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How To Diagnose A Failing Cabin Air Filter

Your car's cabin air filter needs to be replaced every 15K-20K miles. Sometimes it might need to be replaced in shorter intervals, especially if you live in a rural, dusty, or heavily polluted area. A good rule of thumb is to check your air filter once a year.

If you're wondering how to check your air filter, this guide is for you. We'll walk you through the process.

Signs of a Dirty Cabin Air Filter

Dirty filter

Whether the cabin air filter is still new or at the 15K-20K mile mark, it's always a good idea to check the cabin air filter as soon as you notice some of the following telltale signs of a bad air filter:

  • Stale odors from the vents
  • Outside smells entering the vehicle even with all of the windows closed
  • Weaker-than-usual airflow through the vents
  • Increased allergy/respiratory reactions

Checking a Cabin Air Filter

The best way to know if a cabin air filter is bad is to visually inspect it. You would need to remove the air filter and then examine it. Here's how:

Accessing the Cabin Air Filter

Change filter

The location of the cabin air filter varies between Ford models, so there's not a universal set of steps for accessing the cabin air filter. The owner's manual should have information on where the cabin air filter is located. The process takes about 10 minutes and doesn't require many -- or sometimes even any -- tools.

If the air filter in your car is located below the glove compartment, here's how you can access it:

(NOTE: The following set of instructions is based on the Ford Escape. It might be a bit different with another Ford that has a cabin air filter in the same place.)

  1. Look under the glove box on the passenger side.
  2. There are two screw caps holding the bottom cover panel in place. Remove them both with your fingers.
  3. Carefully remove the bottom cover panel.
  4. Look closely to the left edge of the carpet and you'll find a small Torx screw. Remove it. Be careful not to drop the screw.
  5. Now you can see the air filter cover. There are two clips. Squeeze them together to pull the air filter cover off.
  6. Pull out the cabin air filter.

What to Look For

Once you have the old filter in your hands, you might be surprised to see how much dirt, grime, pollen, and other contaminants are caked inside it. However, how do you know if the filter is too dirty? Easy: just hold it to the sun or a bright light. If you see some light shining through, the filter is still good. If there's no light shining through, then it's time to chuck it out and put in a new cabin air filter.

Replacing a Cabin Air Filter

If you've determined that your cabin air filter is no longer good, you can replace it simply by pulling out the old one and then putting in the new one. It's a job so simple that you don't need to visit a Ford dealership. All you have to do is to order a new filter yourself (we offer wholesale pricing for genuine OEM Ford cabin air filters, by the way) and then replace it.

Got any questions about diagnosing a bad cabin air filter? We'll be happy to answer them!