Foul/Musty Smell coming from the AC Vents?
Learn all about why your car AC smells bad and what you can do about it.
These days, especially here in Texas, air conditioning system in our car is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. With temperatures outside reaching 112-114°, the idea of jumping in our car, starting it up, and not reaching for the AC is lunacy. The last thing you want when you reach for that critical AC dial is to be met with a malodorous affront to your olfactory. Unfortunately, this is often the case for many motorists out there.
So, to prevent having to choose between battling the intense heat (which can be a grueling uphill endeavor, if your car has been sitting outside for a while), and enduring the assault on your senses spewing forth from your AC vents, we’re here to help in understanding, diagnosing, and arming you with the information you need to end such needless suffering while you are out running errands, making your daily commute, or otherwise trying to enjoy your drive.
What causes that foul odor from my A/C vents when it first comes on?
First, let’s look at the possible culprits for foul-smelling AC…
When the A/C system is in use it produces water condensation that collects inside the a/c housing. The combination of water and Texas heat creates an environment that allows mold and fungus to produce and multiply in and around your evaporator core. The air from your blower motor forces air across this surface and out through the vents in your dash, floor, and defroster. This results in the “dirty sock” like odor you smell when you first start your car and turn on your air conditioner.
Another potential contributor to the unpleasant smell emanating from your air vents could be from sources brought into the car, like food, pets, children’s accidents, and smoke from cigarettes or cigars. As the air is recirculated about the cabin, particles that contribute to the original scents get stuck in the cabin’s air filter and can compound over time. Cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoke, in particular, has a way of permeating everything in the interior and is notoriously difficult to get out. And it comes as no surprise that over time, with the recirculation of the smoke – in addition to the particles that get thrown back into the air from seats and other secondary sources it gets trapped in – it can start to really build up in your cabin’s air filter. If left to accumulate long enough, the air filter can become so clogged that it restricts airflow significantly which stresses other components in your AC system and will shorten their life. Just like your engine’s air filter needs to be replaced at regular intervals, the same applies to your car’s cabin air filter.
“Help! My car AC smells awful! How do I get rid of the odor?”
At the end of the day, regardless of the smell (or the reasons behind it), you probably just want it to be gone. Your best option for taking care of it quickly and completely is to get your car in to a reputable and qualified service center at your earliest convenience for a technician to track down the cause and take the appropriate course of action to get you back on the road, with the freedom to blast your AC to your heart’s (and nose’s) content.
For those drivers of European cars (Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Range Rover, Jaguar, etc.) plagued by a musty/mildewy odor coming from their air vents, Autoscope’s AC “evap and recharge” service has a unique cleaning solution designed to effectively remove this build-up and eliminate the offending odor. This process also helps to maintain or restore maximum efficiency to your car’s AC since the air can flow across the evaporator core without restriction. Servicing your car’s air conditioning system annually will also keep the musty smell from returning and will help you get the longest service life out of the various AC system components, saving you money in costly AC repair bills down the road.
If your car AC smells bad, give Autoscope a call or set up an appointment online today to bring your European car into one of our three convenient DFW auto service center locations for AC service, or for any other questions or concerns, you have regarding your vehicle’s AC or heating systems.