Many newer cars have a filter that is incorporated within the heater/air conditioner system, called a cabin air filter. This filter is often neglected and over time can become clogged with debris such as leaves, bugs and other contaminants. As the filter becomes restricted it can obstruct air flow, which will affect the air conditioner performance and heater.
As the organic material breaks down it will decompose; mold and bacteria can form, which is not a healthy environment for the driver or occupants, since the main purpose of the cabin air filter is to filter the air flow. We have even seen cases where mice have made their temporary home within the cabin filter.
The cabin filter is usually located under the dash behind the glove box or in the engine compartment under the cowl area. The cabin filter should be check at least once a year and replaced if there is debris found in the filter. Carefully remove the filter and clean out any leaves, twigs or other debris inside the filter box assembly. If you suspect mice have been in the cabin filter area, you should wear gloves to protect yourself from bacteria.
On some car models, it may be necessary to remove dashboard components to gain access to the cabin filter. In these cases, it may be better to have your service professional replace the filter. Also, special tools may be needed.
Another tip, keep the area under the hood where the wiper blades are, clean of any leaves. The leaves will eventually break down and find their way into the vent system. For cars without a cabin filter, keeping this are clean is crucial. Without a filter, leaves and other debris will find their way deep into the vent system and into the heater motor.
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