It had to happen eventually…routine maintenance. I have been driving my Leaf now for over 30k miles and the little EV has required no specialized routine maintenance by me other than the occasional washing and vacuuming, a set of new windshield wiper blades, adding a little air to the tires, and the occasional topping off of the washer fluid – you know, the things you would need to do to any type of vehicular construct no matter its fuel source.
Recently however the Leaf popped up a message on the infotainment/nav screen and informed me that it needed maintenance on its Air Conditioner Filter aka: cabin air filter.
Below I have outlined the step by step method I used to change the filter.
- Remove the glove box in its entirety–a simple matter of removing a few screws and then gently pulling the unit down and toward the rear. (This does not need to be done if you are a contortionist and want to use the tiny plastic door located on the back left of the inside of the glove box). This is a view with the glove box removed.
2. A look inside reveals the ECM – the “brains” of the beast – bolted to the bulkhead.
3. Looking to the left of the ECM we see the air handler system.
4. Note the white plastic cover (black in some model Leaf’s). You will need to remove this to access the air filter. No tools are needed, just simply locate the tab on the bottom of the cover and lift outward to remove the cover to reveal the air filter. Mine was overdue to be changed so there was an assortment of botanical debris collected around and on the forward side of the filter.
5. Lift the flexible tab near the top of the filter (just above the word front in the above and below photos) and pull gently down and out to dislodge the top of the filter from its housing. Then pop out the bottom and the filter will slide out as in the next photo if you do it properly.
6. Continue to slide the filter outward until it stops. You will then need to gently work the other side of the filter loose to get it out of the housing. Once out, you can inspect it for damage and debris.
You may want to take a look inside the air handler box to make sure all is clean and debris free. This is the inside of mine…
The old and new filters compared side by side. The old one (30k miles) is on the left. The new one looks darker due to a coating of charcoal and baking soda that will act as an air freshener apparently.
7. Installing the new filter is the reverse of removal but you will need to be careful in how you insert the filter to get it just right. I found this video tutorial very helpful – especially for this part of the job.
8. The type of filter I used is pictured below.
After the filter is inserted, replace all the parts and you are good to go for another 15k miles or so.
I hope this tutorial has helped guide you in the replacement of your Leaf’s cabin air filter so you can save even more money and grin an even wider EV grin 🙂
By replacing the filter myself I saved around $50 labor cost (as quoted by my local Nissan dealership)!
Costs: $35 for the filter and about an hour of my time. This is not that bad considering this is the first in-depth preventative maintenance (that was not covered in the warranty*) that I have completed on the car…in 30k miles! Had this been a gasoline/diesel powered vehicle I would have had to spend far more time and money over the same 30K mile time-frame. For example to keep my 1999 Toyota 4Runner “Godzilla” running in an efficient as possible manner (for a machine with so many miles – 200+k – and so many moving parts that can and will wear out due to constant use thereby lowering the fuel economy of the vehicle and lowering the amount of money in my bank account) I use G-Oil, a bio-based fully synthetic motor oil, and I change the filter when I change the oil. Just the oil/filter changes for my 1999 Toyota 4Runner have cost me $230** over the last 30k miles! Operational costs for user replaceable parts and non warranty covered parts for the Leaf during this same period of time = $55 (wiper blades and cabin air filter)!
The simple fact that EV’s do not have as many many moving parts as ICE (petroleum) powered vehicles makes them much more reliable and cost effective to operate than their fossil fuel powered counterparts. This is one of the many reasons that EV’s are superior to everything else on the road.
* Parts replaced under warranty included one shock absorber, 1 strut, grease for the power window actuators, and two suspension bushings – all of these things are not EV specific and are commonly replaced/repaired items on all road vehicles. Non-warranty covered and non-user replaceable parts that needed replacement due to age/wear = Tires and brake fluid. Total cost = $610.
** Oil change only parts I have purchased for the 4Runner over the last 30k miles – several gallons of GOil and several Oil Filters = $230. Had I included all of the other parts I have replaced myself on the 4Runner over the same time-frame – the costs would have been well over $800! (If I had included the non-user replaceable parts and labor I have given to Larry at the auto repair shop then add another $1200!!!)
Total parts cost to operate Nissan Leaf for $30k miles = $665
Total parts cost to operate 4Runner for 30K miles = $2000
While I am aware that the 4Runner has over 6 times the mileage as the Leaf, the point remains that I have spent over 3X as much money on just parts to keep it on the road during the same period of time so…
After “Godzilla” dies, I will never go back to gas.