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What’s the Difference between Air Filters and Cabin Air Filters?

By Mike Cote - November 25, 2018

While air filters and cabin air filters are similar in that they both purify air, their purposes are slightly different. Regular air filters clean the air that’s flowing to your engine, while cabin air filters decontaminate air that’s coming into your cockpit. Both types of air filters are essential for a fully functioning vehicle.

The Benefits of Air Filters

Aftermarket air filters—also known as internal combustion air filters—are designed to clean the air flowing to your engine. These quality filters are the primary line of defense to stop contaminants from damaging your engine. Not only do air filters prevent engine inefficiency by maintaining air quality, but they also increase your gas mileage, horsepower and torque. Purified air ignites quicker and more efficiently inside the engine’s cylinders, resulting in boosted MPGs and improved engine performance. Plus, high-quality air filters increase your engine’s life expectancy and guarantee a better driving experience overall.

The Benefits of Cabin Air Filters

Attached to the outside air intake of your ride’s ventilation system, the cabin air filter is a high particulate filtration medium that filters the air that comes into your cockpit. Also called air conditioning filters, cabin air filters filter out pollution from the outside air that would otherwise contaminate your cabin and help improve the air quality inside your ride – so long allergies!

Cabin Air Filter vs. Air Filter

It’s important to recognize the distinction between these two filters — the internal combustion air filter prevents dirty air from getting into your engine, while the cabin air filter stops dirty air from reaching your cockpit. During an oil change, you may be advised to swap out your internal combustion air filter, since a clogged or dirty filter affects engine performance.

Pro Tips

  • Regularly check and replace both your air filter and cabin air filter according to your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Invest in high-quality aftermarket filters to enhance engine performance and maintain air quality inside your car.
  • Consider using gloves and safety gear when replacing these filters to prevent contact with contaminants.
  • Shop for filters from reputable brands to ensure reliability and longevity.


In summary, both air filters and cabin air filters play crucial roles in maintaining your vehicle's performance and ensuring a clean and comfortable driving experience. While air filters focus on protecting your engine from contaminants and improving efficiency, cabin air filters are responsible for filtering the air you breathe inside the vehicle, keeping it free from pollutants and allergens.