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What are the differences between Charcoal, Electrostatic, and Pollen cabin air filters? For general use, which is better to buy?

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  • Paper/Electrostatic/Pollen Cabin Air Filters are 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 electro-statically 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 these types of 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.
  • Activated Charcoal Cabin 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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