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The 10 Best Cabin Air Filters for 2020

Proper Maintenance For Clean Cabin Air

Best Overall Choice

K & N VF2000 Washable and Reusable Cabin Air Filter

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Best Premium Choice

K & N VF2049 Cabin Air Filter

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Best Budget Choice

EPAuto CP285 Premium Cabin Air Filter

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An important part of car maintenance and safe driving is maintaining a clean cabin air filter. These critical components aren’t accessories that make your cabin interior smell nice; they provide a crucial service in the cleanliness of the very air you breathe.

But too many people don’t know anything about their own cabin air filters, let alone how to replace one that’s clogged or old.

That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve done the heavy lifting and found the best cabin air filters for your needs. Let’s get to it!

What Does a Cabin Air Filter Do? Why Do I Need a Cabin Air Filter?

Cabin air filters are critical components in any car, or at least those that drive with their windows closed! Have you ever wondered how the air inside your car stays fresh and cool even if the air outside doesn’t match?

The fact of the matter is that most outside air is filled with dust and pollen and even the exhaust fumes of other vehicles. If all of that junk managed to get into your car while your windows were rolled up, you’d have a pretty hard time both keeping the interior of your car clean and maintaining good health.

Car cabin air filters function by trapping any debris or harmful substances that pass through them before they reach the interior of your car. The result is purified air that is perfectly safe to breathe and which doesn’t make the inside of your car dirty too quickly.

Of course, this filtering effect means that cabin air filters need to be frequently replaced, cleaned, or repaired in order to ensure proper function and optimal results. If left alone, cabin air filters will eventually fill up with the junk that they are designed to filter out and won’t work as well.

Cabin air filters are important for everyone, but they are particularly necessary for anyone who has severe allergies to dust or pollen. They’re also important for people who just don’t like having a dirty car interior. Breathing healthier is also important for maintaining concentration while on the road.

Car exhaust is largely made up of carbon monoxide and other harmful carcinogens. If you breathe too much of these substances due to a nonfunctioning cabin air filter, your concentration may slip, and you could endanger yourself or other drivers.

There are other issues that stem from a badly functioning cabin air filter, as well. For instance, your windows may fog up if your cabin air filter stops working. Extra pollutants will be piling up on the inside of your windows when your AC or heater runs without a good filter.

Both of those systems may experience decreases in efficiency or effectiveness as well. You may even experience lower gas mileage as a result of a dirty or clogged cabin air filter.

Cabin air filters are not an option; they are a necessity. Thankfully, finding the right cabin air filters is made easy for you, thanks to this guide. Let’s get into our reviews for the best cabin air filters you can find online.

Air Filter Reviews

Best Overall Choice

1. K & N VF2000 Washable and Reusable Cabin Air Filter

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This cabin air filter is washable, see you only have to purchase it once to get many years of use out of the product. It’s a perfect air filter for Subaru or Toyota type automobiles and comes treated with a freshener that has been integrated into its folds.

It utilizes an electrostatic charge gathered from the area surrounding it to capture high amounts of mold and mildew, as well. This functionality makes it a perfect choice for drivers that spend a lot of time in wet and cold climates.

Cleaning the air filter is simple. Water and soap do the trick, and the filter parts are sturdy enough to handle some scrubbing without falling apart.

Features:

  • Gathers mold/mildew with an electrostatic charge
  • Easy to clean
  • Freshens as well as cleans air

Specs:

  • Fits Subaru and Toyota vehicles
  • Reusable
  • Dimensions are 9.6 x 2.1 x 11.4″
Best Premium Choice

2. K & N VF2049 Cabin Air Filter

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This is another reusable air filter from the same manufacturer. It uses the same electrostatic charge capturing method to contain mold and mildew. However, this filter is especially valuable for its ability to capture a lot of germs and allergens that commonly float in the air. It’s a great filter for trapping pollen, as well.

This filter also comes with a ten year or 100,000-mile limited warranty that covers any manufacturer defects. It’s a great bonus that protects you from accidentally receiving a defective product.

The filter is made of a durable polyurethane frame and a synthetic filter material that excels at trapping harmful materials while freshening the air of your car at the same time. Follow the cleaning instructions we list below for the best maintenance results.

