By: Otaiba Ahsan
Roughly 18 months after I took delivery of my Tesla, I noticed a foul smell coming in any time I used the air conditioning. It was especially bad on hot and humid days. This was a confusing phenomenon at the time, but after doing some quick research it was clear that the cabin air filter needed to be replaced. Once that was done, to much relief, the smell was gone. Continue reading for steps on how to replace the cabin air filters in a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y.
What are Cabin Air Filters?
The air filters in the Model 3 and Y prevent pollen, road dust, industrial fallout, and other particles from entering the cabin through the vents. It’s important to swap the old ones with new filters at least once every two years, as recommended by Tesla. Failure to do so can lead to foul odors from the vents when the air conditioning is used.
NOTE: If you’re planning on replacing the cabin air filters yourself, then you can purchase them directly from Tesla for both the Model 3 and Y. Otherwise, you can make a Tesla Service appointment via the mobile app to change the filter.
How to Replace the Cabin Air Filter
Reaching the cabin air filters in the Model 3 and Y is more complicated than in your typical gas-powered vehicle. Follow these detailed steps on how to change the filter:
1) Turn off the climate control and move the front passenger seat fully rearwards. Also, remove the front passenger floor mat.
2) Use a clip tool to carefully release the push clips that secure the passenger footwell cover to the instrument panel. Next, while supporting the footwell cover, disconnect the two electrical connectors and move the footwell cover aside. You can purchase a clip and trim removal tool kit from any big box store, see an example here.
- For the light, carefully press down on the tab while releasing the connector.
- For the speaker, angle the vehicle-side connector so that the small tab releases from the hole in the footwell cover-side while releasing the connector.
NOTE: To avoid damage, don’t pull on the wires when disconnecting the connectors. Pull from the plastic on the connectors instead to do so safely.
3) Working from top-to-bottom, use a trim tool to carefully release the right-side panel from the center console.
4) Next, remove the T20 screw that secures the cabin air filter cover to the HVAC module, then release the cabin filter cover and move it aside. See Tesla’s visual for reference.
NOTE: On some of the Models, the screw is a T20/6mm hybrid fastener, while on others it may be a Locking tab. If it is, then use your index finger and thumb to squeeze the two tabs of the cover and tilt it outward to remove it. Ensure not to bend or damage the orange high-voltage cables attached to the cabin filter cover.
5) Fold the upper cabin filter’s tab upward and the lower filter’s tab downward. Once that’s done, pull both the upper and lower filters out from the HVAC module.
6) Ensuring that the arrows on both new filters face towards the rear of the vehicle, insert both the lower and upper filters into the HVAC module. Fold the tabs inward so that the cabin filter cover can go on.
7) Re-install the cover by engaging the lower cover tab, then securing either the T20 screw or the T20/6mm hybrid fastener. Make sure to tighten everything securely. For vehicles with a Locking tab instead of a screw, move the cabin filter cover into place then secure the tabs at the bottom of the HVAC module.
8) Reconnect the two electrical connectors to the components in the front passenger footwell cover. Secure the cover once again with push clips.
9) Next, align the right-side panel with the front and rear locator slots on the center console, then apply pressure until all the clips are fully secure.
10) Lastly, put the front passenger floor mat and seat back into place.
Tutorial from Tesla
We know, this process may seem a little complicated. Luckily, Tesla has made a detailed video showing a visual of the exact steps we just outlined above.
The Bottom Line
There you have it, the steps on how to replace the cabin air filters in a Tesla Model 3 and Model Y. Remember, you’ll need to grab new cabin air filters and have a clip and trim removal tool handy to get the job done. The video tutorial from Tesla provides great visuals in case you need them as you do the job.