Breathe Easy: The Importance of Cabin Filters in Maintaining Clean Air in Your Vehicle

Cabin air filters remove toxins in the air before it enters your cabin. They keep your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system clean. In doing so, they keep the driver breathing easily. Without fumes, allergens, and dust circulating in the cabin, the driver doesn’t get irritated and can focus on the road.

However, there isn’t a one-size fits all deal when it comes to cabin air filters. Each car is different and, therefore, requires a specific type of pollen filter. Plus, cabin filters require regular maintenance checks and replacements if necessary.

In this guide, we’ll explore all you need to know about cabin filters in maintaining clean air in your vehicle.

What are Air Cabin Filters?

Thousands of litres worth of air flows into your car cabin every hour. If it wasn’t for air filters, thousands of dirt, dust, and pollen particles would flow into your car cabin too. Given how contained your cabin space is, having this amount of unpleasant particles in your car would obviously be unsafe for drivers and passengers alike.

Not only do air filters prevent you from breathing these particles in, but they also prevent the driver from suffering from itchy eyes, allergic reactions, and other conditions that can distract them from driving. Airborne diseases are less likely to pollute your car if your motor is kitted out with high-functioning carbon filters.

Your car can be fitted with several different types of cabin air filters, including the following:

Particle cabin air filter

This is the most common type of air filter, which uses activated charcoal and other fibre layers to physically trap the particles as they pass through.

If you’re a driver and you suffer from allergies or a respiratory condition, having a particle cabin filter in your car is a must.

Particle cabin air filters are sometimes referred to as pollen filters or dust filters. Some particle cabin filters will feature an electrostatic paper filter to target pollen.

Activated Carbon Filter

On a basic level, activated carbon air filters work the exact same way as pollen filters. The big difference between these filter types is that activated carbon filters have additional layers of carbon granules.

These additional layers help to capture and filter fumes, odours, and gas.

Not only does this make driving even safer, but it also reduces the amount of unpleasant smells that make their way into your car while driving.

High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Cabin Filters

High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) cabin air filters are more advanced in that they’re designed to capture and filter out tiny particles from the air. These air filters feature ultra-fine fibres and are most commonly found in luxury vehicles.

Signs of a Dirty Cabin Filter

Due to the amount of particles cabin filters remove from the air, they obviously get dirty regularly. When they get full of particles, cabin filters stop functioning correctly and need to be replaced.

It’s important to regularly check your car’s air filters for any sign of damage. In addition to this, there are signs of a dirty cabin air filter you can look out for. These signs include:

Weak airflow

You will immediately notice reduced airflow if your cabin air filter is clogged or not functioning correctly. If you turn your air conditioning on and it takes longer than usual to cool your car, then a dirty cabin filter could be to blame.

Allegory symptoms

If you’re feeling, for example, symptoms of hay fever while driving, then your cabin filter clearly isn’t doing its job correctly. If it is blocked, it won’t be able to collect pollen.

Bad smells

If you’re smelling bad smells while driving, it could be the harmful gases that your cabin filter is failing to remove from the air.

Foggy windows

With no fresh air coming in, the ventilation of your car gets impacted. The main sign of ventilation problems is foggy windows.

Weak engine performance

Although uncommon, a dirty cabin air filter may impact the airflow of the engine compartment. With reduced airflow, the engine may struggle to combust. Similarly, a dirty cabin air filter can indirectly impact your gas mileage.

Cabin Air Filter Maintenance

On top of looking out for the aforementioned signs, you should regularly check your carbon filter manually to determine whether or not it’s functioning as it should.

As a general rule, it’s important to have your air filter checked once every six months. Air filters are not checked during your MOT, so you will have to arrange for this to be done separately.

All cars are different, but it may be possible to check the condition of your carbon filter yourself. Depending on the car, you may be able to remove an access panel found within your glove box.

Once located, you should check your cabin air filter for any signs of dust or debris build-up. This should be obvious – particularly if your air filter has filtered out large particles. It’s not uncommon for human hair to get stuck within the cabin air filter.

If you do notice a debris build-up, you’ll probably have to get the air filter replaced – they’re not really reusable.


In worst-case scenarios, your car’s HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system could break completely. If no fresh air is coming in and dangerous particles are floating around, your air conditioner could easily break.

You should replace your cabin air filter every 20,000 km. If you’re driving in busy areas, this might need to be done more often.


Cabin filters help keep the air inside your car clean and your air conditioning systems working. In doing so, they keep you driving safely and your passengers breathing easily. They are an essential piece of kit that requires regular maintenance checks, and replacing if necessary.

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