How to Install a Cabin Air Filter in a 2003 Ford Escape Xlt

This article will explain how to install a cabin air filter in a 2003 Ford Escape XLT. For those that suffer from allergies or find debris on their dashboard when they use the climate controls, this will surely help.


  1. 1
    Locate and purchase the correct cabin air filter. For mine, the NAPA auto part filter number was #4816 (approx $20.50). It's a rectangular filter, not unlike the standard air filters you replace regularly. The difference is that this one is a bit thinner/smaller, and has plastic "posts" or "stand offs" molded into it.
  2. 2
    Locate the passenger side cowl. In plain English, this is the plastic piece just below where your window wipers sit when they are at rest. There are two "cowls" One on the driver side, one on the passenger side. You will be removing the passenger side only.
  3. 3
    With the hood down, stand at the front, passenger side of your car. Face your front windshield and look for a series of small, round, plastic caps just beneath where the wipers are at rest. You will remove the first four only - counting from the passenger side toward the center.
  4. 4
    Use a very thin screwdriver or knife to pop the cap to reveal a Phillips head screw underneath. Remove each of the four screws with a medium sized Phillips screwdriver.
  5. 5
    Open your hood. Locate the "under hood" portion of the cowl you are working with. Facing the engine from the front of the car, it will be all the way in the back, on the left side.
  6. 6
    Locate a series of four round Phillips screws (generally black in color). They are set in what appear to be plastic washers of the same color. These plastic washers have squeezable bottoms so they are able to be popped in and out quite easily.
  7. 7
    Back the Phillips screws out a few turns. This may require you to push on the bottom of the screw to make it lift.
  8. 8
    Squeeze the bottom portion of the washer piece. As the bottom portion is squeezed together, you will be able to push the entire washer, and screw, up through the hole. Keep the washer/screw sets in a safe place.
  9. 9
    Pull the "cowl" up and off of the housing. It may be a little sticky. Note: It will still be on the car. You are just moving it out of your way.
  10. 10
    With the cowl up, locate a small black handle that reads "pull". This is a water guard that covers the cabin air filter. Pull the handle and it will give way.
  11. 11
    Once the splash guard has been removed, you can install the new cabin air filter. Install it "posts" side up. (The plastic stand offs point upward).
  12. 12
    Replace the water guard by pushing it back into place. Each of the three hooks will line up the same way they did before.
  13. 13
    Replace the plastic screws/washer combinations into each of their four holes.
  14. 14
    Close the hood.
  15. 15
    Replace each of the four Phillips screws.
  16. 16
    Replace each of the four end caps on each of the Phillips screws.
  17. 17
    You're done!


  • If you notice that you're getting ground up debris (leaves, various plant materials) blowing back into your car, it's likely that you either need to replace this sort of filter, or you don't have one and should.
  • You may be able to just remove three of the (capped)Phillips screws. The fourth really won't help much.
  • Ford used the same housing for this piece of their engines on most all Ford Escapes from 2001 and later. Note that not all have an existing cabin air filter, so you may be adding one where one didn't exist before. The dealer considers cabin air filters an option. That basically means they'll install the filter for you.


  • Note: This is *NOT* the standard air filter. This is the cabin air filter that may or may not exist in your vehicle. Whereas the standard filter will clean air going into your engine, this is designed to clean air going into the interior of your vehicle.

Things You'll Need

  • Phillips screwdriver (medium sized)
  • Small/thin slotted blade screwdriver or knife
  • About 20 minutes (max)
  • And possibly a vacuum because of the gunk (leaves, twigs etc.) that may fall out of the air filter when you remove it

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Car Maintenance and Repair