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Breathe Clean in Your Car

Dirty Cabin Air Filters Prevent Clean Breathing in Your Car

By Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®

We never think of our vehicles as having anything but clean air in the passenger compartment, but studies have proven that the air in the cabin, as it’s called, can be worse than the air outside due to mold, mildew and other contaminants. So what are we to do?

Change your cabin air filter or have it changed for you, says the Women’s Board of the Car Care Council. Why? During the hot summer months, contaminants, such as pollen, dust, mold spores and smog, can easily enter a vehicle's passenger compartment through the air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems, making the air in the car six times dirtier than the air outside.

Motorists can protect themselves and their passengers from these contaminants by replacing the vehicle's cabin air filter annually or more often in areas with heavy contaminants. Whenever heating or cooling efficiency is reduced a cabin air filters will keep you breathing easier. These filters clean the incoming air and remove allergens — especially beneficial to people with allergies.

If your vehicle is model year 2000 or newer, there's a good chance it is equipped with a cabin air filter, according to the Women’s Board. Many can be replaced easily in a few minutes; others may require a certified technician to handle it.

There are about 30 million vehicles in North America that currently have cabin air filters. However, most people have never heard of a cabin air filter or don't know if their vehicle is has one. Vehicle owners should refer to their owners' manuals for this information.

If the cabin air filter is not replaced, it can cause musty odors in the vehicle, and over time, the heater and air conditioner may become damaged by corrosion. A dirty or clogged cabin air filter can also cause contaminants to become so concentrated in the cabin that passengers actually breathe in more fumes and particles when riding in the car compared to walking down the street.

What can you do if you don’t have a cabin air filter? Clean your vehicle thoroughly with car care products for vinyl, carpet, your seats and headliners, says the Women’s Board. Use odor-eliminating products. Remember, car care products are designed for cleaning your car — don’t use household products as they are designed for your home. The difference is that car automotive interior and exterior components can easily be damaged by harsh household chemicals. Use the correct products and read the labels.


Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®, is a member of the Women’s Board of the Car Care Council. The Board is comprised of professional women and men, including motor sports figures, service shop owners, technicians, service writers, association, company executives and consultants, who are dedicated to informing female audiences about proper vehicle maintenance and safety, while encouraging young people to investigate automotive career choices.

Source: Lauren Fix;, Women's Board of the Car Care Council