Replacing A Tesla Model 3 Air Filter The Hard Way

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The hard way is the best way to learn how to do things. However, it’s not called the hard way for nothing. The Tesla Owners Club of New York has shared a blog post covering Steven Pallotta’s experience replacing a Tesla Model 3’s cabin air filter. He went about it the hard way, which inspired the article.

Aptly titled “How (not) to Install a Cabin Air Filter,” Stephen noted that his poor experience might both make people scratch their heads and also save them (you?) some pain.

Before that, though, he went through a short list of helpful hints and tips, including more general ones. To start with, he recommends saving 15% of your income for emergency car funds and to cover things like new tires (which can take a big chunk of those savings all on their own) or the occasional cabin air filter replacement. He also recommends just setting up an appointment with Tesla to have your cabin air filters replaced by a professional.

Not convinced yet? If not, he recommends watching several how-to videos on YouTube to see how hard it actually is. If you’re still going to go about it the hard way, Stephen suggests doing this in the shade or a location where you won’t be soaked in sweat by the time you have all of your tools organized. (I feel you, Stephen.) Also, he recommends a soft mat for your knees and a long-sleeve shirt to avoid rug burn.

Stephen said that removing the evil screw from the plate blocking the filters was the most challenging part. Perhaps holy water could help? Stephen noted that if you got that far into the projects, this is where you will realize that you messed up attempting it.

Okay, so, how do you actually change the air filter? Stephen recommends watching this short 6-minute video, and here’s the replacement filter he bought on Amazon — which also actually comes with all necessary tools! And then here’s the final bullet list, verbatim, trying to explain how he ended up doing it:

  • Remove the floor mat, as mentioned before this works as a half-decent knee pad for your knees that think they’re 30 years older than they are (don’t get me started on my back pain…….)
  • Use the trim removal tool (Buckle Crowbar) to remove the carpeted trim on the center console. I highly recommend starting from the back, once you have pulled it away a little, you’re really better off just using your hands and pulling the trim now. You oddly don’t want to do this too slowly, not because you have better things to do with your time, but because there’s a greater chance of breaking the clips if you pull it away too slowly.
  • Congratulations, you successfully removed the trim, you’re halfway there (haha just kidding, not even close). This next part is fairly simple, see those little clips on the ceiling of the footwell, remove all 4 (put them somewhere safe, there aren’t many things to lose, but if you’re like me, you’ll still find a way). You don’t need to be on your back for this, but when you’re done and doing this part in reverse, I found it to be helpful.
  • Now go ahead and remove the panel slowly. Not too slowly, but be aware that there is a speaker and light that are part of this panel. You’ll want to remove clips that hold these parts on. Of course I was only able to unclip the wire for the light… so I had to push the panel up into the back of the footwell to give myself a little more space.
  • Alright this is the worst part. Prepare yourself: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and whatever other “allys” exist, trust me, you’re going to need them all for this part. If you can do this successfully without as being dramatic as me, you may want to consider becoming a heart surgeon. If you can do this part of the project, you will instantly be qualified to be a practicing medical professional (this is just a joke, you will still need to go to med school for 15 years and take out a student loan that you’ll finish paying off when you’re 85 years old). Take the T20 Hex Screwdriver that was included in the air filter set, reach way back into the footwell on the left, and attempt what should be reserved as a training course for Navy SEALs. Once you get the screw out, place it somewhere safe, then pull back the cover that blocks the filter. Oh, one more helpful hint, carefully pull the orange cable away, there’s a clip or two holding it down. This will just make everything a little easier as far as removing the air filter plate.
  • We’re almost done, seriously, I’m not being a punk this time. Alright, pull out the old filters and place them outside the car, you may want to check and see if they can be recycled. Take the bottle of evaporator cleaner, attach the hose, then spray inside the area where the filters were. The purpose of this cleaner is to rid your HVAC system of that utterly disturbing smell, don’t skip out on this part of the project! From a few videos I’ve watched, you should allow the foam to fill up the entire cavity, this may require the whole bottle. Try to move around the hose once it’s in the cavity, starting at the bottom and working upwards. Let the foam sit for about 15 minutes, then blast the AC on high for about 15 minutes. Make sure to replace the cap while the AC is running, you don’t have to put the screw back in, just make sure it’s on there snuggly. You’ll most likely see a stream of water forming under your car, no worries, this is totally normal, Teslas tend to get very excited when their owners take on DIY projects.
  • Ok, we just about finished here! Put the new filters in, making sure that they are facing the right direction for the air flow. If you bought the ones that I did, this means the side with the little beads will face towards you. Also ensure that the little string is on the top right so that you can easily remove them next time you take on this project (if you’re brave enough to try it again).
  • That’s it, you’re done, you are a DIY hero!!! Go ahead and put all the panels and clips back where they belong, get whatever bandaids you need for yourself, then a nice beverage and pat yourself on the back.

Do an of you have experience changing the air filter in your Model 3, or any other EV for that matter?

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Johnna Crider

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

Johnna Crider has 1996 posts and counting. See all posts by Johnna Crider