Summer is finally making its appearance with longer and warmer days! Having an air conditioner in your car that is working the way it should suddenly becomes more important. One of our customers recently came to us because when he turned on his air conditioner, instead of cool air he got warmer air plus a foul smell.
The culprit? His cabin air filter. Even though this filter is a common piece of equipment in today’s vehicles, it is often overlooked during a routine service. It’s important to understand that failure to change this filter periodically will have adverse effects on the health and safety of the vehicle occupants, reduce the efficiency of the vehicle’s heating and air conditioning system, and even hasten the demise of certain vehicle parts.
This filter is located in the air intake for the passenger compartment and filters dust, pollen, dirt and other allergens from the incoming air. At the same time, it prevents leaves, bugs and corrosive debris from filtering into the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, which would affect performance. The buildup of leaves and debris is usually the cause of the foul smell you are experiencing.
There are different types of cabin filters to fit most vehicles. The standard filter traps most particles larger than 3 microns in size. A better filter is electro-statically charged so that it can trap particles as small as 0.3 microns. The best of the cabin air filters contain activated charcoal, which helps remove odors, fumes and gases.
The easiest way to determine if a vehicle has a cabin air filter is to check the owner’s manual or ask a service technician. These filters are usually located behind the glove box or under the hood near the base of the windshield, and are reasonably easy to change.
The result of not changing the filter is a gradual buildup of contaminants, which will prevent it from properly filtering the incoming air and result in foul smells, bacteria, and allergens entering the passenger compartment. Additionally, when less air is able to pass through a clogged filter, it negatively affects the performance of the air conditioning/heating system and makes the components work harder, leading to a shorter useful life.
Are you aware of the cabin air filter in your car? Do you know when it was last changed?