Activated Charcoal Cabin Air Filters – Do They Live Up To The Hype?
Cabin air filters are intended to keep the air quality inside your Toyota Tundra as fresh as possible. Most vehicles on the road have at least one cabin air filter installed, with luxury models such as the Lexus LS sedan offering five or more in order to maintain spring meadow-like levels of passenger compartment freshness.
The questions is, can we improve the quality and/or performance of these cabin air filters by switching from paper to activated carbon? Is it worth it? Here’s our take:
Traditionally, cabin air filters have been simple paper designs, similar to the filters called upon to protect your engine’s air intake from dust and other debris. The thin paper elements in these filters are electrostatically charged in order to improve their ability to repel foreign particles, and they do a great job of keeping pollen, dirt, insects and small animals from clogging up your climate control system and distributing allergens through your air vents. Paper cabin air filters are so effective that they can block particles as small as 0.22 microns.
There is one area where paper filters fall a bit short, and that is when they are forced to deal with atmospheric pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. These gases can become quite concentrated on stretches of road that see bumper-to-bumper traffic, and in some cases the level of CO2 inside a vehicle can be three times as high as the environmental level, due to the concentrating effects of the passenger compartment ventilation system and the lack of protection afforded by a paper filter.
The Benefits of Activated Charcoal
Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide are serious health hazards, and in order to help combat their presence inside a vehicle air filter manufacturers have developed paper filters that employ a layer of activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is specially processed to increase its porousness, which in turn improves its ability to absorb harmful gases. 0.035 ounces of activated carbon has a surface area of 5,380 square feet – an astounding number that hints at just how effective it can be at trapping and neutralizing pollutants.
Activated Charcoal – Worth the Extra Cost?
Activated carbon air filters are considerably more expensive than their standard paper equivalents, in some cases costing three times as much. Are they really worth the additional expense? The answer to that question would seem to depend largely on your own driving habits. If most of your time behind the wheel is spent in rural areas, or moving briskly down the highway, then the additional cost of an activated charcoal air filter is probably not worth paying. If you find yourself regularly slogging through rush hour traffic in your Tundra, however, then the additional air cleaning capabilities of activated charcoal might be a wise investment.
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