.
What we like: Filters up to 99.5% of contaminants from outside the cabin, including allergens, dust, and pet dander.
What we dislike: It doesn't contain charcoal, which means it does little on existing smells.
Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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