Does a Clogged Air Filter Affect Your Car's AC Performance?

Learn how clogged car filters affect AC performance and how often they should be changed for optimal performance.

Does a Clogged Air Filter Affect Your Car's AC Performance?

Believe it or not, the cabin filter can have a significant impact on your air conditioning system and the air conditioning can have a strong effect on the power of the entire vehicle. If the filter is clogged, you may need to turn on the air conditioner, and the harder your air conditioner works, the more the engine will. You'll notice that the air conditioner starts emitting unpleasant odors once you turn it on. Not only that, but you will also experience a change in the quality of the air conditioner; you will start to feel hot even if the air conditioner has been on for quite some time.

While a dirty cabin air filter can affect the air conditioning system, a dirty engine air filter can cause engine performance problems. This is understandable, considering that your car can use more than 10,000 gallons of oxygen for every gallon of fuel burned. While not all vehicles are equipped with cabin air filters, those that do need a clean, unobstructed surface to allow air to move freely. Cabin air filters can capture dust, insects, leaves and other types of debris. A dirty air filter can certainly hinder the cooling capacity of your air conditioner and, after a while, could cause unnecessary strain on the entire system.

A cabin air filter whose pores are blocked can cause a strain on the air conditioning system. In addition to increasing energy consumption, voltage can cause motor damage due to overloads. This would occur especially when you have to increase the air flow by increasing the fan speed of the air conditioning system. If the cabin air cleaner is clogged, additional pressure is placed on the AC fan motor. This additional voltage will not only cause the fan motor to work harder and blow less air than it is designed to, but it will also put additional strain on the motor due to the increased demand for electricity. In more severe cases, the additional voltage will result in a noticeable reduction in power when the AC is turned on.

Cabin air filters prevent dust, dirt, pollen, bacteria and exhaust fumes from entering your car's HVAC system. It also prevents insects, leaves and other debris from clogging the system. The cabin air filter is vital for cleaning the air inside your car and keeps it fresh so that you and your passengers can breathe easy - something you'll appreciate all year round but especially during allergy season. If you are an installer, make sure your customer understands the most serious risks by refusing cabin air filter service. If you're susceptible to allergies, a faulty cabin air filter can mean pollen and dust particles reach the cabin and cause health problems.

If you find yourself driving in heavily polluted areas or traveling on dirt roads, you should change your cabin air filter every 5,000 miles. Today, many brands sell cabin air filters with the idea that no one wants to spend time in a smelly car if they can help it. Simply cleaning the air filter and reinstalling it does not adequately protect your air conditioning system. This is the most serious risk for anyone who does not change their cabin air filter as it can result in an acute failure of a major vehicle safety system which will be very expensive to repair. Another sign that a cabin air filter needs to be replaced is that you may notice an increased amount of dust and possibly allergens in the cabin if you are allergic.

An increase in fan noise may be due to air intake from large materials or a dirty cabin air filter. If you've ever wondered why all of a sudden your car's AC stopped working or why hot air starts to blow on an intensely hot summer's day - we're also curious! Rich White, Executive Director of the Car Care Council makes a strong case for cabin air filter replacement when he tells us: “Checking the cabin air filter is a simple preventive maintenance step that greatly contributes to the protection of passengers as well as your vehicle's HVAC system. A faulty filter can mean inadequate cabin air affect air quality and cause your AC system to consume more energy among other effects”.