How To Clean Your Car AC Filter At Home (With Pictures)


The car’s air conditioning system circulates air through the cabin and the filter catches dust, pollen, and other debris. Over time, this filter can become clogged, so it’s important to clean it occasionally. The best way to clean it is to remove it from the car and wash it with a mild detergent.

When the air filter in your car gets dirty, it can’t do its job properly of filtering out dirt, dust, and other particles from the air. Here is how you can clean your car AC filter at home.

How To Clean Your Car AC Filter At Home

how to clean your car ac filter

the cabin air filter is an internal AC filter that protects you from dust pollen grains dirt germs and viruses when you are in your car. Not cleaning your car AC filter and not ensuring it’s regularly checked or replaced results in bad cooling and poor fuel economy.

1. Read the owner’s manual

Before attempting to clean or replace your car AC filter at home, you should read the owner’s manual. Different vehicles have different types of AC filters. Each AC filter has its own changing frequency.

Information about when you should change your AC filter can be located both in the owner’s manual book or on the glove box compartment door.

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2. Locate the glove box compartment

The car AC filter is located behind the glove box compartment on the passenger side. It is a small, rectangular filter that is mounted on a plastic frame. But in order to see it, or remove it, you will need to remove the hinges from the glove box in order to make the glove box door completely dropdown.

3. Detach the glove box hinges

The glove box door is usually just softly hinged. So, in order to remove the door, you will have to carefully flex it on each side and remove the rubber stopper. After this, the glove box door should drop all the way down allowing you access to remove the car AC filter.

Make sure that you keep the rubber stopper in a safe place because you will need to reinstall it later after the AC filter has been cleaned.

4. Locate the car AC filter

Once your glove box door drops all the way down, you will be able to see the plastic frame of the ac filter. It is all the way on the back. It might be a little bit hard to locate the housing tabs immediately. So, what I do when I work on a different vehicle is take out my phone and take a picture. Then I review the photo and know exactly how many housing tabs are there.

5. Lift the housing tabs

In order to remove the plastic frame that holds the car AC filter, you will need to gently lift the tabs. My vehicle has four housing tabs. It might be different on your vehicle. But, the design is pretty much the same on all make and model vehicles.

6. Pull out the AC filter frame

Once the AC filter housing is free, gently pull it out towards you. Be careful not to spill out the contents of the filter. Don’t worry if you forget which side goes up because there are markings on the plastic frame.

7. Remove the debris

Before washing the car AC filter, you will need to remove the big debris. For this step, you can either tap the back of the AC filter or use a vacuum. However, make sure that you go over each fold and remove the bigger debris.

The AC filter is designed in such a way that it holds all the dirt and debris in the folds. Don’t be surprised if you see some leaves, bugs, and whatnot in the folds.

8. Soak the AC filter in water

Once you remove the big debris, it is time to wash the car AC filter. Grab a clean bucket and fill it with hot water. Then, add some baking soda and soap. If you want, you can add detergent as well. Depending on how dirty your AC filter is, you might need to brush it with a toothbrush. However, be careful not to tear the AC filter.

9. Let the AC filter air dry

After washing the car AC filter in water, baking soda, and soap, let the AC filter air dry. I normally don’t use a hairdryer or something else to dry the filter fast because it might get damaged. Just let it air dry and in a couple of hours, the car AC filter will be good to go.

If you are not satisfied with the cleanliness of your car AC filter, you can either replace it or wash it again. I wash my car’s AC filter every month. However, after 12,000 miles, I always replace the filter with brand new.

Why Does Changing or Cleaning My Car AC Filter Matter

Your car’s air conditioning system circulates air through the cabin when the AC is turned on. This air is cooled by the AC unit and blown through the vents to cool the interior of the car.

The AC filter is used to clean the air before it’s circulated. Over time, the filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust, and other debris. This can cause the AC unit to work harder and may lead to decreased performance.

It’s important to regularly clean or replace the AC filter to ensure optimal performance of your car’s AC system.

Can You Drive Without an AC Filter?

Yes, you can drive without an AC filter. However, it is not recommended, as the filter helps keep the AC system clean and running efficiently. A dirty or clogged AC filter can cause the system to work harder and may eventually lead to system failure.

When Should You Change The Car AC Filter?

The car AC filter should be changed every 12,000 miles. However, it is a good idea to change it more often if you drive in dusty or polluted areas. The filter removes dust, pollen, and other particles from the air that comes into the car. If the filter is not changed, the air will be less clean and it will be harder to breathe.

Car Care Hacks

Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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