An air filter may not seem like an essential component, but it's more important than you think. It's possible to drive without an air filter, but it's definitely not a good idea. This component keeps all types of debris out of the climate control system and keeps the cabin air fresh and safe to breathe. According to a study, the average American spends 225 hours a year traveling, so it's important to ensure that the air inside your vehicle is purified.
The most notable problem with the lack of a cabin filter is air quality. Without it, your car will inhale all pollutants thrown on the road by other vehicles, such as diesel fumes and burnt oil. Allergens also enter and are not cleaned before driving around the cabin. There are no health risks, but you may get small leaves and garbage stuck in the system, depending on how large the inlet is to let in fresh air.
If you smell an unpleasant scent coming from the air conditioner, there is a high chance that your air filters will not work properly. If you skip replacing your cabin air filter, you could end up spending thousands of dollars on repairs to your entire heating and air conditioning system. Your car was built to last longer with all of its components in place, including the cabin air filter. While it may seem like it's just a piece of paper that collects dust, car cabin filters are actually part of the engineering design of the entire vehicle.
The cabin filter also restricts the flow of air through the condenser and the heating coil into the passenger compartment. When you remove that restriction by removing the cabin air filter, a host of problems can arise. If you own a vehicle manufactured in the last decade, your on-board computer will try to compensate for the lack of an air filter by altering the power supplied to the fans, but that can reduce the life of the entire climate control system. This condition suggests that you may have an allergic reaction to air coming out of the air conditioner. While there's no direct impact on engine performance with a broken or malfunctioning cabin air filter, it's not recommended to drive without one.
When updating your car's maintenance records, you'll see that replacing the cabin air filter is recommended.