How a car’s pollen filter works

how often pollen filter change

A car’s cabin filter, also called a pollen filter, stops particles from entering the passenger cabin. It catches dust, pollen and other fine pollutants. A pollen filter can be made from several different materials, but most feature cotton/paper fibres that coat the ribbed or pleated surface (for maximum surface area). Some filters contain carbon, which helps to reduce odours from traffic pollution entering the cabin.

Cabin filters can be located in the cabin - usually in or near the glovebox - or as part of the cowl below the windscreen wipers. Haynes has detailed information on how to find and change yours.

This task requires little or no experience, using basic tools, depending on where your filter is installed, and will take a few minutes to half an hour to complete.

When to change your pollen filter

“Poor air flow from the vents can be caused by a clogged filter”

When to change a pollen filter? Car manufacturers tend to recommended that cabin filters are renewed every 19,000-24,000 km or around once a year. If you don’t know when yours was last changed there are a couple of things to look for that tell you it’s time to renew it. First, air flow from the vents may be poor. This reduces over time, so it’s difficult to spot but it’s caused by a clogged filter.

Another sign that it may be time to change your pollen filter is a musty smell in the cabin. This can also be caused by a build-up of bacteria in the air-con system, and can be cured by turning the fan speed and temperature up to max for 10 minutes or so, but it’s a sign that the pollen filter needs to be replaced.

All cars are slightly different, so if it is time to change your pollen filter, find your car for specific instructions.


A musty smell in the cabin could be a sign that the pollen filter needs to be changed

How to change your pollen filter

Here's an example of how it's done. Find the full step-by-step for your car

A very brief summary of the task:

  1. Locate your car’s filter (Haynes has full instructions)
  2. Remove the necessary panels to reach the old filter
  3. Remove the old filter and make sure the new one matches before discarding it
  4. Insert the new cabin filter and replace any fittings you removed earlier

Why you should change your pollen filter

Why you should change your pollen filter

A pollen filter is an easy thing to neglect. After all, it’s hidden away out of sight and isn’t something you’re likely to inspect on a regular basis, if at all. However, in these days of increased air pollution it’s important to make sure their air inside your car is as clean as possible, so change your filter at the recommended intervals.

A clogged pollen filter is likely to create unpleasant smells over time because bacteria will grow on the trapped particles, so your passengers will thank you for replacing it. If there are bad smells you should try the air-con fix mentioned above or use an air-con cleaning product at the same time the new filter is installed.

Can a pollen filter be cleaned? Other than being 'treated' with an aerosol while it's in situ, to kill bacteria that may have built up within it, no, a pollen filter can't be cleaned. The materials will break down if you get them wet.

Tools you may need

Only basic tools are required for this job, depending on the location of your filter.

  • Flat-bladed screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver

Parts you will need

  • Pollen filter - Try to buy the best quality you can, preferably with a carbon filter if that’s an option

How much does a new pollen filter cost?

Pollen filter $18-£90
Garage fee savings $90-£180