Once upon a time, when the car interior smelled funky, we rolled down the windows. Or reached under the seats to search for the discarded and very used day-old diaper that missed the trash can at the rest stop. If one was tough enough to endure the first few seconds of suffering upon opening the car, the nose acclimated and the brain subsequently filtered the unpleasant scent. Nevertheless after the diaper episode I became a stickler for gathering and disposing of trash at each stop on family journeys. But I also allowed my children to consume bags of aromatic Doritos in the car even when the weather dictated closed windows. Sometimes peace comes at a price.
Car odors originate from many sources and convey varying degrees of information. A burning aroma or a hint of fuel might indicate a need for service unless your car emits those fragrances normally. Last week’s pizza fragrance lingers for days but likely won’t affect drivability. I survived two teen-aged drivers who loved beads, fuzzy dice and other things swinging from the rear-view mirror. I was told those devices were air fresheners but in all my years of hiking I’ve never encountered that scent in a pine forest.
In my recent blog on the Compost Sifter I hinted that filters can function positively or negatively. Positive filters like my compost sifter capture good stuff and pass the bad. Negative filters trap the contaminants and release the good. We have filters in our home heating/cooling systems to trap dust and pass clean air. One day a car designer somewhere thought, “Why not add such a filter to the car’s heating/cooling system?”
I encountered the cabin air filter concept on our 2001 Honda Accord where the maintenance schedule called for annual replacements. The filter housing was buried behind the dash and access required removal of several screws and panels, and contortions of the human body which I am certain are outlawed in North Carolina. I spoke poorly of the design engineer each time I skinned my knees and bumped my forehead making the swap.
Our 2008 Honda Accord also has a cabin air filter, and this time Honda did it right. Changing the filter is a breeze and requires only hands. The glove compartment pops out to reveal the filter access panel in plain sight. Sweet!
In our area we have an extended pollen season. It’s like the winter folks up north endure but our precipitation is warm and yellow. I decided the best time to change the cabin air filter is after the trees stop spewing, usually late May. And I’ve coupled the filter swap with a full wax and detailing which makes Shawn very happy.
You may be asking, “Do I really need to change the cabin air filter? Can I just ignore it since it’s not engine-related?”
Here’s a picture of the new filter I purchased beside the old filter I removed after twelve months of service.
Now enjoy this close-up of what we’ve been breathing in our car.
Yuck! No wonder the car smells funky! See, Honey, I told you it wasn’t me.
If these disturbing images motivate you to perform some car maintenance my writing was not in vain. By the way, consider buying your next filter from RockAuto and you may save some bucks. I purchased a brand-name air, oil, and cabin filter and my total was under $30.