‘Cleaning the cabin filter’ is and has been a topic of interest. If you do a little research, Google will come up with several hundred thousand results regarding the key words ‘clean cabin filter’ or ‘tap out cabin filter’. This confirms my experience in my day-to-day work. Even in discussions with friends, I often hear that many users want to clean their cabin filter by blowing out, tapping out or employing some other cleaning method. However, as an expert, I know that this simply doesn’t work!

Cleaning is not enough

Even if you tap out the filter until the filter media look virtually immaculate again and all coarse debris is removed, you will not be able to restore the necessary level of cleanliness. The really harmful particles which are invisible to the naked eye are still stuck on the filter.  Blowing out a filter using compressed air equipment does not make sense either – this can destroy the filter fibres and the contaminant particles can thus pass through the refitted filter more easily and enter the vehicle interior. The most harmful pollutants are the ones you can’t see. Imagine you are blowing flour off a table – however hard you blow, a tiny residue will always remain.

Changing the cabin filter? Once per Year.

MANN-FILTER recommends that the cabin filter, sometimes referred to as the pollen or activated carbon filter, be replaced every 15,000 kilometres or once a year. Because as far as this filter is concerned, it’s your health that’s at stake. The cabin filter purifies the external air which is sucked into the vehicle cabin. Amongst other things, it provides protection against the ‘hidden killers’ –  contaminant particles 30-40 times finer than a human hair which can enter your respiratory system and bloodstream.

In my opinion, people who want to blow or tap out their cabin filters themselves are economising in the wrong place. After all, a new filter which you can fit yourself works out at just a few Cents per day over its full service life.

According to statistics, the cabin filter is changed on average once every five years in Germany. After such a long period of time, the filter medium is so exhausted that it can no longer retain the most harmful particles. The oil filter, on the other hand, is changed far more frequently – customers know that it has a direct impact on the operating life of the engine. Many motorists are however not yet aware of the importance of changing the cabin filter regularly and at the specified time. After all, changing this filter also affects the life of the driver and passengers!

I drive up to 25,000 kilometres per year and get the filters and tyres changed at the same time. It is not a time-consuming procedure: with my car, I can change the filter within five minutes; with other vehicles, the filter is in a more concealed position – for example, behind the glove compartment – and more time is required. On average however, 15 minutes would be quite enough.

blowing cabin air filter

This is how you can tell whether your filter needs changing:

Misted windows in the vehicle interior: a completely clogged filter allows only a small amount of air to enter the passenger compartment, causing windows to mist up. A greasy film forms on the windows and screen, and the driver can then be dazzled by the glare from oncoming vehicles at night. This naturally increases the risk of accident.

I’m still perspiring in the car, in spite of the air conditioning: when I was a passenger in my friend’s car last summer, the air conditioning was set at maximum but it had absolutely no effect on the temperature inside the car. This is a good indication that the filter needs changing, as it is clear that only a small amount of air can still flow through the cabin filter.

Unpleasant odours in the car: the activated carbon filter prevents odours from entering the passenger compartment. If such odours are nevertheless still detected inside the vehicle, the filter has possibly already reached the limit of its capacity and has to be changed.