Features:

  • Freshens air as well as cleans
  • Great for trapping most things
  • Comes with limited warranty

Specs:

  • Dimensions are 9.9 x 1.9 x 11.4″
  • Reusable
  • Suitable for any filter slot matching its dimensions
Best Budget Choice

3. EPAuto CP285 Premium Cabin Air Filter

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This cabin air filter includes activated carbon that coats its filter service. This activated carbon material helps to neutralize harmful or stinky odors and protects you from any noxious gases that may attempt to pass through.

It also has baking soda; this granted even better odor neutralizing capabilities compared to competitor products. Its air cleaning potential is one of the highest you can find, and it’ll even improve the performance of your AC.

The filter has a recommended replacement rate of 12 months or 12,000 miles. Don’t bother cleaning this unit, as it’s designed to be thrown away once it becomes filled with particles. It’s suitable for Toyota, Lexus, Scion, and Subaru models of vehicle.

Features:

Fits a wide variety of vehicles
Has baking soda

Specs:

Not reusable
Dimensions are 8.5 x 7.8 x 1.2″
Activated carbon type

4. EPAuto CP134 Premium Cabin Air Filter

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Like the last cabin air filter, this product also utilizes activated carbon in order to neutralize harmful or smelly odors and gases. The filter also has baking soda to help reduce the effect of negative odors even further.

It has the same replacement rate at the last EPAuto filter: 12 months or 12,000 miles. The primary difference between the last filter in this one is the model of vehicle that it fits. It’s a suitable filter for most Honda and Acura vehicles over other types.

Like its predecessor, it’s incredibly affordable and isn’t meant to be cleaned or reused.

Features:

  • Has baking soda
  • A lifetime of 12 months/12000 miles

Specs:

  • Activated carbon type
  • Not reusable
  • Dimensions are 9.4 x 9.1 x 1.5″

5. EPAuto CP939 Premium Cabin Air Filter

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This cabin air filter is another EPAuto product. It has baking soda and activated carbon to freshen the air and neutralize harmful gases and odors that attempt to enter the interior of your car. It’s a suitable air filter for Audi or Volkswagen type vehicles, which makes it more valuable than the other two filters due to its rarity.

Despite its rareness relative to its counterparts, this filter is just as affordable as the others. It’s also equipped for easy installation thanks to its compact shape and clear instructions. This is not a replacement filter and is designed to be thrown away once its filter materials have been filled with dirt or debris.

Features:

  • Has baking soda
  • Easy to install, like the other EPAuto filters

Specs:

  • Dimensions are 11.6 x 8.7 x 2.4″
  • Not reusable
  • Fits Audi or Volkswagen

6. Spearhead Premium Breathe Easy Cabin Filter

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This cabin air filter has activated carbon, and it lasts up to 25% longer than most competitor filters. It can easily last up to 15,000 miles before it needs replacement.

The activated charcoal is layered in a honeycomb pattern to both improve the filter lifespan and assist it in its odor-trapping efforts. It’s particularly effective at getting rid of road debris and exhaust fumes thanks to its three-stage filtration system. It possesses a dust filter specifically for bigger elements, and antimicrobial filter to get rid of allergens, and the carbon filter to get rid of exhaust fumes.

Despite this complexity, it’s very easy to install, and it fits a wide variety of vehicles. It’s two times heavier than most cabin filters thanks to its industrial-strength electrostatic material that uses for its filtering performance.

Features:

  • Has a three-stage filtration system
  • Heavier and thicker than other filters
  • Lasts for up to 15,000 miles

Specs:

  • Not reusable
  • Suitable for some Chevrolet, Hyundai, and GMC vehicles
  • Dimensions are 10 x 8.9 x 0.8″

7. FRAM CF10134 Cabin Air Filter

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This filter is so effective that it can block up to 98% of common contaminants, including dust and pollen. In addition to these effects, it’s also been imbued with Arm & Hammer baking soda. The baking soda combines with activated carbon to totally annihilate bad odors and help block out noxious fumes.

Its particle and activated carbon filter segments work in tandem to increase airflow for the AC unit. It’s a great air filter if you live in a hot climate, because of this.

