Cabin air filter- hoax or not?

The few times I’ve been to a Jiffy Lube type place to get the oil changed, they take the cabin air filter and show it to me (with leaves and stuff on it) in the waiting area, saying they recommend a new one. I say “No thanks, how bout I just clean it myself?” and they say, “Oooh, no, that’s really bad, you don’t want to do that and put it back in.” I have heard this a few times.

Really? Why not? What’s the worst case scenario. Seems unlikely they’re making these filters out of asbestos and messing with them shakes up the particles. One time I vacuumed the filter and that seemed to work pretty well.

If you’re going to the trouble of taking it out, just replace it. You can’t get all the dirt out.

I order several at a time from rockauto, pretty cheap.


Cabin air filters are not cleanable items just like the filters in your home heating and cooling system.

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cleaning it yourself can put holes in the filter. Holes let dirt and crap past, that will plug up your evaporator, and be much harder to clean out when it gets clogged. Not to mention letting that junk past will then allow you to breathe more junk in.

Just replace it yourself. It probably doesn’t need replaced as often as the Jiffy Lube place says, but they do need replaced. (I have heard of places having a dirty one on hand to show customers in an effort to upsell, and then may or may not do the work sold.)


While cabin filters should be replaced when needed (read your owner’s manual - it will tell you how long to go between changes), I would not have Jiffy Lube replace it. First, it’s not at all unusual for fast-oil-change places to make stuff up in order to sell you more stuff. Not just Jiffy Lube- all of them. Even the quick-change lane at the dealership is suspect. I once had a dealership oil change guy bring out a very dirty engine air filter when I had an Integra in for a change. “This is really dirty and needs to be replaced.” “Yeah, I’m sure it does, but that’s a square filter and the Integra has a cylindrical one, so maybe you should rethink your sales tactics…”

That’s not unusual - those shops survive on add-on sales. It’s not at all uncommon for them to have a dirty demo filter or two stored somewhere that they can trot out to you to convince you that your filter is nasty and needs replacement.

For this and other more serious reasons involving wrecking your engine through incompetence, chain quick-lube places should be avoided.

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The instructions in the owners manual for my 2012 Toyota Camry say to clean the cabin air filter every 15000 miles and replace it every 30. You are supposed to clean it by tapping it on a flat surface. For the first two years Toyota was paying the dealership to remove , clean and reinstall the filter and yet the dealer kept telling me that should replace it at 15000 at a cost of $60, $30 for the filter and $30 for labor. Talk about double dipping. I refused his offer and cleaned it myself and at 30,000 bought a new on for $13.


For mine they’re $5 each, so I just replace them whenever I remember. Pretty much the definition of a ‘non-critical part’ for most folks. And the dealer costs are crazy, that’s what got me doing my own.


I used to get my oil changed at Jiffy Lube, but all I wanted was an oil and oil filter change. To get around their constant requests to change the engine air filter and cabin air filter, I checked them ahead of time and replaced as needed. Once they saw that I was doing this, they stopped insisting on it.

I also stopped going there when I bought my new Accord. It uses synthetic oil, and the full service oil change is $90 for full synthetic, vs $40 for mineral oil. My regular shop charges $60. The difference between the two services at JL is not the cost of oil, it’s a boat payment. If you use synthetic oil, think about finding a new shop.

I buy replacement cabin air filters for my car at Walmart, and I replace them myself, thus saving ~$50 as compared to the cost of having the dealership do it for me.
That being said, if the OP is intent on cutting costs to the bone, he could simply remove the old cabin air filter and drive with unfiltered air. I don’t recommend this course of action for anyone with allergies, but it is another option for someone who wants to reduce his auto maintenance expenses.

Cleaning it yourself seems like it would be better than doing nothing. I’ve cleaned various kinds of air filters many times successfully by configuring my shop vac as a blower, and blowing air through them in the reverse direction. It’s not as good as a new filter of course, but seems to work pretty well. I do this every year to clean the engine air filter on my lawn mower, and every 3 months for the air filters that filters the air in my humble abode. I suffer from respiratory allergies in winter and spring, and can tell right away when the air has pollen in it due to the filter’s clogging up. After cleaning them, no more symptoms.


Well it’s like your furnace or air conditioning filter. If you take it out and look at it and shake all the dust and junk off and put it back in again, go ahead and just blow off the cabin filter. On the other hand if you change your house filters, do the same to your car but do it yourself instead of having the Jiffy people do it. Last one I changed I slowed my wife the old one just so she knew how bad it was and she said “yuk” and I change at 20,000 miles.

I agree on the non critical part statement and don’t have a huge issue with just cleaning it vs replacing it. But as others have said, they’re cheap enough I’d also recommend just replacing them once they’re removed. Which I’d recommend learning to diy.

Must be a pretty non critical part considering many cars don’t have a cabin filter anyway. But if it’s there, just change it yourself once in awhile. I doubt it’s going to make much of a difference whether you change it at 30-40 or 50k miles.

My Mazda uses Synthetic oil and the dealer I go to gives me free oil changes for life. My last Mazda I kept for 152,000 miles and never paid for an oil change. You can’t beat that price!!!


And how often do they try to upsell you in exchange for the free oil change?


A few years ago, my former employer did a large mailing providing coupons for a free oil change to get customers in the door of a new shop we had just opened. Shortly after that the GM of our car repair division had a meeting with the manager of the shop to inform him that any service advisor who gave out one of those free oil changes without also making an upsell would be “dealt with severely”. The most common upsell was tie rod ends. It was an.easy sale. Just show the customer the normal axial play, and tell them their steering was about to fail.

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Nine out of ten times, when Jiffy Lube tries to sell you a filter, it’s a hoax, but cabin air filters are not a hoax, and you should replace yours.

hmmm… I’m having flashbacks of tie rods replaced multiple times because my particular Ford “wore them out faster”…

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Well…they never upsell me. I rotate my own tires (most of the time), change my own wiper blades, change my cabin air and engine air filters, service my own brakes, and change my own spark plugs. They try to pack on extra services not called for in the owner’s manual so I politely decline those extras (and now they have stopped asking). I allow them to perform all the services called for in the owners manual at the correct interval. Their “free oil changes for life” only requires that I perform “all required services” at the dealer.

I checked the maintenance records on Nissan I bought 11-years old, it had oil changes done every 4K miles like a clockwork, by one local shop, and every time they would replace the brake pads… like about 10 times :slight_smile: I’m not sure if prior owner paid any attention to the total of the bill.

I occasionally use some sort of speedy oil change place when the weather is crappy and it’s time for a change in the car. Yes, they want to sell me a cabin filter or an air filter or wipers or a wallet flush, but I just smile and say no. It’s not too hard. But always, and I mean ALWAYS, always check the oil yourself immediately. Don’t go home, don’t leave the parking lot, check it right away to see if it’s filled properly and if it’s cleaner looking. It should be hard to read the dipstick because it’s so clean.