car a/c

Weekend How to: Change Your Car’s AC Filter for Easy Breathing

These days, the focus on healthy living is greater than ever. So we try to practice good, healthy habits to protect our bodies and our environment. But sometimes hidden health risks can still sneak in to spoil our success if we don’t address them. For example, when was the last time you changed the AC filter in your car? Last year? Never? Well, do it. Now. A dirty filter fills your car—and your lungs—with musty, filthy air. Yuck. But changing it every 4,000 miles—like an oil change—will save your lungs from the nasty bacteria, dust, and exhaust that threaten to invade them. And you’ll improve the performance of your AC system, too, so it’s a win-win. Want to do it yourself to save money? It’s not hard. Read on…

For starters, don’t confuse the AC filter (also called the cabin air filter) with the internal combustion air filter that’s located under the hood to prevent particles from getting into the engine. The AC filter is most commonly located behind the glove compartment, inside a small door above the passenger foot well. But not always, so check your car’s manual for the exact location. If it’s not mentioned anywhere in the manual, there’s probably not one in your car (which is rare) and you probably don’t need to read any further unless you get a new car. For the rest of us, let’s work with the standard car, behind-the-glove compartment scenario.

Tools Needed:

  • Eye Protection
  • Gloves
  • Ratchet
  • Socket
  • Screwdriver

Step 1 – Buy A New Filter

There are two kinds of filters to consider—particulate and activated charcoal. The activated charcoal costs a little more, but it also filters more. In addition to the dust, bacteria, and spores that the particulate filter can handle, it also removes smelly, harmful gasses and odors. So if you suffer through gridlock traffic on a regular basis, treat yourself—and your lungs—to the activated charcoal.

Step 2 – Remove The Glove Compartment

Most glove compartments are held in place with bolts and screws. But if yours has tabs that need to be pressed to release it, don’t get too heavy-handed during the removal because they break easily. Once all the bolts and screws are off—or those fragile tabs are released—the glove compartment should slide right out.

Step 3 – Remove The Filter

Now you’ll have no trouble seeing the filter housing. And luckily, most filters located under the dash can be quickly removed simply by opening the small door on the housing. Just be sure to notice the directions the arrows are facing—which indicates airflow—as you remove the old filter, being careful not to scatter a bunch of dust from the dirty filter into your car.

Step 4 – Make a Clean Start

Before installing the new filter, use a damp cloth to wipe away any leftover dust particles from the inside of the empty chamber.

Step 5 – Install A Fresh Filter

Pop in the new one with the arrows facing in the same direction as the one you just removed. Finally, reattach the glove compartment and throw away the old one. It’s that simple.

You can breathe easy now. And for the next six months or 4,000 miles—whichever comes first—you’re good-to-go.