So your girlfriend says your car smells like rotten socks when you turn on your air conditioner. Then you find out your dog isn’t hanging his head out of the window because he just likes to but because even he can’t stand the smell inside your car. You’ve cleaned the inside of your car until it looks like new but there’s still the odor of spoiled limburger cheese. While this might not be the most pressing auto repair problem in the world at All Tune and Lube in Tempe we feel you because we have to get in to cars just like that all summer! There’s a reason and a cure to the Smelly Car Problem!
OK, first there are a number of odors that you can get through the vents of your car. There’s the smell of gas that you can get when there’s a fuel leak, there’s the dusty smell you get when the vents are full of, well, dust and then there’s the unmistakably foul smell of rot. It’s the smell of decay that I want to talk about.
When you run you cars’ A/C there’s a part called an evaporator that gets really cold. You know how you get condensation on a cold glass on a humid day? The same thing happens on that evaporator. That condensation drips off the evaporator into the ducting behind your dash and most of it is supposed to drain out through a tube under the car. Two things here: That tube can get plugged and keeps the condensation from draining as it should, (Picture your neighbors pool that hasn’t been cleaned since whenever), or the moisture that’s not draining has permitted stuff to start growing right there in your cars’ vents. Fungus, mold, bacteria all mixing it up and having a grand time making your car stink. The kids at the local biology department would have a field day with what’s in there. Now how do you get rid of it?
Keep it from ever growing in the first place is a good idea. First make sure the drain tube isn’t plugged. After the A/C has been running for a while you should see a small puddle of water usually just on the passenger side of the car toward the front of the door. If you‘re not seeing that get the car up on a rack and clean the drain tube out. The next thing you should do is to turn off the A/C about 5-10 minutes before you shut the car off so the condensation in the vents can be evaporated. Dry vents, no goo.
But you still have the problem! Now what? The very first thing you should do is replace the cabin air filter if your car has one. Folks forget these all the time and they can get pretty nasty. Next, the very best thing is to remove the evaporator from the car, pressure wash it and clean it and the vents with bleach. This can be really expensive because all these parts are buried deep under your dash. That’s probably not practical for most people. The next best thing is to take it to a shop (One like All Tune & Lube in Tempe for instance) and have them do a chemical cleaning. It’s not perfect but it’s not bad and it’s considerably less expensive than the first option. The least expensive thing to try is to spray a bit of water and baking soda through the intake vent. Doesn’t work very often but it’s cheap and you’re not out much more than the time.
I hope this helps. If All Tune & Lube Tempe can be of any service at all please call!