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Your Car & Smoke

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How Your Car Protects You From Forest Fire Smoke

Your car has a nifty system to filter out contaminated air coming into the vehicle's cabin. Here's how to make sure you don't breathe in that smoke while you drive.

By Collin Morgan

Fri, Oct 16, 2020 10:00 AM PST

By now we’re all tired of it. The smell and ever-present haze have lingered over our city far too long. What ever happened to normal sunrises? And how does my car protect me from that smoke?

Make sure the air you breathe while driving is clean! Photo by Strvnge Films.
Make sure the air you breathe while driving is clean!

Driving around in your car can create a sense of protection from the outside air. If you’re driving with the air conditioning or heat on, that’s still outside air. It’s just being filtered. And while this is totally safe, there is something you should check to make sure it will continue to be safe.

There’s a nifty little component in most new cars called a cabin air filter. You might’ve heard about it during your routine oil changes, but what exactly is it?

To filter all of the yucky outside air, your climate control system uses a cabin air filter to clean it up for our lungs. Whenever you turn your air conditioning, heat, or outside air on, that filter is cleaning.

Outside air flows in through vents located at the top of the hood, which is then filtered through the cabin air filter. Once it’s clean, the air can go towards heating or cooling, whichever you selected, and then into the car.

The cabin air filter is designed to catch smaller particles, such as smoke. The filter also catches leaves, bugs, pollen, and other nose-irritating things. With the amount of smoke in the air these days, the filter will get dirtier faster.

Here’s a great video on how to check it.

If yours looks dirty, you can buy replacement cabin air filters for somewhere between $15-50. Remember, whatever air is flowing through that filter is going into your lungs.

So while your car is keeping your lungs healthy, make sure to check and keep your car healthy too!

About The Author

Collin Morgan's profile picture

Collin Morgan

Collin Morgan is a Grand Rapids, Michigan based writer and enjoys the unique and unusual aspects of the automotive industry. He has experienced the worldwide car culture firsthand and has visited the automotive shrines of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani in Central Italy, tackled the Autobahn, and toured Wales with a rally club. Back in the States, he frequents car events in Detroit and Chicago and is convinced Michigan is the most underrated state for picturesque drives. He owns a 1999 Miata and has happily allowed many good hair days to be ruined by the open road turbulence.

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