Installing this air filter is a breeze thanks to the detailed installation instructions included in the box. There are also QR codes that come with the purchase, which can lead you to installation videos if you are more of a visual learner.

Features:

  • Has Arm & Hammer baking soda
  • Comes with detailed installation instructions
  • Improves AC airflow

Specs:

  • Not reusable
  • Activated carbon type
  • Dimensions are 10 x 2 x 10″

8. FRAM CF10285 Fresh Breeze Cabin Air Filter with Arm & Hammer

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Like the last filter we examined, this product also utilizes Arm & Hammer baking soda in conjunction with activated carbon. These get rid of negative odors and stop noxious gases from infiltrating the interior of your car. It’s combined with a good particle filter to stop any thicker materials for physical dirt and debris from causing trouble, as well.

This filter fits up to 80% of the vehicles built since 2000. Such a wide array of acceptable vehicle types makes this one of the closest filters you can find to a “universal” product. It’s a good solution if you’re not quite sure what your vehicle can accept.

It’ll improve the flow of your AC system, and the filter’s box also includes the detailed installation instructions and QR codes mentioned before. Overall, it’s quite a valuable filter given all the vehicles it can potentially service.

Features:

  • Has baking soda
  • Fits 80% of vehicles made since 2000
  • Comes with detailed instructions

Specs:

  • Activated carbon type
  • Not reusable
  • Dimensions are 9 x 2 x 8″

9. Mann Filter CUK 29 005 Carbon Activated Cabin Air Filter

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This filter is an easy-to-install product designed to fit perfectly into specific filtrations systems. Check the dimensions listed below to ensure that your car can accept the filter before buying.

It has a thick activated charcoal (or carbon) layer included as a part of its construction. This layer absorbs any harmful gases and other airborne materials and prevents them from seeping into your cabin. It’s combined with an effective particle layer that can handle anything larger and physical, like pollen or dust.

The filter is made of a non-woven media that excels at maintaining durability even after a lot of use. There’s a carrier filter layer as well to promote stability between the various filter layer types. It has a lifespan of about 15000 km before it needs to be replaced. Remember that this filter can’t be cleaned and needs to be disposed of entirely.

Overall, the effectiveness of this filter can’t be understated. It’s quite a good bargain, too, when you consider the low asking price.

Features:

  • Has a carbon and particle filter
  • Tight fit in most vehicles
  • 15000 km lifespan

Specs:

  • Activated carbon type
  • Not reusable
  • Dimensions are 10.6 x 3.4 x 11.2″

10. ACDelco CF188 GM Original Equipment Cabin Air Filter

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This filter is equipped with long filter media, or long flaps to obtain maximum area coverage. This design allows it to capture a higher amount of particulates and harmful matter than other particle type filters of its class.

The filter system is made of three layers. The first layer handles all large airborne particles, the middle gets anything smaller than that, and the third and final layer provides added stability and strength to the other two. Naturally, this boosts the lifespan of the filter as a whole.

It’s designed to fit with most GM vehicles, although you should still check the dimensions and compare them to your original filter before purchasing. However, this is the closest you can get to the factory-issued GM air filters that they use on vehicles coming off the assembly line.

The filter is well-built and sturdy. It even comes with a 24-month/unlimited mile warranty that can cover you for defects from the manufacturing process. This is a nice bonus even with the low asking price.

Note that although this is a particle filter, it’s not reusable. Dispose of it once it’s clogged or reached the end of its lifespan.

Features:

  • Has a three-layer filter system
  • Comes with limited warranty
  • Made like factory-issued GM filters

Specs:

  • Not reusable
  • Fits most GM vehicles
  • Dimensions are 10.4 x 9.8 x 1.3″


What to Look for in the Best Cabin Air Filters

Above, we’ve listed the best possible cabin air filters for a variety of different cars and filtration systems. But if these aren’t quite what you’re looking for, remember these critical factors when looking for a cabin air filter of your own.

Is It Compatible?

By far, the most important aspect of any cabin air filter is its compatibility with your vehicle. You should always double-check before finalizing a purchase and ensure that your chosen cabin air filter will actually fit with your car’s filtration system.

This is particularly important if you purchase a used car. Make sure that you know what kind of filter to get before driving off the lot.

