Have you ever wondered why your car has air filters? Just like every other part of the car, the cabin air filters and engine air filters serve an important purpose, but it’s one we often don’t think about. The thing is, if we want our cars to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible, it’s important to remember the air filters when doing regular maintenance

Today, we’ll go over the role they play in keeping your car healthy, and go through each step you’ll need to take when it’s time to replace them. 

Their role

Like the name implies, the role of an engine air filter is to filter the air as it enters your car’s duct system before it finally gets to the engine. Think of it as a gatekeeper. When functioning properly, it keeps out dirt, leaves, insects, and other contaminants that can gunk up your engine.

On the flip side, your car’s cabin air filter keeps your interior fresh and clean by filtering out pollen, certain bacteria, dust, mildew, and harmful odors – like gasoline. So, while they may seem like a small part of your car overall, without them, you won’t make it very long before your engine and cabin gets choked up with leaves and nasty odors. 

Benefits of regularly changing your filters

When you regularly keep up with replacing your filters, you’ll get to enjoy a variety of benefits to both your car’s feel and performance. Some top benefits include: 

  • Prolonged engine life, thanks to engine air filters trapping contaminants before they reach internal engine parts
  • Regularly replacing an engine air filter ensures you’ll always have a positive seal against harmful dirt and debris.
  • A cabin air filter ensures a fresh, odorless interior, and a smooth-running HVAC system. 
  • Reduced air flow can mess up your car’s emissions, which can be remedied with a quick replacement. 
  • Changing your air filters is often a cheap, easy fix that can be done at home. 

Signs it’s time to replace your filters

Have you noticed any dirt, leaves, or other debris clogging up the base of your windshield? Go ahead and check under your hood. If it looks grubby and grimy down there as well, that’s a pretty good indication that it’s time to replace your engine air filter. 

Additionally, if it starts to smell musty or you smell gasoline when running your AC, this is an indication to go ahead and replace your cabin air filter. And while it may seem like it’s not a big problem, try not to procrastinate. You don’t want to be breathing in mold and mildew!

How to replace your air filters

The good news is, changing out your car’s filters isn’t too difficult. Below, we’ll go over step-by-step directions on how to replace both your engine and cabin air filter. 

Engine air filter

  1. Open up your hood and look for the filter box. This is the black, plastic box that can be located on top of or on the side of your engine.
  2. Next, unclasp the metal clips that hold the box closed, reach in, and remove the old filter. 
  3. After discarding the old filter, insert the new engine filter into the box and make sure it fits. Go ahead and close up the filter box. You’re done!

Cabin air filter

Once you’ve replaced your engine air filter, maybe give your cabin air filter a check as well. If it’s past its prime, here’s how to replace it. 

  1. Remove your glove box pin. After emptying out your glove box, you’ll want to find a pin on its outside edge. Using a screwdriver, take it out. 
  2. Lower down your glove box by gently pressing in on either side. You’ll see a black cover – this is where your cabin air filter is. 
  3. You’ll find tabs on either side of this black cover that can be released by squeezing them inward. Now you should be able to pull your old cabin air filter out. Just don’t remove it quickly, unless you want to release a big dust cloud in your face. 
  4. Before installing the new filter, it’s always a good idea to give the housing a good vacuum. 
  5. Once the housing is back in pristine shape, you can slide the new filter in, taking care to make sure the airflow arrow is pointing in the right direction. Now you’re ready to snap your glove box back in place!


Claire Biggerstaff
Claire Biggerstaff is a freelance writer and photographer from Charlotte, NC. Her curiosity leads her to write about a wide variety of topics. On her off days, she enjoys reading Polygon articles, and curling up to a good YouTube playlist.

    You may also like


    1. I would’ve never thought that it was so important as well to keep up with the filters of the car. Its important to understand how a car works for this types of reasons. So easy to change and keep update with certain parts of the car.

    2. That explains so much…. I’m glad it’s easy to replace them, articles like this stop someone from assuming that they have to go a shop or specialist.

    3. I actually just replaced the air filter this past weekend. I knew I could have done it myself and was just being lazy. Next time I will do it myself.

    4. Clean filters are very important, and they are easy to replace yourself so no excuses.

    5. Regular maintenance on your vehicle keeps your fuel mileage from decreasing and keeps your vehicle safe to drive. New tires and brakes improve braking and handling. A new air filter can keep your engine from losing about 10-20% of your average mpgs.

    6. Wow! Im learning something new everyday. This is definitely something I want to try for myself.

    7. They created an entire industry with cabin air filters

    Leave a reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    More in Knowledge