Replacing your Tacoma's cabin air filter improves interior air quality and climate control performance.
- Your cabin air filter cleans the air coming into the truck's cabin.
- Regularly changing it improves climate control function and prevents health issues.
- Replace every 20,000 miles or 24 months, whichever comes first.
- Replacing it by yourself is easy and recommended.
Part of regular Toyota maintenance involves changing the cabin air filter. If you aren’t familiar with this essential component, you may wonder how to change the Toyota Tacoma cabin air filter.
To make it easier, we replace the cabin air filter in a Toyota Tacoma for you to see the process. We also discuss how often it should be changed and give you a few of our best tips.
What the Cabin Air Filter Does
The cabin air filter contains pleated material constructed from multi-fiber paper cotton, or some other engineered material. It has a rectangular shape and typically sits behind the glovebox in most vehicles.
As air comes into the cabin, the filter is responsible for removing harmful contaminants. The filter is needed to clean the air as it moves through the climate control system.
Toyota cabin air filters remove a variety of contaminants, including the following:
- Mold spores
- Exhaust gases
As these contaminants hit the climate control system, they are trapped by the air filter before they can infiltrate the cabin. If they are in the system, this air filter can also trap larger substances, such as bugs, leaves, and rodent droppings.
Why It’s Important to Change
The most important reason to change the filter is to reduce air pollution. The American Lung Association is a big advocate for regularly changing the cabin air filter to reduce exhaust and environmental pollution.
In fact, contaminated air can lead to breathing problems, especially among occupants that already suffer from asthma or allergies.
It’s also important to change the filter to keep the climate control system flowing as intended. If the filter is clogged, the engine has to work even harder to power the system. You may notice a drop in cooling or heating, which also creates an uncomfortable cabin.
Changing the filter also helps to reduce noxious odors. If mold starts to build on the filter, it can lead to foul smells and become dangerous to your health. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that exposure to mold can create allergic reactions that include sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes, and a skin rash.
Finally, a contaminated air filter makes it harder to clear the windows. When the airflow becomes compromised, the windows take longer to defrost, creating visibility issues.
For the low cost of a new filter and the ease of changing it, there’s no reason to put the replacement off.
When to Replace It
The 2023 Toyota Tacoma Maintenance Schedule recommends changing the cabin air filter every 20,000 miles or 24 months, whichever comes first. However, some environments cause the filter to get dirty sooner than this. For that reason alone, it’s wise to inspect the air filter occasionally to ensure it’s still clean.
You may need to change the filter more often in these conditions:
- Live in a city or densely populated area
- Sit in congested traffic often
- Live in a dusty or desert region
- You smoke inside the Tacoma cabin
Additionally, you want to change the filter sooner if you notice any of these problems.
- Bad odors from the climate control system
- Takes longer to clean foggy windows
- Reduced airflow while running the air or heater
If a new air filter doesn’t fix these problems, it’s best to speak to a Toyota technician for further advice.
Thankfully, all new Toyotas come standard with ToyotaCare. This free maintenance plan lasts for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. Under these terms, your first cabin air filter replacement is covered.
How to Replace It
It’s not difficult to replace the cabin air filter yourself. This section will cover everything you need to know to do the job at home.
Before you get started, you need to find the replacement cabin air filter. Thankfully, all 2005-2023 Tacoma models use the same cabin air filter.
2005-2023 Toyota Tacoma Cabin Air Filter – Part #8850801010
However, verifying the part number at your local auto parts store or online through the store’s filtering system is always wise. For example, if you want to purchase from Toyota Parts Center Online, you see the option to verify fitment at the top.
You can purchase your cabin air filter in-store at a local auto parts location, such as AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts, NAPA, or O’Reilly. Sometimes, Walmart also carries the cabin air filter you need, so you can check that out while doing your regular shopping.
We often find it easier to buy online. You can choose the filter, check fitment and have it shipped right to your home.
