Friday, July 30, 2010

Replace (or clean) your Prius cabin filter for free!

I'm your typical Silicon Valley nerd and, of course, I drive a Prius.  I love the technology of this car for so many reasons (and it happens to get good gas mileage).   It also didn't hurt that there used to be some government hybrid incentives when I bought it and nifty yellow stickers (yes, I'm one of those lucky guys driving solo in the California HOV lane!).

The Prius has all kinds of potential for hacking and I've not been able to resist.   Some of my projects include adding a bluetooth transmitter, adding an auto dimming rear view mirror, and hacking in a EV-only button when I want to run on batteries, etc..   When I get a chance, I'll post about some of my more interesting mods.

Anyway, I've had my Prius for over three years now and I just took it in for it's 60,000 mile service (and to correct a recall issue).  During a major service (such as at 60,000), one of the optional services is to replace the cabin air filter.   A good friend of mine had already gone through this exercise and noted that cabin filter is both easy to replace and (even better) user-cleanable!  Most filters are made of paper and you can't clean them effectively (if at all).  However, this filter is made of plastic fibers and appears to be washable!

First of all, why would you want to do this?  If you call up your local Toyota parts dealer you will find that this tiny bit of pleated filter material costs $24.80!   I asked two different services departments and they quoted me $57 and even $88(!) just to replace the filter.   I'm sure they would have given me "a bit of a break" on the "labor" if I had this done at the same time as some other service.   Clearly this is completely outrageous for a user replaceable part.   It literally takes under a minute to replace it yourself.

If you don't believe me, check out this quick video on Youtube that says it all:

If you want to replace the filter, you can order a new one pretty cheaply online.  I think this is the link referred to in the video.  I'm sure there are many other source for this filter including even Amazon:

Or better yet, just clean it!

Since the filter is made of some plastic fiber material, it appears to be quite cleanable.  I would recommend being somewhat gentle as you can tear it.   Here is what I did:
  • Remove the filter from the car and give it a quick tap to get rid of the big stuff
  • Take a good home (preferably hepa) vacuum and quickly get the larger dust / dirt off  (try not to breathe it in!)
  • Take your garden hose and gently spray the filter to get the remaining dirt off
  • Let it completely dry in the Sun for a good couple of hours
Voila!  A new filter.   Here is the before and after shots:


Given that I was a bit rough with my filter, I probably won't do this too many more times before replacing the filter.   I'm sure if you are more gentle with the cleaning it will last longer.

BTW: there was no residual smell in my filter so I'm not worried about any odors.

Big kudos to my friend Kevin for suggesting this easy do-it-yourself tip to save money.   I love quick projects that save money and reuse resources (v.s. throwing them in landfills)!

I found a related article on the greenhybrid website here.


  1. I'm glad I read this. Could you help me?

    Love Mom

  2. Thanks George. I will try that on my Prius next and let you know how it goes ;)

    Mike G.

  3. Cabin filter Plan B – First, be gentle it is flimsy. Remove from car, shake out the big chunks or whatever will shake out then take to kitchen sink. Give it a good spray on both sides with glass cleaner like Windex then using the sink sprayer at low flow with warm water just rinse thoroughly. You can re-install wet if are going to drive right away otherwise let it dry first. Cost is almost zero. I have used this method since new on original filter. 2003 Prius 124,000mi…

  4. Yesterday, at its 15K mile service, my 2010 Prius had its cabin air filter replaced by a Los Angeles Toyota dealer. The service writer called it an "air conditioner filter." ;) I was experienced enough to know he was mis-naming it. Filter $31.95, labor $47.00, sales tax $2.80. Since I've got free maintenance for the first two years, I let them do it. I'd a feeling I'd be amused and surprised when I really found out how inexpensively this could be done. But thanks for your post, and combined with a YouTube vid of someone showing how to replace the filter, it's no big deal ;) There's also a company named which publishes very handy tech information on all cars for do-it-yourselfers. I subscribed to their stuff when I modified my 1997 Mustang Cobra and my 2005 GTO.

  5. I was just about to spend $58.00 for this! Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Hi George, thanks for the useful tip, I'll try it out soon. Did you ever get around to your hacking the Prius? I'm curious as to what may have come up with. Please keep me posted Thanks!

  7. Just saved me $44. Thanks :)

  8. That's ridonkulous! I am going out to do it right now! Mine smells like an old sock sometimes so this is reely high on my list. George, you rock!

  9. The guy in the vid changed the orientation of the filter in the frame. I pick up my new to me '11 Prius tomorrow - will check the cabin filter at the dealer - I'm sure they'll give me a new one...

  10. Amazing how easy it is to save real $$ - thank you for sharing. Please post more PRIUS tips.

  11. I've been looking for a post like this for a long time. It's really useful for me. Now I can replace my full-of-stuff cabin filter. Thanks for sharing this. Read more

  12. OK now I don't have to pay money for replace my car cabin filter anymore. Thanks so much!


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