You can find cabin air filters for all automobiles, from SUVs to compact green-powered cars. They’ll just take different sizes or styles of filters.

To determine whether or not your vehicle can accept a particular type of filter, check the user manual or investigate the cabin air filter that your vehicle is currently using. You should, when in doubt, endeavor to find a replacement cabin air filter of the same make and model that your car used previously.

It is possible to go for an upgrade and get a better cabin air filter than your car currently has. But you should only attempt to this if you are sure that the potential upgrade can work with your car.

Some cabin air filters are rated as universal or can be used with the widest variety of commercial air filtration systems. However, these are not necessarily the most common depending on where you look. Some rare car models or luxury vehicles may require special cabin air filters. Their filtration systems may not accept the universal type filters.

The biggest aspect of a cabin air filter that determines whether or not it can fit with your filtration system is its size. If in doubt, you can always measure the old filter that you’re replacing. This is a lot easier than trying to measure the narrow filter slot where you’ll be placing the new one.

If you’ve already thrown away the old filter, consider contacting the manufacturer and asking about the preferred filter size for your model of vehicle. They should be able to provide at least a starting point.

In addition, many filter manufacturers will list the kinds of vehicles that their products are guaranteed to work with.

Particle or Activated Carbon?

These are the two main types of cabin air filters.

Particle cabin air filters are usually constructed in order to trap microscopic dust, pollen, and toxin particles. The size of these particles typically measures in the micron, which is a very small unit that is completely invisible to the naked eye. To give you an idea of how small we are talking, imagine an air filter with tiny holes that are smaller than the diameter of the standard human hair. Now that’s small!

Particle cabin air filters, therefore, are exceptional when it comes to blocking physical contaminants or harmful substances. Most pollen and dust particles are larger than these holes, so they should be trapped relatively easily in a working particle cabin air filter.

Activated carbon cabin air filters can perform this function as well as an additional function; they can filter out harmful chemicals as well as physical contaminants. This means that activated carbon cabin air filters will trap bad odors or harmful gases. Think of things like the carbon monoxide that comes out of the exhaust pipes of most motor vehicles.

These types of air filters work by spreading an active carbon substance over a large surface area. The activated carbon binds to the harmful molecules and elements of various noxious gases and voters to trap them before they reach the interior of your vehicle. As a result, many activated carbon air filters require more surface area or space, in general, to operate efficiently. This limits the kinds of vehicles that can accept them.

In addition, activated carbon cabin air filters are frequently a little more expensive than particle cabin air filters since they do more work and provide more holistic defense against harmful substances entering your vehicle.

Activated carbon air filters are sometimes called activated charcoal air filters.

Overall, both types of air filters are better than having none at all. If your car can ever fit it, and activated carbon cabin air filter is the superior choice, but you shouldn’t avoid purchasing a particle air filter it the only kind your car can handle.



Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should You Change Your Cabin Air Filter?

This answer depends on the model of cabin air filter you purchased and/or the type of environment you frequently driving.

For instance, if you drive along country roads with clean air and not a lot of other motor vehicles constantly polluting the surrounding space, your cabin air filter won’t have to work as hard and won’t collect dust or debris quite as frequently.

On the other hand, drivers who spend all their time in cities or in climates that have a lot of pollen from procreating plants will have to examine their cabin air filters more frequently.

In these situations, it’s likely that even the manufacturer-set lifespan may not be entirely accurate. Carbon air filters have a set maximum of filtration that they can perform before they start to work less efficiently.

Therefore, having lots of other cars or pollutants around your vehicle may lead to a lower than expected air filter lifespan.

Check the user manual of your chosen air filter and see what the replacement date is recommended for. If you live in a heavy pollutant area, it’s probably a good idea to check out your filter manually before this date just to make sure things are still working.

Even if you have to replace your cabin air filter before the recommended time, it’s better to have a functioning unit purifying the air inside your car than it is to breathe and toxins and noxious fumes.

Standard cabin air filter replacement metrics are usually between 12,000 and 15,000 miles presuming regular atmospheric conditions and a normal amount of surrounding cars. Most Americans drive around 15,000 miles in a year. So you are likely looking at changing or cleaning your cabin air filter about once every 12 months.

How Can I Know When My Cabin Air Filter Needs to Be Changed?

