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I live in Minnesota so air flow is a major thing in the cold of winter. The heating distribution seams less than sufficient compared to my former Highlander. My thought was to run without the cabin filter to increase the volume. Will there be any side affects and has anybody tried this?
 

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No, all cars did not have cabin filters years ago. You may get a stray dried leave or too. No big deal. My wife drives a 2014 Rav4 and we live in the Minneapolis area. Last year we never saw an issue. But I don't drive it. I assume you did testing with a new cabin filter and without and you saw a difference? Also you need to take in account too much air flow over the heater core that you actually get a reduced duct temperature. I have owned cars years ago when there was no cabin filters where the heater core was too small and setting the fan speed on high reduce the temp so much it was warmer one click down .
 

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I'd be surprised if the filter is any measurable restriction but you certainly could run w/o it. Setting the system on Recirc is probably the best way to get more heat. The tradeoff is the windows may fog. Also make sure the A/C doesn't come on if you want max heat. You may have to do a balancing act with it and the Recirc to minimize fogging.
Also make sure the temperature gauge comes up to normal. Unless something's amiss once the engine is up to temp you should have plenty of heat w/o any modifications. My BIL in central Alaska has an '08 RAV4 and has never complained.
(Moved thread to 4.3 Interior.)
 

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The cabin air filter can and does get so clogged with crap , it will slow the air flow and it's noticeable. Many of us will forget about it and notice the fan doesn't blow air as well anymore. Going without one will just let a little more dust into the vehicle. Like what was already said, how did we survive with the older vehicles not ever having one? :)
I buy the cheapest cabin filter I can find (rockauto for like $7) that way , the larger stuff will be caught if any ,but the air flow will still be just as good as not having one.
 

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Obviously running without the cabin air filter will increase the amount of foreign material which enters the cabin unless one has the system set on recirc. all the time. My wife has a lot of allergies and the filter may help reduce allergens. In my situation the system is rarely set on recirc., so I use the filter.
 

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I'd be surprised if the filter is any measurable restriction but you certainly could run w/o it. Setting the system on Recirc is probably the best way to get more heat. The tradeoff is the windows may fog. Also make sure the A/C doesn't come on if you want max heat. You may have to do a balancing act with it and the Recirc to minimize fogging.
Also make sure the temperature gauge comes up to normal. Unless something's amiss once the engine is up to temp you should have plenty of heat w/o any modifications. My BIL in central Alaska has an '08 RAV4 and has never complained.
(Moved thread to 4.3 Interior.)
Ok, here's my question: when on recirc, does the airflow bypass the cabin filter? Or does it always go thru the filter?
 

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No, all cars did not have cabin filters years ago. You may get a stray dried leave or too. No big deal. [...]
A small note for V3 RAV4s which got the windshield wiper tray (cowling?) update - mine included an excellent fine screen which does keep the usual tree seeds, twigs, mice, usual stuff from entering the air intake. It's an excellent piece of engineering. Our friends with 4.4 vehicles might already have the same.
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