What Is A Cabin Air Filter?


With all of the windows rolled up on your car and four passengers on board, you are traveling in what can loosely be defined as a confined space. If outside air isn’t permitted to enter the car, it will eventually fill with carbon dioxide, and drowsiness (among other things) will occur. Manufacturers prevent this by equipping cars with flow-through ventilation systems. These admit outside air even when all of the windows are rolled up and the sunroof (if the vehicle is so equipped) is closed.

Of course, when you’re traveling down the highway at a high rate of speed, there are all sorts of less than wonderful things in the air just aching to make their way inside the car with you. This is where the cabin air filter comes into play. And while it might not be as critical to the mechanical welfare of your car as the oil, gasoline, or engine air filter, the cabin air filter does play a significant role in the overall comfort of your car.

So, what is a cabin air filter?

Singularly responsible for trapping pollen, dust, leaves, soot, grime, and in some cases even flying insects, the cabin air filter in your car can make a huge difference in the quality of the incoming air. More expensive cars use carbon cabin air filters capable of cleaning up smoke from other cars, as well as preventing untoward odors from reaching your rarefied nostrils.

Most car builders suggest replacing the cabin air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. Of course, if you regularly drive in a dusty area, or you live in an urban area with highly compromised air quality, your filter may need replacing more often. Generally speaking, you can tell your cabin air filter needs replacing if you’re getting weird odors from your ventilation system. Further, if you’re running your fan on high, and getting very little air out of the vents, but lots of fan noise, the cabin air filter is probably in need of replacement.

Regardless, your cabin air filter should be inspected at least one a year. If you’re slightly mechanically inclined, you can do this yourself—but accessing it usually requires the removal of your glove box. Your owner’s manual will usually tell you how to get to it. Depending upon placement, some may require a visit to your service technician instead.


At Volkswagen Van Nuys, our service department can inspect your Cabin Air Filter. Make an appointment today!