A great way to detect that your air filters need to be either cleaned or switched out is to pay attention to your air conditioning or heating systems. The cabin air filter interacts with all the air pushed into your car from either the heater or the air conditioner. If it’s too full or is otherwise blocked up with pollutants, you should experience a drastic decrease in airflow from either system.

Regular checkups for your air filter are also recommended if you live in a pollutant heavy city or environment. If you see a lot of dust coating the surface of your air filter, it’s probably a good idea to get a replaced cleaned depending on the unit.

Where is the Cabin Air Filter in My Car?

Most cabin air filters are located in one of two places.

Some units may be found beneath the windshield of your car. Others may be found behind the glove compartment. In either scenario, you should see a hatch or small opening that is secured with screws to prevent it from being easily opened or tampered with.

Both of these covers are normally hidden to keep the aesthetic of the vehicle intact.

In any event, you can always check your car manual to determine the location of your cabin air filter. This may be the best course of action if you have a rare or luxury vehicle with a unique interior setup.

How to Change a Cabin Air Filter?

The exact method of air filter replacement or installation depends on your car’s make and model. But in general, removing the screws from your cabin air filter cover should be easy with either a Philips or flat head screwdriver. The cabin air filter is designed to be removed, so you shouldn’t need any specialized tools or mechanical knowledge.

Pull the cover down once the screws have been removed and slide the filter out of the slot. If you haven’t changed the filter in a while, it may be very dusty or dirty. Be careful not to spill a bunch of dust and debris onto the seat or the rest of your car.

Either dispose or clean the cabin air filter depending on the unit. Once this has been decided, you can place the clean for new cabin air filter back in the same slot. If you’ve chosen the correct filter, it should slide in without trouble. You should be able to close the cover back over the top without having to squeeze or shove the filter inside.

If the filter doesn’t immediately fit for you have to expend energy to make it bend into place, you need to find a different unit. Cabin air filters only work properly if they are spread out to their full extent and all their surface area is being used. The filter has to make a seal to be effective, and a bent filter leaves a gap that unfiltered air can rush through.

Rescrew the cover of the cabin air filter back into place, and you should be all set. You should test the AC or heating systems to make sure that airflow is regular and consistent. You may experience a slight musty smell upon initial activation, but the smell should dissipate after a few minutes of running the filter.

If it doesn’t, investigate the filter again and consider buying a different unit. Your product might have a flaw or manufacturer defect.

How to Clean a Cabin Air Filter?

If you’ve purchased a reusable type of filter, most products are cleanable via the same process.

Use a hose with low-pressure water and direct the fluid from the clean side to the dirty side. Go from top to bottom to allow gravity to take away most of the dirty substances and let it fall on the ground.

After you’ve rinsed the filter, you should fill a bucket or bin with soapy water and totally submerge the filter for about 10 minutes. This gives the soap enough time to break down any tougher components and bacterial growths that may have gathered on the filter surface.

After it has soaked, you should clean the filter with low-pressure water once again, making sure to get rid of any soapy remnants. If any soap dries on the filter, you may smell it for a little while once you have reinstalled it.

The filter should then be let out to air dry on a towel.

Does a Cabin Air Filter Affect My AC?

It certainly does. All of the air that comes from the AC or heating units passes through the cabin air filter before it reaches the cabin of your car. A clogged cabin air filter will physically block much of the regular airflow from reaching you. This is why testing both the AC and heating systems is a great way to determine whether or not your filter needs replacing.

Does a Cabin Air Filter Affect Gas Mileage?

No, it does not. Different filters affect different aspects of your vehicles performance and safety. This is a common misconception because your car’s engine air filter operates in much the same way as your cabin air filter.

The engine air filter of your vehicle gets rid of excessive debris and carbon monoxide to provide oxygen for your engine’s internal combustion processes. This filter can also become clogged or dirty over time, and this can impact your miles per gallon and lower your gas efficiency.

By your cabin air filter has nothing to do with the gas efficiency of your car beyond its ability to influence your concentration and clear-headedness. In a roundabout way, a better cabin air filter can provide you with cleaner and healthier air to help you keep your eyes on the road and make smart driving decisions. But it does not directly affect your mileage.



Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.