Technical Schmecnical Lesson 2: Cabin Air Filters

What is a Cabin Air Filter?
  Why Do I Need it Replaced?

Subaru vehicles are equipped with a HEPA filter system, located behind the glove box. The filter is responsible for filtering air that enters the cabin of the vehicle. In Maine, this filter is subjected to particulates year round. For the health of our guests, we recommend that the cabin air filter is replaced between 12,000-15,000 miles. Note: If you or someone who travels in your vehicle suffers from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions, you may need to replace the cabin air filter more often to help keep the cabin air as clean as possible. Notice the two pictures below. The one on the left is a used, dirty air filter, while the one to the right is a new air filter. Did you notice the difference?!? YUCK!  You don't want to be breathing air from the dirty air filter. Schedule an appointment here at Stanley Subaru's Service Center to have your cabin air filter replaced.

 In an article on the website "Saving Money Today", blogger Mike has this to say about cabin air filters:

"I'm the first to admit that I'm not a car guy. I couldn't care less about how much horsepower a car has or how fast it can go from zero to sixty. To me a car is just a tool that I use to get from point A to point B.

"That said, I do understand the need to take care of my cars. They cost a lot of money and I want to make sure they last as long as possible. I get the oil changed regularly, keep a close eye on the tires, and change the air filters regularly (that I do myself).

"But one bit of maintenance I just forgot all about…the cabin air filter. The cabin air filter cleans the air coming in through your car's air conditioning system and helps filter out dust, pollen, and exhaust gases to make your car's interior cleaner and healthier. I recently realized that my car was long past due for a cabin air filter replacement.

"After a quick trip to the auto parts store, I popped open the glove compartment and carefully adjusted the clips so I could swing the entire door down to allow access to the cabin air filter. I pulled out the old one and replaced it with a brand new filter. "Look at the picture at the top of this article…can you tell which is the old filter and which is the new??" Read more from Mike on Saving Money Today.

For Do-It-Yourselfers, we found an article on on how to replace the cabin air filter in a Subaru Outback. Please consult your specific model year technical manual for the proper instructions. This article is used to highlight the steps involved in changing the cabin air filter. This is for informational use only and not intended as a technical guide. If you have any questions, please contact our Service Department:

How to Change a Subaru Outback Cabin Air Filter

The procedure to replace the cabin air filter in the Subaru Outback has been simplified from the earlier models manufactured between 2000 and 2004. However, it is still not one of the easier brands of cars to replace the cabin air filter on. It is important to change the cabin air filter in order to optimize the quality of air inside the passenger cab of the vehicle. It will also allow the A/C and vented air to flow into the cab more freely. Replacing the filter every 15,000 miles or at least once a year is part of the regular maintenance schedule tasks listed in the maintenance interval schedule for the vehicle.
Things You'll Need
  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Replacement cabin air filter

1.  Open the glove box and remove all contents. Pull the dashboard panel off the right side of the glove box. Use the flat-head screwdriver to help pry the panel away from the dash if necessary.

2.  Disconnect the stopper string on the right-hand side of the glove box. Release the pushpins holding the glove box hinge. Use the Phillips-head screwdriver to unscrew the center screw in the pins about 1/4 of an inch, and then pull the pins out by prying with the flat-head screwdriver.

3.  Gently push in on each side of the glove box to unseat the upper glove box stops from the track grooves. Unseat one side at a time, and then allow the glove box to drop down.

4.  Remove the three screws on the right side of the owner's manual shelf using a Phillips-head screwdriver. Slide the owner's manual shelf out of position and remove.

 5.  Pull out the three retaining screws holding the filter housing bracket, and then remove the bracket. Move the noise-dampening insulation away from the filter housing cover.

 6.  Push in on the four retaining clips on the front tray, then pull the cabin air filter tray out. Remove the old filter from the tray, taking note the air flow arrow indicator on the side of the old filter.

 7.  Insert the new filter into the tray, making sure it is seated and secure in the tray properly and that the air flow direction is correct according to the arrow indicator.

8.   Reinsert the filter and tray assembly into the filter housing until all the clips snap into place. Replace the rest of the glove box assembly by reversing the removal procedure.

Tips & Warnings
In the earlier model Outbacks, there are a lot more screws, clips and wire harness connections that you must disassemble to access the dual filters. A good repair manual specific to your year and model Subaru will illustrate the exact procedure in order to perform the task correctly. Read more: How to Change a Subaru Outback Cabin Air Filter |

About Technical Schmecnical Lessons:

 "Technical Schmecnical" is an ongoing series and serves as a helpful guide and resource for vehicle owners to better understand their vehicles. All of our information comes from Subaru Owners Manuals, Quick Reference Guides, technical manuals, and even our Subaru Certified Master Technicians themselves!  See Lesson 1.

Have a great day and Happy Reading!