SBT Car News

Why Does a Car AC Smell Bad When I Turn It On?

car ac smells bad when turn on

The air condition system in your car has gone from being a luxury feature to a standard feature. The cold air refreshes you and makes the journey comfortable. However, the journey may become uncomfortable and even nightmarish if the car’s air conditioner smells bad.

Any weird or repugnant smell cannot be ignored. It indicates that there’s something faulty with the car air conditioner. So, to prevent choosing between bearing the intense temperature or facing the stinky AC. All you need is an understanding of why the car air conditioner smells bad. Then, some diagnosing techniques can end your needless suffering while making your daily commute or running errands comfortable again.

We’ve listed down the common reasons why car AC smells bad and how you can get rid of the stinky AC by taking the right measures. Read on to learn more and ensure that your car smells good.

Reasons Why Car Air Conditioner Smells Bad

Have you ever gotten in your car, turned on the AC, and wondered why the car AC smells like mildew? Of course, we understand how irritating and embarrassing it is. But the reasons behind the bad odor can be identified relatively easily.

The mold, bacteria, mildew, and decaying material are the common sources of odor. The build-up of these factors causes the smell in your vehicle’s air conditioning system. Therefore, it’s vital to carefully clean and replace some parts to get rid of the smell.

In older vehicles, it’s common that car air conditioning smells. The situation isn’t alarming as you can clean it. After 100 miles on the open road, it will be better. However, if your new car’s air conditioner smells bad, you must take action immediately. It can be an indicator of a problem with the air conditioning system.

Here are some of the reasons why car AC smells bad:

1.     A Leak in the AC Line

If your car’s air conditioner smells bad, there might be a leak in the AC line. As a result, the coolant might be dripping on interior parts. Then, it evaporates and creates mold/mildew that produces an unpleasant odor.

There might be a gas leak in other cases, which makes the car AC smell like mildew. If you smell gas every time you turn on the AC, it can be due to the gas leak. The overall smell of the gas combines with the fresh air taken by the air conditioners, which causes the smell. In case of a gas leak, get it checked immediately, as the AC will stop functioning if all the gas leaks out.  Furthermore, a gas leak may be indicative of bigger problems with the car AC.

2.     You Didn’t Get the Service on Time

Got a busy schedule? Didn’t get a chance to get your car serviced for months? Then, it’s obvious that there might be debris and dirt in the AC compressor, which can make your car’s air conditioner smell bad.

3.     Mold and Bacteria

Bacteria and mold are often the most common reasons that make your car’s air conditioner smell bad. It leaves a distinct odor, and every time you turn on the air condition, you have to face this. The mold can grow on the air vents, especially if your region experiences high humidity. Many people also complain that their car AC smells like mildew. The growth of bacteria on the ducts is usually due to accumulated dust and micro-debris.

In older cars, the probability of mold, fungi, and other micro-organisms is higher. But, again, it is because it’s often at the back of the dash panel where the evaporator is.

4.     Filthy Air Filters

Dirty air filters can also result in weird and stinky AC. Unfortunately, people often don’t care about the air filters and leave them out when cleaning their cars. As a result, the filters collect all the dust mites, stagnant water, and dirt. Additionally, it can accumulate harmful pollutants that can adversely affect your health. Therefore, it is always best to check the status of the air filters regularly.

Ways to Get Rid of the Musty Car Smell?

Have you been avoiding your car lately because the car air conditioner smells bad? Or you don’t allow your friends and family to travel with you to avoid the embarrassment that comes with having a musty car? Don’t know what to do?

Here we’ve got some ways to help you get rid of the musty car smell.

1.     Take Care of Your Car

The first thing to avoid a smelly car is to make sure that you take care of it. A vehicle always demands attention. So you need to ensure regular maintenance. Found any trouble? Get it checked out as soon as possible. Please don’t keep it for later.

If your car’s AC smells bad, find out the reason. Then, you can consult a mechanic for a diagnosis of your vehicle. They will help you in recognizing the problem so that you can take action accordingly. In addition, it might help in avoiding or managing the gas leak or any other leakages and spills.

2.     Ensure the Drain Tube is Working Properly

Smelly cars are always a turn-off factor. It not only makes it unpleasant to drive but also harms your health. The best way to avoid mold and bacteria is to locate the drain tube, clean it, and ensure it’s working properly.

Additionally, it is strongly recommended by automobile manufacturers to have an anti-bacterial treatment for your vehicles done, especially if you live in a region with high humidity. It facilitates in getting rid of the bacteria. For this, you’ll have to inject the solution into the AC unit case.

Leave it for a while, and don’t turn on the air condition for at least a few hours. Then, let the water on the coils evaporate completely.

3.     Keep Your Car Clean

If you have a car, you must be aware that it’s an expensive commodity that holds value for you. Hence, it’s essential to spend some money and time keeping it clean and hygienic. It includes having a consistent washing session for the outer as well as interior parts of the vehicle.

For cleaning, buy the car cleaning agents that are safe for your vehicle. Follow the quick procedure according to the product manual. Rinse all the soap and cleaning agents rigorously. Through this, you can ensure that there is no dirt or bacteria in the AC duct.

4.     Inspect the Fuel Pressure Regulator

If there is any gas leak causing the car air conditioner to smell bad, you can avoid this. It’s always recommended to examine the fuel pressure regulator regularly. It will help in identifying if there is any leak. Also, the O rings present in the engine compartment should be assessed as well.

The best thing to do is to consult a mechanic. They have the expertise to check the tubing and pipes in your automobile. They can also confirm if there are any holes in the line that are causing the gas leaks.

5.     Replace the Old Filters

Old filters in the air conditioners can cause weird smells. At this point, try cleaning them regularly. However, if it’s not working anymore and the odor isn’t going, change them.

Always remember that everything has a lifespan. You cannot expect things to last forever. If your car’s old filters aren’t working properly and are causing the car AC to smell bad, replace them.

The new filters aren’t very expensive. You can easily find new ones. And it’s a good practice to replace them regularly. Usually, it is recommended that you do it after every three months or so.

Final Thoughts

No one likes it when their car air conditioners smell bad. It makes the drives unpleasant and embarrassing. Hence, it’s essential to find out the causes behind the stinky AC so that you can take proper measures.

The causes mentioned above and methods to eliminate the musty car smell can be used according to your convenience. First, figure out the cause and then take action accordingly. Again, if your car AC smells like mildew, get it fixed. Car fresheners can help for a while, but they are a stop-gap measure at best. However, you can’t rely on them if there are molds and bacteria in your AC duct.