The first-generation Toyota Tacoma trucks don’t have a cabin air filter. Additionally, the first year of the second generation also came without an air filter installed. It isn’t until the 2005 model year that the cabin filter shows up in the Tacoma.
After that year, the cabin air filter is found behind the glove compartment for all models.
While some manufacturers choose to put the air filter under the dashboard or under the hood, all of the Tacoma models have them in an accessible location behind the glove box.
With your filter in hand, you are ready to replace the cabin air filter in your Toyota Tacoma. If you want to read the directions in your owner’s manual, they can be found in the “air conditioning filter” section.
Make sure your engine is off before getting started.
You don’t need any special tools to follow these steps. All you need is your hands.
- Open the glove box.
- Slide up to remove the front cover.
- Unclip the filter cover on the left and right sides.
- Remove the filter cover.
- Remove the dirty air filter.
- Insert the new, clean air filter.
To install the new cabin air filter, follow the directions on the label. It needs to be inserted in a particular way. If it doesn’t seem to fit right, you may have put it in sideways.
DIY vs. Professional Replacement
To replace the cabin air filter, you have the option to do it yourself or pay a professional. You’ve already seen how easy it is to do at home, but both options have pros and cons.
Pros of DIY Cabin Air Filter Replacement
- Quick task – only takes a few minutes
- Costs less money – only need to buy the filter
- Helps you learn more about your truck
Pros of Professional Cabin Air Filter Replacement
- You don’t have to work on the truck
- Can be performed with other maintenance services, such as having the oil changed
Not only is there a cost difference between the two, but you save a lot of time doing it yourself. If you take your truck to the dealer, you may need to drop it off and come back another time. Even if you don’t, there will be some wait time, which is an inconvenience. You could have changed the filter in the time it took to drive to a local dealership.
Additionally, the cost to have it professionally changed could reach close to $100, depending on local labor rates. Considering you can buy an aftermarket filter for under $25, it doesn’t usually make sense to let the mechanic change it.
OEM vs. Aftermarket Filters
An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) cabin filter is the same one installed in the truck from the factory. You know it works well and fits perfectly, but it costs more than the aftermarket brands.
The OEM filter costs more because of its durable construction and guaranteed quality. Toyota makes the filters with deep pleats to trap the contaminants.
If you prefer to save money with an aftermarket filter, be sure to read the reviews. You want a high-quality filter that won’t rip easily. You also need to check the fitment.
Overall, it does cost more to buy OEM, but the quality generally makes the parts worth it. When it comes to filtering out contaminants from the cabin, you may do better to stick with what Toyota recommends.
As a professional mechanic myself, I’ve changed countless cabin air filters. While the job is simple enough for anyone, I can share some tips that elevate your expertise.
- Clean the cabin air filter periodically. If you can blow out large debris with an air compressor, you will extend the filter’s life. You may also be able to shake some of the dirt off.
- Put on safety gear before working with the air filter, especially if you are prone to respiratory illnesses. Dust and debris can fly around as you clean or replace it.
- If you live in a region with regular wildfires, you need to replace the cabin filter more often. You should check it yearly. According to the EPA, forest smoke ranges between 0.4 and 0.7 microns, and the cabin air filters can trap 98 to 99.995% of airborne particulates down to 0.1 to 0.3 microns.
- Cigarette, cigar, and marijuana smoke affect the lifespan of the cabin air filter. If you smoke in the car, the filter becomes clogged sooner.
- If you apply hair spray, air fresheners, and other spray products in the car, the cabin air filter may become clogged prematurely.
Because of how easy it is to get to the cabin air filter in a Tacoma, it’s best to keep an eye on it. Check it periodically to see if it needs to be cleaned or changed. You will soon learn how often your filter becomes clogged and can establish a regular routine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Breathe Easier in Your Tacoma
Respiratory health is important whether you are susceptible to problems or not. As you drive in your Tacoma, it’s vital that you breathe fresh, clean air. Changing the cabin air filter makes that possible.
The job is simple, and it doesn’t require any special tools. Give the replacement a try, and take control of your Tacoma maintenance.