How to Prevent Mold in Your Vehicle’s HVAC System

April 19th, 2024 by

A mechanic is shown performing a car air filter replacement near Monroe.

Many car owners are responsible individuals who do their best to stay on top of the routine maintenance required to ensure their transportation’s longevity. The most common items—such as having the oil changed and getting your tires balanced and rotated—are the most commonplace and are usually done every 7,500 to 10,000 miles, depending on how hard you drive. However, one item that’s just as imperative to retaining your vehicle’s composure as well as your own health is replacing the air filter in your car’s HVAC system every 15,000 to 30,000 miles.

Your car’s HVAC filter might not seem like an item whose replacement is essential, as more pressing matters require greater attention, such as your car’s brakes, transmission, and other items inspected during a local tune-up. Still, the HVAC system is just as important. If you’re looking for a location that provides car air filter replacement near Monroe, McCluskey Chevrolet is here to help. Today, we’ll be going over what your HVAC filter does and why having it changed is essential.

What Is Your Vehicle’s HVAC Air Filter?

Your vehicle’s HVAC filter is located in the forward base of the cabin. It gets used every time you turn on your heating or air conditioning, and it usually has a shape that’s very similar to the unit you have in the HVAC system in your home.

The air in your car’s HVAC system isn’t generated within the vehicle but brought in directly from the outside. Depending on where you’re driving or the air quality at any given moment, a considerable amount of allergens, pollen, and dust particles need to be removed, which is the primary purpose of the air filter in your cabin.

Changing the filter at regular intervals is essential to keeping these harmful contaminants out of the air you and your passengers breathe on the road. Each make and model is different in how often this service needs to be done, but some mitigating factors might necessitate having your filter changed more often.

For instance, if you drive in a heavily populated or urban area, you might need to change it more often to combat the existing pollution levels. The same goes for a dry or dusty climate, as contaminants are far more prevalent. If you engage in extracurricular activities such as off-roading, the HVAC filter and other filtration systems need to be monitored more closely, as they’re continually being placed under strain.

A mechanic is shown holding a dirty air filter.

The Presence and Prevention of Mold

Now that we’ve explained what the air filter in your cabin does and what it keeps out, it’s time to discuss a potential threat that can occur if your filter is left unchanged for a considerable amount of time. This is particularly true for those who live in wet and humid climates—and that’s mold.

Mold is produced by the growth of tiny pores that are invisible to the naked eye. They can accumulate on the fans, where dust has built up considerably. Mold can also build up in your vents and their tubing, so your filter must be replaced regularly if you want to keep dust and mildew from aggregating in the first place.

Many different strains of mold take various forms and consistencies. If there’s one advantage to discovering if a strain is present, mold usually has a distinctive odor. Even if you change your filter regularly, moisture and leaks in the system deliver air to the different parts of your vehicle, so you could inevitably notice it, but it would be better not to have it there to begin with.

Mold can be stinky, yes, but there are more serious issues regarding its presence in your car. Mold can exacerbate pre-existing breathing problems such as asthma and, if left unattended, can cause various health problems to develop. A research study conducted in 2004 by the Institute of Medicine showed that prolonged mold exposure can cause persistent coughing and damage to the respiratory system, even if the individual has no history of such problems and is otherwise healthy.

This same study also concluded that mold can lead to life-threatening lung infections in people with immune disorders, and children are more susceptible to developing asthma and other breathing problems later in life. Symptoms are different among people who have been exposed to mold for long periods of time, and some have been diagnosed with frequent headaches, unexpected pain, and even problems with retaining memory and cognitive function—all the more reason to keep an eye on your cabin air filter and replace it when necessary.

Signs Your Cabin Air Filter Needs to Be Replaced

The owner’s manual that came with your vehicle when you first purchased it has a diagram showing how often you should have your air filter replaced. However, there are some tell-tale signs that you should be mindful of that might otherwise indicate a replacement is necessary…

Reduced Air Flow

If you have your heater or AC turned up to the maximum and the airflow is limited, this could indicate that your filter is clogged, and there might not be any room for air to reach the cabin properly. This can also be an indication of a leak. Either way, you should bring your vehicle for an inspection as soon as possible.

Excessive Noise

If you turn on your HVAC unit and hear noises from the vents, this can be attributed to a clog, faulty sealing, or mechanical failure. Bringing your car to a technician to inspect and diagnose the issue should be done immediately.

Unpleasant Odors

Mold and mildew both have scents recognizable to the nose. Even if it isn’t mold, any unpleasant odor that emanates from your vehicle should be checked out by a technician who can correctly identify what it is and where it’s coming from.

A mechanic is shown installing a clean air filter.

Other Ways to Reduce the Chance of Mold

The presence of mold isn’t exclusive to your vehicle’s HVAC system. You can prevent it from developing and spreading in other ways:

  • Vacuum your car’s upholstery regularly and double-check for fluid leaks in the cabin; this is a great way to prevent the development of mold.
  • Wipe down surfaces such as the steering wheel and dashboard often or any other places where dust might accumulate.
  • Periodically check the weather stripping of the vehicle to ensure that no outside contaminants are getting into the cabin.
  • Be sure to immediately clean up any spills and remove any excess moisture that might be left behind in your vehicle.
  • Air out your car periodically to flush any foul smells out.

Get Your Air Filter Replaced at McCluskey Chevrolet

If you own a car in the Monroe area, there’s a good chance that the frequent changes to the weather have put it in danger of mold and that having the air filter in your cabin replaced can ensure that the air quality remains in good standing. Here at McCluskey Chevrolet, our parts and service center is here to ensure the quality of your vehicle.

Having your air filter replaced every 15,000 miles is a great way to maintain exceptional air quality. Even if you’re curious as to how the rest of your vehicle is holding up, our staff can perform diagnostics tests to make sure the sensors and onboard computers are working.

Come see us today and enjoy your next breath of fresh air.