Cabin Air Filter Really Needed?



My cabin air filter is dirty and impacting air flow. Why shouldn’t I chuck my cabin air filter and replace it with some left over window screen? I breath unfiltered air every day. Cars didn’t get cabin air filters until the last 15 years or so. If I open the door or roll down the window, I’m back to unfiltered air anyway. Is the filter for me, the car or to sell cars to people who like the idea of filtered air?


A pleated air filter has far more surface area then a screen. Therefor the probability is high the screen will clog up faster then the filter.


Some engineer somewhere got paid big bucks to decide it was important, I mean The cord on a toaster used to be a lot longer than it is now, but some engineer figured they could save miles of cord by making it a foot and a half instead of three. So I figure it is there for a purpose, no clue why, maybe it is a conspiracy with the air filter people but I do not think so, They have cut every Penney they can and if it is still there my guess is it is important, though I cannot tell you why.


Consider that a car travels on a road with lots of other cars and trucks. They tyres kick up a lot of nasty stuff that has landed on the road. A simple filter can eliminate a lot of it. I don’t really mind paying a few dollars for those filters.


Nobody likes a dirty car. Your vents and ductwork will be much cleaner with a filter. The airflow is not restricted as much as it used to be in 1965, so the filter is much better for the cars of today.


It’s NOT needed…but it is nice to have.


The short cord is a “safety” feature, since an appliance with a long cord could stay plugged in if it fell off the kitchen counter. With the short cord, it is supposed to unplug itself as it falls off the counter. That’s the theory anyway.

I don’t know who originated this spec, but you will not find an appliance for sale these days with a long cord and the UL or CSA (Canadian Standards Association) certification on it.


the bearings in the squirrel cage air fan are “supposed” to be sealed for life.

you can just remove the filter, but be aware that this will probably hasten the demise of the blower motor, because of all the dust and dirt getting into the housing. the blower, and housing is made of plastic. there are several fittings and bearings for blend doors, and ducts that will in all likelyhood eat them selves up faster due to a constant supply of fresh dirt.
how long do you want to keep this car?
maybe you will sell the car before the blower dies? who knows!


Small particles will pass through the screen. Large debris, like leaves, will disintegrate over time and pass through, too. They will all end up in your blower and might pass through to the blower motor, shortening its life.


Theoretically, it’s not needed, but my wife has allergies and she like the dust and pollen being filtered out. We drive on a lot of country roads, and the car stays dust-free inside as well.

If you feel you don’t need a filter, take it out. It won’t affect your warranty.


I have an '03 Civic and I replace the air filters myself. There are two of them in my car and it is pretty easy and I think the filters aren’t too expensive. Either $10 each or 10 for both I don’t recall.

The air area holding the filters didn’t have any debris in it the last time and I expect your chamber is fairly clean too. Taking out the filters can’t hurt much if you don’t have allergy problems. I’m not sure how you’d fit a screen. I’d try to cut out the filter material of the old filters and wrap or tape the mesh onto the cardboard framing material and reinsert them.

I think others are correct in that dust will be allowed to enter the fan and in time the dirt may abrade the bearings in the motor. That would take years, and may never be a problem. Since I don’t know how much a new motor would be, or how difficult it would be to pull the dash and replace it - I’ll buy the filters and just replace them every 30K miles or every few years.

If you haven’t priced the filters go to a couple of auto parts stores and price them. All you have to do to drop the glove box door is pull the plastic “stops” on each side of the door inward and the doors simply pulls out toward you and drops out of the way. Then there is a sliding entry door on the black housing that is easy to see and you can complete your task. Just remember which is the dirty side and look at the airflow arrows on the clean filters so you insert them correctly.


If it is a work pickup with a quarter inch of dust and livestock droppings on the rubber floor mats, no point in an air filter. If it is a nice car that you want to keep clean inside, or if anyone has allergies, then the filter is worthwhile. Also, if you have a cat that sleeps on the warm hood and sheds, a filter will keep the car hair from plugging up your A/C evaporator fins.


You don’t need one, but it is nice if you have allergies. They are WAY over priced, I got one recently that cost $17. I buy a top of the line 20x30 filter for my house for that price where the car filter is about 6x7 and not up to the filtration level of the house filter.


Wow! I didn’t know that. Good one, Docnick.


It does prevent a lot of filth from clinging to the A/C evaporator coils, which means a bit better performance from the A/C.
(I’ve seen a few non-cabin filter cars in which the evaporator was about 30% blocked by caked on filth. An A/C unit on a home uses essentially the same thing; a filter to keep the dust out of the air and the crud off of the evaporator.)


They are WAY over priced

That’s an understatement. The cabin air filter for my wifes Lexus is $35…The engine air-filter is $14…And the engine air filter is much much larger…a lot more material…a lot harder to manufacturer…yet the cabin air filter is twice as expensive.


My '95 Civic did not have a cabin air filter, and all winter long I would have to clean a layer of dust off the windshield just above the defroster vents. My 2006 Civic has a filter, and I don’t get the dust build up. The dash vents on the old Civic would acquire a layer of dust that I don’t get on the new Civic. I’m sure the same layer of dust was building up in the vent ducts and on the fan of my old Civic, and it probably wasn’t good for me or the car.

If you drive in traffic, you’re surrounded by vehicles that are kicking up dust and spewing particulates from their exhausts (especially diesel trucks), and your car’s ventilation system/AC is scooping all this stuff up and bathing you in it.

If you’re concerned about cost, get an aftermarket filter from NAPA and put it in yourself, it takes less time than setting up an appointment at the dealer and driving to the dealer and back.


Good point. My 2007 Toyota has an air filter and when one of my wife’s friends rode with us she commented how clean inside my car was. I had to tell her that in the 3 years I have never had to vacuum out or dust the inside! Her minivan is older (no cabin air filter) and has to be cleaned out frequently.


It seems to me that a cabin air filter on a car makes as much sense as air filters on the home HVAC system. I am always amazed at how dirty the cabin filters become in a year on my 2003 4Runner and 2006 Uplander.