Clearing the air

2 min read
Maintain your car’s air con and its filters to efficiently maintain a cool, clean and pleasant-smelling environment in your cabin.

Have you ever opened your car door, only to be confronted with an unusual, if not unpleasant, odour?

It could be food items accidentally left behind in the car, probably overnight, and they are starting to get rancid. But if you didn’t manage to find the culprit, chances are that your car’s air conditioner (AC) vents are emitting that smell.

The AC filter, also known as the cabin air filter, is responsible for removing air contaminants coming through the car’s AC system and out through the vents. As with home air purifiers that employ filters, these similar filters help make the car cabin as comfortable as possible for the occupants. They help remove pollutants such as dust, dirt and allergens.

A drain on your engine
These filters can get clogged up over time, making them less efficient in sieving out the pollutants. When this occurs, the filters’ ability to allow air through is compromised, and you will notice reduced airflow from the AC vents. This leads to the AC system becoming less efficient in cooling the car cabin.

This, in turn, leads to a less efficient engine, as the additional electrical effort required by the AC blower engine to operate the AC system will add more strain on the motor engine. In severe cases, you’ll notice a reduction of power whenever you turn the AC on.

Relieves allergies
If you are allergic to dust and allergens, you’ll start reacting to them in the cabin when the filters start to get clogged up. And continuous dirt build-up can lead to mould and bacteria, a breeding ground for unpleasant odours. If you have just installed new filters and are still sneezing away, then check to see if the new filters were installed correctly or if they have been damaged or torn.

Replacement frequency
Basic cabin filters can stop up to 99% of contaminants over three micro-metres; these include dust, ash, pollen, spores, hair and insects. Carbon cabin air filters have added charcoal, which helps eliminate odour and absorb exhaust fumes. Though more expensive, these may be justified if you regularly drive in stop-start traffic, especially in industrial or construction zones.

Normally, it is recommended to change your cabin filters once or twice a year. However, the lifespan of the cabin filter really depends on how often you drive, the time you spend in the car, and the environment and areas you drive to.

In our hot and humid climate, the AC is an important part of our car, and within the confines of a closed environment like the cabin, you would want to have fresh, clean and cool air. The air filter plays an important role in protecting you from external pollutants and keeping everyone in the car happy and comfortable. So it pays to keep an eye — and nose! — out for when they need replacing.