How and When to Change Your Air Filters

Air filters are designed to keep the air that flows into your cabin and engine clean. Not only does this improve your driving comfort, but it’s essential to the overall health of your vehicle. This article will explain the role of cabin and engine air filters, how often to replace them, some of the signs that they need replacing, and how to pick the right ones for your vehicle.

Cabin Air Filter

The cabin air filter prevents things like bugs, pollen, dirt, bacteria, and exhaust from entering your car’s HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system. This keeps the air that flows into your cabin when you turn on the heat or A/C clean.

Cabin air filters are often flat with pleats. They look similar to the ones used in home air conditioning units. You’ll likely find the cabin air filter behind the glovebox on the passenger side of your vehicle.

To keep your cabin air free of contaminants, you need to replace your cabin air filter every so often. Exactly when you should change it depends on several factors:

  • Your vehicle’s year, make, and model
  • How often you drive
  • Your typical driving conditions

Your owner’s manual should provide a recommendation for when to replace the cabin air filter. At minimum, this should be once every 12 months or every 20,000 kilometres. If you have an older vehicle and/or live in an area with a lot of air pollution or frequent forest fires, you may need to replace your cabin air filter more often (e.g., every 6 months). Some people combine their cabin air filter change with an oil change.

Signs Your Cabin Air Filter Needs Replacing

Signs that you need to replace your cabin air filter include:

  • Excessive noise from the heating or cooling system
  • A whistling sound coming from the cabin air intake ducts
  • Weak airflow
  • A musty odour

Getting your cabin air filter replaced professionally can cost anywhere from $30 to $80. It’s a fairly simple task to do at home, though. To save some money, check out this article for a full guide to replacing your cabin air filter.

Engine Air Filter

The engine air filter’s job is to keep dirt and debris from entering the engine. It cleans the air that enters the engine before combustion. This way, the air that helps ignite the fuel is free from particulates that could damage the engine.

Engine air filters usually come in one of three shapes: round, conical, or flat. They typically sit under the hood, toward the front of your vehicle.

As with your cabin air filter, your owner’s manual should provide a recommendation for how often to change your engine air filter. This should be at least once every 12 to 24 months or roughly every 20,000 kilometres.

Signs Your Engine Air Filter Needs Replacing

It may look like a minor part, but the engine air filter has a big impact on the health of your vehicle’s engine. An old engine air filter can cause a loss of power and even total engine failure. To avoid this, inspect your engine air filter every 6 months. If it looks dirty or clogged, replace it.

You should also watch for signs that your engine air filter may need to be replaced sooner:

  • Slow acceleration
  • Illuminated check engine light
  • Poor fuel economy

A professional engine air filter replacement costs about the same as a cabin air filter replacement ($30 to $80). However, it’s also quite easy to replace the filter yourself. To learn how, read this guide.

Choosing Air Filters

It’s important to purchase cabin and engine filters that are compatible with your vehicle. Your owner’s manual will tell you what size filters to buy. If you can’t find your owner’s manual, you can input your vehicle’s details in the top left corner of to be matched with products guaranteed to fit.

Once you know what size to get, you can choose what type of air filters you want based on your driving habits. Check out this article for a breakdown of your options.

Cabin air filters typically cost between $15 and $30, while engine air filters are usually $20 to $85. We have a wide selection of cabin and engine air filters available on our website.

Stick to a Routine

Though it can be done in as little as 10 minutes, changing your air filters makes a big difference to the overall performance of your vehicle. Don’t forget to add regular filter replacements to your maintenance routine to help your vehicle stay in the best condition possible.

If you have any questions about replacing your cabin or engine air filter, visit a NAPA Auto Parts store to speak with an expert.

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