This is some long-overdue maintenance for our poor Mazda 3. These things are supposed to be changed every 20k. I believe the car was up to 46,000 miles at the time of the change. Oops. Still, better late than never?
So… this project is really not very fun. It’s annoying and will possibly make you question why you own a Mazda 3. But, it has to be done. The question is, do you do it yourself or pay a stealership to do it? For something as involved as this, I’d not risk Jiffy Lube or other such monkeys. But if you’ve got a free afternoon, you can save a couple hours of labor at your local Mazda service shop.
Step 1: Remove the glove box.
First, open it up. Then empty out all the crap. Then spend 5 minutes marvelling over the size of the thing. Seriously, you could fit multiple laptops in the 3′s glove box. It’s insane. It’s not a glove box. You could fit a whole coat in there.
The trim panel is attached on the far right side. Start pulling from the middle. The clips will give way and the panel will pop off. Then slide the L shaped clip out of its hole in the far right. Set this aside carefully because it scratches easily.
Some cars apparently have screws here. Not mine. They were bolts with 10mm heads. Strange. But only two hold the box in place.
A firm yank and the box comes out. Nothing to it. Just be brave.
Once the box is out, release the light so that it can be set aside. You need to be in the area the glove box is occupying in the above shot.
2: Remove the fuse box.
Seriously. Yank. If you pull from the front edge, the kick panel comes free very easily. Not much force needs to be applied.
Another easy one. I’m surprised just one thing holds this panel in place. Seems like there should be more.
And now… the fuse box. This is so ridiculous.
At this point I was just shaking my head. How can it be DESIGNED to require fuse block removal every 20,000 miles?!? That seems insane. More than once I asked out loud “Why do I even buy new cars??” Yes, I called my 2008 a “new” car.
Anyways. The fuse box removes pretty easily. The one tricky thing is figuring out how to operate the zero-force connectors. They’re similar to what are used on computer processors. You rotate the plastic arm and the connector just pops free. Sorry, but I couldn’t figure out a good way to photograph this. And there’s a ton of them.
There were a few spots in my 3′s fuse box that had no connector plugged in. I assume other trim levels have more or less stuff attached and active in the fuse box. The above picture was for me. It was shot so that I could see how the connectors were oriented and which went next to which. I advise anyone doing this to take similar pix. It’s helpful.
Set the fuse box carefully to the side by your other interior pieces. You may continue to be amazed that the damn thing is made to be removed. I was. Hell, I still am amazed while I sit here and write this.
3: Clear a path to the filter.
That nice bracket needs to be moved as far away from where it lives as possible. It is held in by two bolts. Also, several of the wiring harnesses for the fuse box are connected. And for dessert, it has a carpet pin in the bottom. I left the carpet pin and just let the bracket dangle from it, but removed all of the wiring harness plastic pins. Needle nose pliers make that easy.
If you’ve recently driven your car anywhere, these silver tubes will be approximately 5 degrees hotter than the surface of the sun. They go to the heater core which is mounted in an amazingly accessible location. I had indeed just driven the car before trying to change out the cabin filters. The tubes were full of hot coolant. I lost some forearm skin.
You have been warned.
You’re almost there. The cabin filter is within reach. Just a few more items to go.
Using a magnetic screwdriver to help remove those two hidden screws is a good idea. Mine saved me from dropping the far-forward top screw behind the carpet. I was just using that one by luck. It just happened to be at the front of the drawer when I went gathering tools.
4: Swap out the filter!
It’s a FILTER. Say it with me, Mazda. FILTER! It shouldn’t be this hard to change a filter out of anything. A fuse box should not require removal for this regular maintenance activity. MAINTENANCE should not require 19 photos to describe.
As an added bonus, the filter is in two pieces. They live on top of each other. Try not to get angry and burn down your garage.
I gave these filters a double tap on the garage floor. Just a tap-tap. All of this came out. There’s a shit ton more in there. I… am a bad Mazda 3 owner. I feel I must apologize to my poor car at this point.
Here’s the new filters. This is the correct orientation. The filter with the small panel on the side goes on the bottom toward the passenger feet. The filter with the panel divided in half goes on top. There’s arrows that show which way air should flow through them.
The last task they make you perform is to somehow have one panel levitate in the box while you slide the other panel below it. There’s nothing to hold the top panel on top. You have to hold it with one hand while sliding the bottom filter in with the other.
Annnnd… it’s really not that bad. I did it in one try. I was shocked. I expected this to be a stupid human trick on the level of double yoyos or juggling chainsaws. It was… quite easy. Yet I’m not sure how I did it.
5: Put everything back where you found it.
Let me just say that I’ve done some strange things with cars before. I enjoy them. I like a good challenge. I like taking them apart. But I didn’t expect this level of engineering stupidity to change A FILTER. It’s not something that should require this much work. I am still questioning why I’m bothering with this modern car.
There might be a lot of old cars in my future.
Good luck with your cabin filter change!