What’s the Difference Between Your Air Filter and Cabin Filter

Air Filter, Cabin Filter Clean v Dirty
John Pile, Flickr.com

For the uninitiated, keeping track of recommended car maintenance items can be daunting.  There’s so much to know, in addition to high costs associated with a trip to the shop.

Below is a look at some relatively low cost items worth keeping an eye on: your automotive filters.  Here, we explain what they do, when and why they need replacing.

Oil Filter – This filter should be changed during every oil change period. Outside of fuel, oil is the most important fluid in a car. If the oil filter is not changed, small passages that lubricate your engine could become clogged and cause catastrophic damage.

Air Filter – The engine air filter captures the small particles and dust before it can be sucked into the engine, resulting in low performance or damage. This filter should be changed every 15,000 miles or when the filter is hard to see through when placed up to a light.

Cabin Filter – the cabin filter collects all the dust and pollen from the air that is used for your air conditioning and heat. Usually this filter is changed every 15,000 miles or when the filter becomes clogged or begins to grow mildew or mold.

Fuel Filter – On most cars this filter can be found on the line that carries gasoline to the engine. It filters out small particles and residue that could damage the engine during combustion. Usually this filter is changed every 50,000 miles, but if you readily fill your tank with the cheapest gasoline or let the needle get down to the empty level, more frequent fuel filter changes might be better.

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Find a good mechanic and have these filters checked. Most filters are easily accessible and can be checked at little to no cost. As always, employ the “show me” method – asking your mechanic to show you the grit and grime built up in your filters – so you can feel good about having made the investment in your car’s health. Remember: filters are relatively low cost maintenance items, and can help you save money over the years.