Cabin Air Filter vs Air Filter: What You Need To Know?

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There are two important filters in your car that you need to be aware of. These filters range from providing comfort to ensuring that your engine is running properly. 

Trying to learn everything you need to know can be overwhelming. Don’t worry I’m here to help. 

I will help you understand the difference between the cabin air filter and the engine air filter. You will also learn what they do, why they are important, when you should replace them, and how much it should cost. 

Let’s get started. 

Cabin Air Filter vs. Engine Air Filter: Role and Importance

What Does the Cabin Filter Do?

The cabin air filter prevents outside pollutants such as pollen, dust, smoke, dirt, and other substances from entering the inside of your car through your air conditioning and heating vents. This air filter is crucial to removing smog, mold spores, and other fumes that might enter your car from the outside.

The air filter is crucial to keep the air coming through your vehicle’s vents clean, fresh, and safe. Without the cabin filter, your car rides would be less comfortable and more smelly, especially when driving in traffic or through a cloud of pollutants.

What Does the Air Filter Do?

The air filter or the engine air filter ensures that no debris or dust enters your intake system. Vehicles require fuel and air to start and run your car properly. As a result, the intake system needs to suck air from the outside and push it into your engine. The engine air filter acts as a barrier to filter out any contaminants or debris that the intake system might gather. 

The engine air filter ensures that no debris or contaminants reach your engine. When an engine air filter is clogged or obstructed two things can happen. 

  • The filter will prevent the intake system from getting the air it needs to run your car properly. 
  • Contaminants and debris will begin to enter through the filter and into your engine.

Similarities between Engine Air Filter and Cabin Air Filter?

The main similarity between the engine air filter and the cabin air filter is that their main task is to ensure that the air entering your car remains clean.

Both air filters are crucial to ensuring your car runs smoothly and comfortably. These filters will prevent dust, debris, and pollutants from entering your car. Without these air filters, your vehicles would likely be much less comfortable and your car would experience wear and tear and possible damage to the engine.

The main different between the engine air filter and the cabin air filter is that without an engine air filter working properly it can cause damage to your car. 

Without a proper engine air filter your car may not start or run properly due to the lack of air inside the fuel to air ratio. 

A faulty engine air filter can also allow debris and contaminants into the engine. This debris can damage your engine and cause serious issues. 

How to Maintain The Engine Air Filter and Cabin Air Filter?

You must maintain both of these filters. When these filters become clogged or obstructed, they will not perform the required job.

To correctly maintain these filters, you should follow the maintenance schedule for these filters. For most vehicles, it’s typically recommended that you change any air filters, including the engine and cabin air filters, every 12,000 to 15,000 miles.

Depending on your driving habits, this will take between one and two years to reach. You will likely need to change your air filters more frequently if you drive in high pollutant or heavy debris conditions such as offroading or around heavy smoke.

Engine air filters are typically changed if you have your oil changed by a professional service such as Pep Boys or Jiffy Lube. This means you will only need to change your engine filters if you change your oil yourself. As a result, you should change your engine filter for every two to three oil changes.

Cabin air filters typically should be changed regularly as well. This air filter is not typically changed as any service. As a result, you will need to specifically ask a professional or change your cabin air filter yourself.

If you are driving a new car or you can regularly check our engine and cabin air filters to develop a maintenance schedule that best fits your driving conditions. In some cases, changing air filters might be required less or more often, depending on your driving frequency and external conditions.

Cabin Air Filter vs. Engine Air Filter: Maintenance and Replacement

How often to replace engine air filters?

Engine air filters should typically be changed every 15,00 to 30,000 miles. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the maintenance schedule can vary. As a result, you should check your owner’s manual for the exact recommendation.

For most people, 15,000 to 30,000 miles is every one to two years depending on how often you drive. Manufacturer recommendations don’t always result in the best maintenance schedule for everyone. As a result, you might need to create a maintenance schedule that ensures your filters are in the best conditions.

To create your own maintenance schedule, you should ask a professional or regularly check both filters as you replace them the first time. This will give you a maintenance schedule that works best, given your driving habits and external conditions.

How Often To Replace Cabin Air filters?

Cabin air filters should be changed every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. The frequency that you change your cabin air filter can vary depending on your drive-in’s external condition and the type of filter you use.

For example, if you have already replaced your air filter, you can check the filters manual for maintenance recommendations. But in most cases, your driving conditions will have the biggest impact on your maintenance schedule. For example, if your drive off-roads or through dirt roads often you will typically need to change your air filter more frequently than someone who mainly drives on the highway.

Cabin Air Filter vs Engine Air Filter: Location

Where is the cabin air filter located?

cabin air filter location

The cabin air filter is connected to your car’s vent or HVAC system. The location of the filter can vary depending on the make and model of your car but a few of the most common locations of the cabin air filter are: 

  • Behind the glove compartment 
  • Under the glove compartment 
  • Inside the engine bay 
  • Under the cabin air intake, the box is typically on the passenger side of the engine bay. 

Where is the engine air filter located?

engine bay with labels

The engine air filter is typically located inside the cold air intake collector box. This is typically a large rectangular box towards the center or driver side of the engine bay.

You can typically identify the engine air filter by the large circular, air intake tube will be connected to it that is directed and connected to the engine.

Cabin Air Filter vs Engine Air Filter: Cost

Cabin Air Filter Replacement Cost

Cabin Air Filter Replacement Cost
Cabin air filters are inexpensive filters that you can often purchase for as cheap as $10. You can expect to pay between $15 and $30 for average or medium-quality cabin air filters. High-quality cabin air filters can cost between $40 – $75.

Cabin air filters are typically easy to repair, and most people can complete this on their own.

If you hire a professional, you should not be charged for more than 30 minutes unless other work is being done. In many cases, professionals will do it for no charge and only the charge of the filter.

Engine Air Filter Replacement Cost

Engine air filters can cost between $20 and $150.

Low to average engine air filters will cost you between $20 to $50.

High-quality and performance-enhancing filters typically cost between $50 to $150.

Many performance-enhancing engine air filter kits can cost as much as $400.

Replacing the engine air filter is an easy job to complete. Most people would consider an easy repair that even beginners can complete without issue. If you do hire a professional most should not charge you more than 30 mins or $20 to $30.

Is The Cabin Air Filter The Same As The Engine Air Filter?

No, the cabin air filter is not the same as the engine air filter. 

These are two different filters that have a very specific role inside your car.

The engine air filter cleans and prevents any debris from entering the intake system. This filter ensures that there is a strong, clean airflow to help power your vehicle. 

The cabin air filter ensures that no pollutants or other contaminants enter the vent system of your vehicle. This will keep you driving comfortably and breathing fresh air when you have your fan, A/C, and heater on inside your car. 

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