Car air filters

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In your car

Many people spend a significant amount of time in a car, either as driver or a passenger. When in a car, you can be exposed to allergens or respiratory irritants, which can impact your comfort and driving.

There are ways to minimise this exposure.

What are the potential problems?

Pollen – If there’s pollen around, the air intakes in your car may scoop it up allowing it to be spread into the car interior. This may cause (or exacerbate) asthma or allergy symptoms. If you’re driving, this can add to fatigue, or increase the risk of sneezing (something that is best avoided when driving).

Mould – Air ducts can collect leaves and other debris, which can retain moisture, allowing mould to grow. This might result in a musty smell coming from your car vents. If you are sensitive to mould, you may experience the same problems that we outlined above for pollen.

Pollution – Even with improving vehicle emission standards, cars and trucks produce a significant amount of pollution. You really notice this in a busy tunnel if you have your windows down, or your air vents on fresh-air intake. Some people experience respiratory symptoms when exposed to such emissions.

Reducing the impact

Properly fitted and serviced particulate filters should trap dust, pollens, fungus spores and possibly some pet allergens, while activated charcoal filters are intended to filter toxic, unpleasant and smelly gases, which can also trigger asthma symptoms.

Not all cars have particulate filters fitted as standard, so if you are buying a new car, ask the dealer. Some particulate filters are better than others, with electrostatic filters likely to capture more particles.

Activated charcoal filters are less common. A list of more popular brands and models of car appears below.


Filters need to be periodically replaced, or they cease to be effective. While a dealer service should schedule this, if you get your car serviced somewhere else, you may need to ask for the filter to be replaced. Some filters can be changed by the owner, although it can be a little time consuming and tricky.

Ducts should be cleaned, particularly if there is a musty smell coming from them.

Car makes and models

The table includes new models sold from 2012 and generally excludes commercial vehicles.

Model Particulate Activated Charcoal
BMW – All models Electrostatic Yes
Cherry J3 & J11 Yes No
Ford Falcon Option No
Ford Fiesta No No
Ford Fiesta ST & Metal Electrostatic Yes
Ford Focus Electrostatic Yes
Ford Kuga Electrostatic Yes
Ford Mondeo Electrostatic Yes
Ford Ranger Yes No
Ford Territory Option No
Great Wall V & X-Series Yes No
Holden Barina Yes No
Holden Barina Spark Yes Option
Holden Caprice Option No
Holden Captiva 5 & 7 Yes No
Holden Colorado Option No
Holden Commodore Option No
Holden Cruze Yes Option
Holden Cruze (with climate control) Yes Yes
Holden Malibu Yes Option
Holden Trax Yes No
Holden Volt Yes No
Honda (all models) Yes No
Hyundai (all models) Yes Yes
Kia (all models) Electrostatic No
Mazda CX-9 & BT-50 Yes No
Maxda MX5 No No
Mazda 2, 3, 6 & CX-5 Electrostatic No
Mercedes (all models) Electrostatic Yes
Mitsubishi (most models, except where indicated) Yes No
Mitsubishi Lancer Electrostatic No
Mitsubishi Pajero Electrostatic Yes
Nissan (all models)* Not known Not known
Subaru (all models) Yes No
Suzuki (all models) Yes No
Toyota (most models, except where indicated) Yes No
Toyota Land Cruiser Ute (LC70) No No
Toyota Tarago Electrostatic Yes
Toyota Yaris Sedan Option No
VW (all models) Yes Yes

*Nissan, the sixth largest selling car brand in 2012 did not respond to multiple requests for information.
Table updated 31 August 2013

For more information

Some brochures and websites include information about cabin air filters. If buying a new car, ask the car dealer.

See our 2015 Car air filter update for an update on the top car models.