An automotive cabin air filter captures airborne contaminants. But that is for as long as it can last and as much as it can hold.
Eventually, the filter’s pores clog with dirt and the filter starts to fail. A failing filter can mean inadequate air in the cabin, affect the quality of the air, and cause the AC system to use more power, among other effects.
Many motorists drive with a bad cabin air filter, mostly unknowingly. Because these filters are usually hidden from view, motorists often do not inspect them servicing other auto parts.
Sometimes, a vehicle owner has no idea if they have a cabin air filter in their car.
Luckily, a failing cabin air filter will show signs that it requires changing. Watch out for these three bad or failing symptoms of a cabin air filter.
1. Poor Airflow
One of the first and surest signs that a cabin air filter needs replacing is reduced airflow at the vents.
Normally, the cabin should get enough air from the AC system. That shows the filter is functioning and not limiting the flow of air.
When it clogs up with dirt, the resulting restriction lowers the amount of air reaching the cabin. You may find that you have to crank up the AC higher than usual.
A cabin air filter whose pores are blocked can cause a strain on the AC system.
Apart from resulting in increased energy consumption, the strain can lead to damage of the motor due to overloads. This would especially happen when you have to increase the airflow by increasing the speed of the AC system blower.
2. Unusual Odor From Vents
A build-up of dirt on the filter often leads to the growth of mold and bacteria. The growth eventually produces a foul smell that can be felt inside the car even when the cabin is clean.
The odor can be dusty, moldy, or musty. It increases when you increase the working of the AC system by cranking it up.
A musty smell in the cabin can cause discomfort.
Allergic people may also find it unbearable to stay in the car, especially if the odor is caused by an overgrowth of mold on the surface of the filter.
If left to continue, the problem can lead to the filter media becoming mushy and damaged.
Such a filter cannot function anymore.
3. Increased Fan Noise
An increase in fan noise can be caused by large materials entering the air intake or a dirty cabin air filter.
When you increase the flow of air, what you get is high noise coming from the AC blower, and little improvement in the flow of air.
It usually shows a dirtied filter that requires a replacement. Increased fan noise shouldn’t be ignored.
Benefits of Changing a Cabin Air Filter
A clogged cabin air filter can have many effects.
It restricts the flow of air and makes the inside of the car cabin less comfortable. Apart from inadequate ventilation, you might find that the temperature rises slightly and becomes difficult to control.
A dirty air filter also causes the AC blower motor to work harder. This can cause it to burn out and require replacing. Additionally, a clogged cabin air filter works less efficiently and uses more power.
This puts a strain on the alternator, something that you may not want to happen in your vehicle. A failing cabin air filter may also not capture particles efficiently, and you may find that the cabin becomes dirty and foul smelling.
This can make driving the car or riding in it an unpleasant experience.
If you’re susceptible to allergies, a bad cabin air filter can mean pollen and dust particles reaching the cabin and causing health problems.
Changing the filter eliminates these problems.
The benefits of changing a cabin air filter are many.
The inside of your car becomes safer, the air easier and more pleasant to breathe, and the vehicle comfortable to drive.
The motor of the blower fan works more efficiently, saving horsepower and lasting a long time.
To know when to replace it, look out for the signs explained here.
You can also locate the filter and take it out for inspection.
A clogged filter can easily be identified by looking. It will have debris on the surface or the filtration media will have changed color due to the accumulation of dirt.
If you’re unable to take the filter out for examination, it’s always advisable to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. These can be found in the vehicle’s manual.
If you’ve driven your car for several thousand miles and in extreme conditions, you may not have a choice.
Change the cabin air filter straight away.