Simple DIY Step-By-Step Guide for Replacing Your Cabin Air Filter on the 3rd Gen (2016+) Toyota Tacoma
Let’s talk maintenance. Some maintenance, like changing your differential fluids, or doing your own oil changes, while not necessarily hard, can be messy and time-consuming. But something like replacing a cabin air filter is the complete opposite.
Don’t even bother paying the dealership marked-up rates to do small items such as this one. This guide will outline the simple process behind swapping your cabin air filter to keep your cabin air as free of contaminants as possible.
I’m guessing that the cabin air filter is one of the most neglected pieces of maintenance. For how simple it is, that really shouldn’t be the case. Breathing clean air should be a priority—my filter was beyond dirty. So I’m also guilty of forgetting about this one.
Why Change Your Cabin Air Filter?
This is pretty much a no-brainer.
Like any filter, cabin air filters help to ensure that the air coming into your cabin is nice and clean. If you frequent the trail or live in a dry or dusty area, the need to replace this filter is even more important. Toyota recommends that under extreme use, a cabin air filter should be replaced every 10,000 miles. For more typical driving use, Toyota recommends you replace your filter every 15,000-30,000 miles.
In the image above, you can see how filthy my cabin air filter was. The filter material was black and full of junk such as leaves and random bits of dust and debris. Obviously, while the fan was spinning air into my cabin, the clogged-up filter was not doing its job optimally and my passengers and I weren’t breathing the cleanest air.
I would estimate that this filter had about 30,000 miles on it, with usage trending towards the extreme side of the spectrum. Obviously, I waited way too long to do this, about three times too long. I’m sure that a clogged air filter has an impact on how hard the HVAC fan needs to work too, not to mention impeding the airflow through the climate system. Could a super clogged filter affect your fan down the road, a super costly repair? Potentially. But why test your luck? Just swap it and forget it!
Cabin Air Filter Replacement Overview
There really isn’t much to this easy maintenance item. It literally takes 5 minutes. Maybe less! I’ll be going through a quick step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.
There are several options for cabin air filters. I chose to buy OEM since I found a great price, but there are several aftermarket replacements. All claiming to have some kind of special filtration or something that sets them apart. I chose to keep it simple with what was equipped from the factory.
Find It Online
Step 1. Open Glove Box
First step. Go to your glove box and open it up. Easy enough!
The cabin air filter is towards the back of the glove box.
Step 2. Remove Organizer
Most Tacomas come with some sort of organizer from the factory.
I had one from Salex Organizers from Vehicle OCD, part of a kit with organizers for the center console. If you’re interested in the organizers, check out our post covering them here.
Regardless of what you have, it needs to come out so you can get access to the panel at the back.
Step 3. Remove Glove Box Panel
Couldn’t be any easier. The panel literally tells you how to remove it.
If you’ve never taken the panel out, it may fight you a little bit.
Step 4. Remove Access Panel to Cabin Air Filter
Once the panel covering this area is removed, you’ll see where the fan and part of the HVAC system sit.
Remove the panel to get to your cabin air filter.
Simply squeeze the two tabs securing the cover on and it should pop right off.
Step 5. Remove Your Old Cabin Air Filter
When the last panel is out, you’ll be able to easily see your filter.
Again, look at how dirty mine is…
Pull the filter out and toss it.
This is what the area under the filter looks like. You can see your HVAC fan inside.
Step 6. Install Your New Cabin Air Filter
Many filters will tell you how to orient them inside the filter location.
The OEM one has the directions right on the side.
The new filter dropped into its place. And with that, you’re done. Probably the single fast and easiest thing on your scheduled maintenance list.
Just replace all the parts and everything is good to go. One thing to note, be careful and slowly install all the covers. One of them gave me some trouble and had I pushed it too much, I could have broken one of the corners. Slow and steady is the name of the game.
If you’ve never replaced your cabin air filter, we hope this guide was useful.
Most maintenance is really not that difficult, even swapping most of your fluids isn’t the worst. But bottom line, keep an eye on your air filters and change them at the proper intervals so you can breathe clean air and help to ensure that your HVAC system isn’t working too hard pushing air past a dirty filter. At the same time, save a few bucks and knock it out on your own. You got this!