With cold weather setting into the region people are beginning to break out the winter coats, gloves, and scarfs. This is also true for the small critters who will soon be looking for ways to escape the harsh elements. During a courtesy inspection last week, we noticed one customer's Cabin Air Filter had been converted into one rodent's hideout, courtesy of a few belongings picked out from the glove box. Roadmaps, registration cards, and even tissues are fair game when it comes to building materials. The little critter likely made his way into the car through its inlet vent and navigated up the channels before getting cozy on top of the Cabin Air Filter. Fortunately, our technician caught this early on before the unwanted guest could create more problems for the customer and their vehicle.
But let's back up a second. Is this the only reason we check our vehicle's filters - to make sure no furry friends have turned them into bachelor pads? Not quite, but it's a habit of checking our filters that keep smaller problems from turning into larger ones. The filters in your car have an important role of keeping you and your car protected from air borne particles. So, below we will differentiate between the two types of air filters found in modern vehicles. Then the next time you have your vehicle in for service, you can ask your service consultant about the condition of your filters.
The first of topic is the Cabin Air Filter. Mentioned above, this filter cleans the air before it is blown into your interior via the climate control vents. If this filter is clogged, it can no longer effectively clean the air that's being passed through the (now dirty) filter elements. In this instance, (with a Cabin Air Filter) it is the air you and your passengers are breathing while in the car. Just like the air filter in your home, the filter in your vehicle has a prescribed life span and requires inspecting/replacing when it becomes too clogged with debris. This was an even larger problem for our customer with the unwanted tenant because rodents carry bacteria, and now all the air travelling through their filter was being passed through the nest as well.
The second type of filter in your vehicle is the Engine Air Filter, and it catches debris in the air before it can be sucked into your engine. When the Engine Air Filter fails and small contaminates are passed to the engine, performance deteriorates and will eventually lead to sluggish power. Furthermore, when left untreated, these symptoms can lead to larger, more expensive repairs. To add insult to injury, a clogged Engine Air Filter also results in poor fuel economy which means larger fuel consumption for each mile driven. The services that involve cleaning your internal components can get expensive and are typically avoidable with careful foresight. Don't wait until your car experiences poor performance to check your filter, preventative maintenance will always be the less expensive route.
So, the next time your service advisor recommends a new filter, you'll have a better understanding of their roles in your vehicle, as well as the ramifications of trying to extend them past their usable life. However, all of this wasn't to say that your filters need to be changed with every oil change, because that WOULD be expensive and surely overkill. The average lifespan of a filter is anywhere between 15,000 - 30,000 miles and keep in mind each car is exposed to different conditions, hence a filter used in the desert would become compromised much sooner than one being driven in the suburbs. If you are unsure if your filters have been changed previously, you can ask your service advisor for your service records, or (even better) request for them to be checked the next time you bring your vehicle in. Don't neglect your vehicle's air filters - you, your passengers, and your vehicle depend on them!