Finances & Money

Get rid of the stink…Change your car’s cabin air filter

While using my Honda Ridgeline’s ventilation the last few months, I’ve been noticing a musty stink. I wasn’t sure if it was my feet or the truck, but I eventually limited it down to the air coming out the vents. This past weekend, we were near a NAPA Auto Parts Store and needed new wipers for the MINI Cooper, so I decided to also get a new cabin air filter for truck.

Here’s what a dirty cabin air filter could look like. Mine was about half this bad:

And here’s a clean one:

What is a cabin air filter?

When you use the ventilation (heat or A/C or plain vent), and your car has a cabin filter, the air goes through the filter before blowing into your face. It’s a paper filter just like your furnace filter, or the air filter that filters air going into your car’s engine.

Where’s it located?

My Honda and Acura both had the cabin air filter located behind the glovebox, but many vehicles have it located somewhere under the hood, close to the cabin, such as in this demonstration at and this one at

Does my car have a cabin filter?

How would I know!?! Your best bet it to either look in your owner’s manual or just call the dealer. Oh, while you’re on the phone, ask them how much they charge to replace it…

How much does it cost?

You won’t believe these numbers, but if you took your car to the dealer JUST to get the cabin filter replaced, they would charge anywhere from about $70-130, or more. My Acura cost $90, and when I found out the price, I decided to find out how to do it myself. I googled “Acura TL cabin air filter” and eventually found the steps in an owner’s forum.

One sidenote: I highly recommend finding and joining an owners forum for your vehicle and staying active. You’ll learn about recalls, tips, and so much more about your car you never would have learned on your own.

Anyway, I went to the store and bought a cabin filter for about $20. Yeah, that’s it. To replace it, I just needed a screwdriver. Keep in mind that if you take your vehicle in for scheduled maintenance, the cabin air filter is probably changed by the dealer every 15,000 miles. If you do this task yourself, make sure you get the price deducted from the maintenance bill (and tell them BEFORE they work on your car too).

How do I replace my cabin filter?

I suggest googling it, looking on forums, asking a mechanic or the guys at NAPA. It’s not an item replaced often by the average person, but it’s SOOO easy to replace by yourself and can save you hundreds and hundreds over your vehicle’s lifetime.


The lesson learned here is to investigate alternatives for your vehicle’s maintenance rather than just assuming your dealer is the best place to get it done. Personally, I change my vehicle’s oil, oil filter, air filter, cabin filter and even transmission fluid and filter myself (although working on the transmission is usually something best left to a professional).

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Clever Dude


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