Replacing a Tesla Model 3 air filter the hard way

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

Do you have nothing better to do on your Sunday evening than to sit in a mild state of anxiety about the work week?

Yes? I also!

Sit back, relax and enjoy the undeniably worst educational blog: “How (not) to install a cabin air filter.” Https://t.co/NlwiYhzEkj pic.twitter.com/hGyR6lnP1M

– Tesla Owners Club New York State (@TOCNYS) August 16, 2021

Aptly titled “How (Not) to Install a Cabin Air Filter,” Stephen noted that his bad experiences could make people scratch their heads and save them (you?) From pain too.

Before doing this, however, he went through a short list of helpful hints and tips, including more general ones. First, he recommends saving 15% of your income on emergency cars and covering things like new tires (which alone can make up a large portion of that savings) or the occasional cabin air filter replacement. He also recommends simply making an appointment with Tesla to have your cabin 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 the hard way, Stephen suggests doing it in the shade or somewhere you won’t be bathed in sweat when you have all of your tools organized. (I feel you, Stephen.) He also recommends a soft mat for your knees and a long sleeved shirt to avoid burning the carpet.

Stephen said removing the nasty screw from the plate blocking the filters was the biggest challenge. Maybe holy water could help? Stephen noted that once you’ve gotten this far into the projects, this is where you will find that you screwed up trying.

Okay, how do you actually change the air filter? Stephen recommends checking out this short 6 minute video and here is the replacement filter he bought on Amazon – which comes with all the tools necessary too! And then here is the final bullet list, literally, trying to explain how he ultimately did it:

  • Remove the doormat as mentioned earlier, this works as a halfway decent knee pad for your knees that think they are 30 years older than they are.
  • Remove the carpet trim on the center console with the trim removal tool (buckle crowbar). I highly recommend starting from the back, if you’ve pulled it away a bit, you are really better off just using your hands and pulling the panel now. Oddly enough, you don’t want to do this too slowly, not because you have better things to do with your time, but because you run the risk of breaking the clips if you pull them away too slowly.
  • Congratulations, you’ve successfully removed the disguise, you’re halfway there (haha, just kidding, not even close). The next part is pretty simple, look at the little clips on the ceiling of the footwell, remove all 4 (put them in a safe place, there aren’t a lot of things to lose, but if you’re like me you can still find one Path). You don’t have to be on your back to do this, but when you finish doing this part the other way around, I found it helpful.
  • Now go ahead and slowly remove the panel. Not too slow, but be aware that a speaker and light are part of this panel. You should remove clips that are holding these parts in place. Of course, I could only unclip the cable for the light … so I had to slide the panel into the back of the footwell to have a little more space.
  • Okay, that’s the worst. Prepare yourself: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and whatever other “allies” there are, trust me, you will need them all for this part. If you can do this successfully without being as dramatic as me, you may want to consider becoming a cardiac surgeon. If you can do this part of the project, you will be immediately qualified as a practicing physician (just kidding, you still have to study medicine for 15 years and take out a student loan that will be given to you when you are 85). Take the T20 hex screwdriver that was included in the air filter kit, reach far back into the left footwell and try what should be reserved as a training course for Navy SEALs. Once you take the screw out, put it in a safe place and then pull back the cover that is blocking the filter. Oh, one more helpful tip, gently pull the orange cable away, there are a clip or two holding it in place. That makes everything a little easier when it comes to removing the air filter plate.
  • We’re almost done, seriously, I’m not a punk this time. All right, pull out the old filters and put them outside of the car. You might want to check that they can be recycled. Take the bottle of vaporizer cleaner, attach the hose, and then spray on the area where the filters were. The purpose of this cleaner is to rid your HVAC system of this extremely annoying odor. Don’t skip this part of the project! From some videos I’ve watched you should let the foam fill the entire cavity, this may require the whole bottle. Once it’s in the cavity, try moving around the tube, starting at the bottom and working your way up. Leave the foam on for about 15 minutes, then inflate the air conditioner on high for about 15 minutes. Make sure to put the cap back on while the air conditioner is running. There is no need to reinsert the screw, just make sure it is securely in place. You will likely see a jet of water under your car, don’t worry, this is perfectly normal, Teslas tend to get very excited when their owners take on DIY projects.
  • Ok, we’re almost done here! Install the new filters, making sure they are facing the correct direction for airflow. If you bought the ones I bought it means the side with the little pearls is facing you. Also, make sure the little string is in the top right so you can easily remove it the next time you start this project (if you’re brave enough to try again).
  • That’s it, you’re done, you’re a DIY hero !!! Put all the panels and clips back where they belong, get all the bandaids you need for yourself, then have a nice drink and pat yourself on the shoulder.

Have any of you experience changing the air filter on your Model 3 or other electric vehicle?

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