Do All Cars Have Cabin Filters Today? (Explained)

A cabin filter is a small, pleated, rectangle-shaped cartridge made of paper and multi-fiber cotton used to trap any contaminants and prevent them from polluting the air.

Dust, bacteria and pollen are pollutants to be avoided as they have a dreadful impact on your health.

In this article, we explore whether all cars now have cabin filters.

Here Is the Short Answer to Whether All Cars Have Cabin Filters Today:

Most modern cars come with a cabin filter. Our research shows any car produced up to the year 2000 has a cabin filter. However, most owners do not know they have it. It is usually ‌placed at the back of the glove box, under the hood or the dash. It cleanses the air as it moves through the vehicle’s HVCA system.

How Do I Know If a Car Has a Cabin Air Filter?

There are 3 major places to check if your car has a cabin filter:

Behind the Glove Box

Manufacturers mostly place cabin filters behind the glove box. It is built into the dashboard of the car, facing the front passenger seat. It is easy to locate, as you just need to loosen the bolts that hold this compartment.  

Underneath Your Dashboard

Other manufacturers place the filter inside the dashboard. It could be on the passenger side (either above or below the glove box) or by the driver’s side. It is harder to reach a cabin filter when it is placed in this location.

If you have a reason to remove it, it is best to take it to the dealer or the manufacturer.

Under the Hood

They can also place the cabin filter under the hood. You can find it near the engine, close to the base of your windshield. It’s also easy to remove a cabin filter in this location. But if you don’t understand how to open the container, it’s best to contact an experienced technician.

Do All Cars Need Cabin Filters?

There is no direct effect of the absence of cabin filters on an engine’s performance, as older models did not use them. However, it is definitely best to have it, especially if you have an AC.

The major reason manufacturers quickly included cabin filters was because of the popular demand of consumers for fresher air while driving.

A cabin filter helps to protect the air you breathe in. It traps dust and bacteria from entering the vehicle. If your car has no cabin filter, the major problem would be the air quality and ultimately, health issues.

Further, if you fail to change these filters regularly, it could cause bigger problems for the whole HVCA system because the clogged dirt and debris make it hard for the system to run properly. 

These Cars Don’t Have Cabin Filters

Before the car industry saw the importance and need for cabin filters for consumers, older cars produced before the year 2000 did not have this luxury. However, there are some recent car models that do not have them.

GMC Sierra 1500 From 2007 to 2013

This model does not come with a cabin air filter. In fact, most GM and SUVs trucks do not have a factory-installed cabin filter. However, the company provides retrofit kits to install this feature.

The Chevrolet Silverado 2011

According to, the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado did not come with a factory-installed cabin filter.

The company opted for a filter attached to the engine that filters the air before it enters the car rather than it being made exclusively for the interior. 

The Chevrolet Silverado 2008

This car model did not have a pre-installed cabin filter. However, its HVCA system is protected. Cars without cabin filters use a plastic mesh to hinder objects from entering the HVCA system.

All Toyota Camry Models Before 2002 

Toyota Camry models produced before the year 2002 did not have cabin filters. The 2002 model was the 5th generation of the Camry line and it was that year they included the cabin air filter in the production of all Toyota Camrys.

Related: Car Won’t Accelerate When AC Is On (13 Common Reasons)

When Did They Start Putting Cabin Filters in Cars?

Cabin air filters became popular in the year 2000. However, according to mzwmotor, the 1989 Mercedes was the first vehicle that came with a standard cabin filter, and this resulted in other companies adopting this feature.

The first mass-market car to sport the cabin filter as standard was the Opel Astra 1990 model, but it did not become popular as the majority did not yet see the crucial need for quality air.

Along the way, through the 90s, they became gradually common. Some manufacturers included the compartment but excluded the air filter itself. It was by the year 2000 that it became a general standard for all cars.

Do Cabin Filters Affect Gas Mileage?

Cabin filters do not have a direct effect on your engine’s performance. They do not affect your gas mileage at all because it is not connected to your engine’s air intake. The air filter is probably responsible for your fuel loss.

A clogged air filter prevents the engine from running properly because of the air loss. This ultimately leads to the rundown of the engine’s power and torque.

Does Air Only Pass Through Cabin Filters When the AC Is On?

Quality air passes through the whole HVCA system, both for the heating and cooling compartments.

Thus, air passes not only through the filters when the AC is on but it also works for the whole HVCA. This comprises three parts: heating, ventilation and the air conditioning (HVCA) system.

The A/C uses the refrigerant to remove heat from the cabin, while the heater uses the hot engine coolant through the heater core to push warmth into the car.

Related: 5 Cars Without ABS Brakes That People Love Driving (With Pictures) 

How Do Cars Without Cabin Filters Actually Filter Air?

Cars without cabin filters do not filter the air while driving. That is the primary purpose of this feature.

However, the windshield cowl could act as a barrier against pines, leaves and other debris. This would prevent unwanted elements from getting into the blower fan.

However, if your car does not come with a factory-installed cabin filter, it is very possible to install one.

How Often Should You Change Your Cabin Filters?

Car manufacturers recommend your cabin filter be replaced every 15,000-30,000 miles. However, this can vary according to the car make and the type of area you live in.

If you have to drive down dusty and gravel roads, you might have to change the cabin filter more frequently than others.

How Do You Know Your Cabin Filter Needs a Change?

The most common sign of a bad cabin filter is a bad odor. However, there are other common signs that arise from it, including:

Bad Smell

A bad or clogged filter will lead to a dirty smell coming from the car’s vents. As it filters the outside air, particles get stuck in it and if it is not replaced on time, it will smell.

This smell further intensifies as you increase the flow of the A/C. It can make driving very uncomfortable for you and the passengers.

Poor Airflow

This is another common sign that your filters need to be replaced. The vehicle’s airflow reduces drastically because the filter is contaminated. It blocks the air from the air conditioning system and causes extra wear on the general HVCA system.

Icy Windows

One major function of a cabin filter is to maintain airflow and clear out the fog that stays on the vehicle’s window.

As the airflow is weakened because of the bad filter, it prevents the vehicle’s HVCA system from running properly and harder to remove condensation from your windows. This is not safe because the fog can reduce visibility while driving.

Increased Fan Noises

All things being equal, your AC system makes a subtle noise when you turn it on. It shows that your cabin filter and AC system are working perfectly.

On the contrary, if you begin to hear loud noises from the fan, your filter needs a replacement.

If particles get stuck in the filter, it makes a lot of noise as the air passes through it. This grows worse and louder if you don’t replace them on time.   

Related: Do All Cars Have Power Steering Today? (Checked)

How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Cabin Filter?

According to mechanicbase, the replacement cost ranges between $40 and $100, depending on the car model and labor cost. The parts range from $20 to $50, while the labor cost ranges from $30 to $40.

Can I Wash My Cabin Air Filter?

Cabin filters should be replaced. However, you could wash them, but it won’t do a fine job of trapping particles and contaminants as a new filter would have. It is therefore logical to replace than wash it.

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