I Never Knew - Did You?
In the middle of trying to figure out why the rear break lights on the family van wouldn't get brighter when I step on the break pedal, yet it would light up when the headlights went on, I was digging around in the glove box for the manual and poking around in the fuse box trying to eliminate a blown fuse as the cause of the brake problem. I noticed a little trap door in the back of the glove box. Being the eternally curious person I am, I pulled open the door to find another door inside this door. Now my curiosity is beyond sparked. I pull on that door half expecting a genie to pop out and grant me three wishes (the first of which would be make my brake lights work). Much to my disappointment and my disgust I didn't find a genie, but instead an air filter that I never knew existed, secretly tucked away quietly in the most illogical place to put it.
As you can see in the picture above, not only was the filter disgustingly dirty, but a very large and somewhat scary cluster of crud, lint, hair, dust, dirt and God only knows what else was matted on top of the filter. I almost got sick thinking my family had been breathing that for the last six years.
After some research, I discovered what I was looking at was a "cabin air filter". Evidently our model, and many others have an air filtration system completely separate from the air filter you usually have checked and changed when you change the oil. This filter cleans the air that blows out of the vents when the air conditioner and heater is running.
A quick trip to the local auto parts store, $15.96 later, and I replace the old nasty filters with new, clean filters. I start the car and turn on the air conditioner and felt like I had started a tornado fan. Instantly a rush of air came blowing out. I think I almost got a little wind burn, but fortunately I was able to fight the rush of wind to get my hand back on the control knob and shut it down.
I tell you this not only to get the "That's disgusting" reaction, but also to save you the horror of driving a car for six years before you discover there is actually a cabin filter in your vehicle too. I encourage you to get out your manual and read to see if you have one and if you do, change it immediately.