What Makes a Good Cabin Filter?


Feb 18th, 2020

What Makes a Good Cabin Filter?

Thanks to cabin air filters, we get to inhale clean air inside the cabin of our car. Car manufacturers place these filters inside the car's ventilation system, trapping dust, bugs, and other unwanted particles and allowing clean air to pass through to the cabin.

Unfortunately, not all cabin air filters are made equal, with some requiring more frequent cleaning or replacement compared to others. In the same way that you carefully choose parts and accessories for your car, you should also take time to pick cabin air filters.

Types of Cabin Air Filters

When picking out car parts, it helps if you have some basic knowledge about the different types available in the market. The same principle applies to cabin air filters, and there are four types that you need to be aware of, including:

1. Particle filter

Particle and pollen filters trap any dust or similar pollutant from entering a car's cabin, as long as it is bigger than 0.3 microns. This size is small enough to trap almost anything, considering human hair is about 100 microns in diameter. Hence, you can prevent debris, some bacteria, mould spores, or pollen from entering the car cabin.

2. Charcoal air filter

A charcoal filter is more effective compared to a simple particle filter since it is also able to stop gaseous pollutants including smoke and odours. This filter has the same structure as a particle filter; however, it also has a charcoal layer that acts as an extra layer of defence.

3. Electrostatic air filter

An electrostatic air filter stops pollutants from entering a car's cabin by using a static charge. The filter media has electrostatically-charged fibres that attract contaminants towards it. Filters of this type can stop particles, odours, smoke/fumes, and bacteria from entering the cabin.

4. Activated Carbon filter 

Filters that have a layer of activated carbon provide all of the features of a charcoal air filter but in a more effective manner. These filters can also absorb harmful toxins that are suspended in the air due to traffic, such as carbon monoxide. Activated charcoal also prevents the buildup of mould, and comes with anti-bacterial properties as well. 

Choosing a Cabin Air Filter

The best way to know about the most suitable cabin air filter for your car is to check the owner’s manual. The manual should specify the type of filter that is appropriate for various locations and the frequency of changing it. Experts recommend changing the air filter at least every 14,000 miles, although you may need to change it more often if you regularly drive in areas with a lot of traffic and pollutants. 

If you keep using an air filter that is too old or completely worn out, you risk compromising the performance of your air conditioning, heater, and vents. Your car's defroster may also stop working due to blocked airflow. Also, it creates an unhealthy environment inside the car's cabin as blocked air filters are conducive to the growth bacteria.

Health-wise, a carbon filter will undoubtedly serve more effectively than a simple particle filter as it offers extra protection. It is especially useful if you are driving with someone who has a respiratory illness/issue and needs fresh, clean air inside the car.

You would need to factor in the cost of carbon filters, though, since they need to be replaced more often and are more expensive than particle filters. To put this comparison in the proper context, a standard particle air filter needs to be replaced after every 15,000-30,000 miles. Carbon-based air filters, on the other hand, would need replacement after 12,000 miles. 

Perhaps a good way to decide on a cabin air filter is to evaluate the environment where you typically drive. For example, if your environment is not polluted and the air is generally clean even on the roads, then a particle filter may be more than sufficient to ensure a comfortable cabin environment. However, if you drive in areas that are highly polluted and there is a high risk of toxic pollutants entering your car's cabin, then investing in a carbon-based air filter is a wise decision.

Some Examples of Good Cabin Air Filters

A few examples of good carbon filters you can check out at any car parts shop include the ACDelco CF188, which is a non-carbon cabin air filter that can be reused due to a third layer that reinforces its durability. It comes with three layers and has the added functionality of discouraging bacterial growth in its structure. However, this filter is not very efficient when it comes to stopping odours. 

As for a few carbon-based cabin filters, you can check out the FRAM CF10134 and the EPAuto CP285, both of which are carbon-activated filters. They are useful in keeping the air inside the cabin clean and odour-free. Although the FRAM is more expensive, it works up to 30,000 miles, whilst the cheaper EPAuto filter would need changing every year or after every 12,000 miles. 

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