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Car AC Smells Bad: The Causes and Solutions

The air conditioning system is the essential part of the daily commute and road trips during the hot summer months. But, how do you feel if the car AC smells bad and takes your breath away? Sitting inside a car that feels like a smelly bomb is no better than enduring the balmy, hot weather. But, when there are problems, there are solutions too. Keep reading to know some of the common AC odors and how to get rid of them.

Car AC Smells Bad: The Causes and Solutions

To get to the bottom of this stinky problem, you have to know the culprits that cause the car air conditioner smells musty or other unpleasant odors and the ways to get rid of them.

Forming of Mold/Mildew

Turning on the air conditioner dries the air inside the car but the moisture has to go somewhere. The droplets of water gather on the evaporator before going outside through a drain tube. That route stays damp all time, a breeding ground for mold. The air passing over the evaporator and its mold buildups carries the foul smell inside the car through the dash vents. Mildew is the most common reason for car AC smells bad.

car air conditioner smells musty
Spraying Lysol will solve the mildew problem. (Photo Source: wikihow)

To prevent the mildew from forming, you have to keep the interior of the AC system dry. Make the habit of turning off the air conditioner without switching off the fan at least 2 to 5 minutes before shutting off the car’s engine. It will keep the system free of moisture.

If the mildew has already formed, spray Lysol antiseptic into the exterior air vents with the AC set to pull air from the outside. If it does not work, go to your dealership for a full cleanup.


Dirty Air Filter

The cars these days have a cabin air filter that filtrates dust, pollen, and other allergens from the air coming from the air conditioner. When it gets clogged, it starts trapping moisture and becomes a hotbed for bacteria. When the air passes through the filter filled with bacteria, you will smell a foul, repulsive odor.

The fix is simple and inexpensive, though. Just replace the filter and install a new one.

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Cooling System Leaking

Most AC units work together with the cooling system. Broken or damaged cooling components can leak ethylene glycol, which could be the reason for car AC smells. This chemical substance function as an antifreeze in the air conditioning system. You should immediately repair the broken parts because ethylene glycol is harmful to human health.

car ac smells
The leak in the cooling system is another culprit. (Photo Source: alamy)

Excessive Water Concentration

You should check the condensation system when the car AC smells bad. Although rare, it is not unusual for the component to collect excessive water. Any waterlogged place will discharge foul odor after some days. It could also grow mildew if the place is not cleaned for a long time.

Just go to a service center and make sure that the condenser works properly at the right temperature. They will clean it and do the necessary repairs if needed.

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