I Finally Changed The Cabin Air Filter In My Car And It Was Just The Filthiest Goddamn Thing

I Finally Changed The Cabin Air Filter In My Car And It Was Just The Filthiest Goddamn Thing

Look, I’m not proud of this.

It was a couple of oil changes ago when the Jiffy Lube guy suggested I change the cabin air filter. I think he quoted me $US50 ($68) to do so, though I said it wasn’t necessary. I still smoked at the time, and it seemed to me that I was the primary polluter of the air in the cabin of my 2008 Honda Fit, and that filtering air in from the outside was neither here nor there.

Also, I knew that I could change it myself for $US15 ($20) or so, and for sure I would eventually get around to doing that.

Then years passed.

Then I lent the car to a former colleague this summer, and he reported that the air conditioner at full blast did indeed cool the car, but just barely, perhaps a sign that the cabin air filter was clogged. I hadn’t noticed, perhaps because I was the proverbial frog slowly boiling to death.

I also had recently replaced the engine air filter, because it’s probably true that I value the health of my Fit’s engine over my own.

It is remarkably easy to change the cabin air filter on a 2008 Honda Fit, which made the whole exercise in procrastination that much stupider. This morning I finally got around to doing it. The process involves emptying the glove box, pressing in the sides, and releasing it. Eventually, it looks like this:

Photo: Erik Shilling

Look inside, and you’ll see the filter cabinet, which is the rectangular white thing here:

I pulled the cabinet out and was slightly horrified at what I saw (photo up top). There were some leaves in there. It was nearly black. My car had apparently worked in a coal mine for several years and smoked a pack a day on top of that. I will reproduce the image here for effect:

Photo: Erik Shilling

I’ve owned the car for seven years now, and according to the manual, the car will throw up a light on the dashboard for when to change the cabin air filter. Or, it said, if you live in a particularly smoggy area — I took this to mean southern California — ignore the light and do it every 24,140 km. Or, it said, if you thought the heat and air conditioning weren’t blowing hard enough you should replace it. Well, the light never came on, and New York City isn’t particularly smoggy, but that third condition definitely applied.

And I’ve put probably 64,374 km on the car, so I was prepared for the filter to be pretty dirty, but not this dirty. All of which has made me reconsider my priorities a little bit. I would like to formally and publicly apologise to the Fit for putting it through this episode, and also to all the passengers and drivers who have had the pleasure of riding in the Fit over the years.

Many of you will say that you don’t need cabin air filters, cars didn’t use to have them, what a silly extravagance, to which I will reply with this photo. And that’s just the dirt that the filter caught.