Your Car Air Filter is Making You Sick
Everyone loves that new car smell. It fills your nostrils, making you proud of your new ride and the memories you’ll make in it. In fact, that smell alone can make a monthly car payment feel worth it! But as we all know, the smell of a new car doesn’t stick around. Eventually, it gets replaced by whatever air fresheners you buy.
That smell may even be replaced by a dirty, musty scent every time you turn on your AC. If you’ve found yourself buying one too many air fresheners to cover a bad scent, failing to change your cabin air filter may be to blame. And aside from the gross smells, having a dirty car air filter can also affect your health. Roads are full of countless pollutants and toxins, and an air filter that can’t do its job will expose you to all of them.
How Your Car Air Filter Works
Your car’s air filter and cabin air filter are both parts of its HVAC system. While that may seem like a rather technical term, it simply stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Every home, automobile, and office in the United States is equipped with HVAC. It serves the purpose of making your car a healthier, more comfortable place to be.
In a broad sense, it absorbs air from outside, processes it, and brings it inside your car. An HVAC system allows air to be heated or cooled for comfort, and also removes pollutants from the air so you don’t breathe them in.
For that HVAC system to be fully effective, however, its components need to be taken care of. In modern cars, most HVAC systems consist of three parts: an air filter, cabin air filter, and fuel filter.
The air filter removes debris and dirt from the air, preventing them from reaching your engine. A cabin air filter takes the same approach but has been designed to also remove dust and pollen from the air you breathe. Lastly, a fuel filter keeps those same pollutants out of your fuel lines, helping your car better regulate temperature and fuel usage.
All in all, these filters exist to prevent pollutants—ranging from pollen to specs of dirt—from entering any part of your car that relies on air to function. This is meant to keep not only you healthy but also your car running at the best of its ability. An effective HVAC system is a must and often required by law in most states. HVAC is part of the reason for emissions testing!
The three filters—air, cabin air, and fuel—all rely on traditional filter designs to function. Air passes through a paper like material, but small particles like dust and pollen get trapped in the filter itself. As time passes, the filter becomes full and loses its effectiveness. Eventually, it allows all of those pollutants into the cabin air, engine air, and fuel compartments.
What Happens When Your Cabin Air Filter Isn’t Changed
To work at its best, any filter needs to be regularly changed. As cabin air filters and air filters age, they become full of pollutants like pollen and dust. This makes it harder for the filter to trap all the particles it comes in contact with, meaning more and more will escape into both the cabin air and engine air. This forces both you and your car to absorb these harmful particles, resulting in adverse health effects for you and a shorter lifespan for your car!
A dirty cabin filter, air filter, or fuel filter forces your car’s engine to work harder. That lowers fuel efficiency, increases the car’s emissions, and can even result in your engine stalling. It also affects how well your AC functions and allows pollutants to reach your lungs. That means your health will decline as the health of your car does. You could experience anything from minor allergic reactions to asthma attacks, difficulty breathing, and, in extreme cases, lung disease.
Essentially, your car’s filters are like any other part of a machine. To do their job, they need regular maintenance. And unlike a squeaky door hinge or loose screw, failing to address your cabin air filter, air filter, and fuel filter can have disastrous consequences.
The Benefits of Regularly Changing Your Car Air Filter
The benefits of regularly changing your car’s filters are monumental. First and foremost, clean filters will better protect your car from harmful debris, meaning it runs at its best and will drive like new for as long as possible. Furthermore, regulating changing your filters improves your car’s HVAC system overall, allowing it to run more efficiently—saving you money in the long run.
You can think of cabin air filters, air filters, and fuel filters as drains. If your sink is clogged, water can’t get through. The debris simply pile up, eventually overflowing and making a mess. To avoid that mess, you have to unclog the sink! Similarly, avoiding a build-up of pollutants in both your car and lungs requires changing the filters regularly. As soon as they’re dirty, it’s time for a replacement. And the best part? You can replace them yourself rather easily!
As far as performance is concerned, some research shows that your cars acceptation can improve by 11% when filters are changed regularly. The air you breathe will also be cleaner, helping you avoid the effects of pollutants on your health. Lastly, you’ll save money! In the long run, you’ll spend less on repairs for you car, less on medical bills, and less on medicine to address the impact of pollutants on your lungs.
When to Change Your Cabin Air Filter
You should be changing your air filter, cabin air filter, and fuel filter roughly once a year or every 12,000 miles—whichever comes first. However, your car’s manual will have better information about what’s recommended for it. In general, older cars will need their filters changed far more often than newer cars. You can go to a mechanic to have the filters changed, or change them rather easily at home.