Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Sometimes the need for a new filter is obvious.
Soon after buying a 2004 Lincoln LS, it became apparent there's a bit of a difference between many Lincoln owners and owners of, say, a Pontiac Fiero or a Ford Ranger. Many Fiero owners, for example, don't think twice about pulling the engine out of their vehicle. As a result, there's tutorials all over the internet that explain how to do so.

But when working on the Lincoln, an internet search for something as simple as changing the light bulbs under the side mirrors yields biblical stories where a bunch of old testament guys rip their shirts off and run screaming to the dealership like it's the temple of all knowledge and truth. Forum help is relatively non-existent, and for good reason—if you're that ignorant of how your vehicle works, it's a good idea to keep your mouth shut. Or, in this case, your hands off of your keyboard.

With that being said, maintenance of a Lincoln shouldn't be feared. So far, the Lincoln has proven itself to be a Ford: really easy to work on. And that is a most welcome attribute. The following tutorial of how to clean out the cabin air filter area on a Lincoln LS demonstrates this...for the most part, anyway.

There were two reasons for cleaning out the cabin air filter area in the case of my Lincoln. First, it was pretty obvious—visually speaking—that filter was dirty. Looking down the grille on the passenger side of the vehicle, right at the base of the windshield, it was easy to see that there was a lot of undesirable material in the area of the filter. Second, the car would occasionally smell musty when the blower was running (vent, heater, defrost, etc.)

Here's how to remedy that.

1: Look down the grille on the passenger side of the vehicle, right at the base of the windshield. What you see should not look like the floor of a forest. If it does, move to step two.

2: Locate the plastic rivets that retain the plastic grill/cowl which covers the cabin filter area. This is the black plastic piece which runs the entire width of the vehicle, right under the windshield wipers.

3: To release these rivets, simply press the center of the rivet down with a screwdriver or punch. The center will move down about 1/8". Don't use a hammer—just gently press down until the center of the rivet snaps down, as seen here:

4: After pushing the center of each rivet on the cowl down, remove all of the rivets.

5: In order to completely remove the cowl, you'll need to remove the windshield wiper arms. If you're just replacing the cabin air filter, you don't really need to do this—you can just bend the cowl out of the way. But in this case, the whole cabin air intake area needed to be cleaned. So the wipers had to go.

This is a bit of a job, as it's not a simple matter of removing the nut that holds each wiper arm on. That's the first step, yes—but you can't just pull the arms off of the studs with your hands. And prying them off is out, too—there's nothing to pry against! So you're going to have to get creative. In this case, I used a valve spring remover and a washer in order to force the arms off of the studs. It worked like it was meant to do the job.

6: After removing the windshield wiper arms, the cowl can be removed. Make sure to unplug the rubber hoses which supply the wiper fluid squirters, and then gently pull up on the cowl. It has metal retainers which you can't see, but they will let go if you pull in the right direction.

7: Look at that mess! Don't remove the cabin air filter until you remove at least some of the debris. Seriously, how did this happen? I must have removed a gallon of this crap.

8: In this case, it wasn't possible to remove all of the debris without removing the plastic box which houses the cabin air filter. Removal of the box requires removal of the four nuts which hold it in place—two on the passenger side of the box, one on the driver side of the box, and one behind the filter itself.

9: After removing all loose debris, make sure that the lower area on the passenger side is cleaned out. This appears to be the drain area for any water which gets into the cabin air intake area—after all, it doesn't rain through the a/c vents when it rains outside. In this case, the drain area was packed—completely solid—with debris. It had to be broken out with a screwdriver.

10: Once the drain area is cleared, get out the cleaning agent of your choice—make sure to pick one that has a scent you can live with, at least temporarily. I used Simple Green. Spray the whole area down, wipe it out, and behold the difference:

This photo is upside down...don't mind that.

11: Don't forget to clean up the plastic box which houses the cabin air filter.

12: Replace everything in the same order it was removed, and enjoy the fresh air. That wasn't so hard, was it?