Mold/Vinegar Smell from A/C

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Does your car have the smell?


  • Total voters
    187

ateslik

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Apr 13, 2018
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Burbank, CA
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#1
vin: 12###. 7000 miles. The A/C smells absolutely terrible, like strong vinegar. I'm surprised it got this rank this quickly. Anyone else having this issue? Any recommendations?
 

Ken Voss

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Feb 2, 2017
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San Francisco Bay Area
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#2
Interesting, mine is VIN 18xxx, my wife sometimes smells a vinegar like smell coming from the HVAC when she first gets in the car, I smell it a little but her sense of smell is better than mine. I mentioned this to a mobile ranger when he came to fix a glove box issue and he said he has never heard of this. if anyone knows the cause & fix I would also like to know what this is
 

Inochi

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May 12, 2018
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Livermore
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#3
+1 with this issue. My wife can't smell it but it bothers me. Though I haven't done anything to try to fix it.
 

Rick Steinwand

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May 19, 2018
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Fargo, ND
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#6
Why no mention of mildew from the moisture that AC units pull out of the air? Very common problem with Chevy Volts and one fix is to run fan only before getting home, which was an automatic option on the Volts. Another fix was to treat the mildew directly with spray.
 

zosoisnotaword

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Aug 28, 2017
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Alabama
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#11
I survived a Bama summer without getting the evaporator mildew smell. I typically left HVAC in Auto and made sure it was pulling in outside air. It likes to change back to recirc if you adjust the temperature setpoint and it's hot outside.

I had gotten the same mildew smell in a Mercedes and the fix from their forums (after the shop decontaminated) was to always run HVAC in Auto. It seemed to work and I went through another two years without the mildew building up again. One of the main differences is that the Mercedes always defaulted to pulling outside air, but the Model 3 likes to go to recirc if it's hot outside. Can everyone whose air smells bad comment on how you ran HVAC during the summer?
 

PNWmisty

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#12
I survived a Bama summer without getting the evaporator mildew smell. I typically left HVAC in Auto and made sure it was pulling in outside air. It likes to change back to recirc if you adjust the temperature setpoint and it's hot outside.
Wouldn't mildew be LESS likely if the system was recirculating the drier cabin air instead of bringing in new warm and humid air from outside? Because the air inside has already been dehumidified.
 

MelindaV

☰ > 3
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Apr 2, 2016
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Vancouver, WA
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#13
Wouldn't mildew be LESS likely if the system was recirculating the drier cabin air instead of bringing in new warm and humid air from outside? Because the air inside has already been dehumidified.
the articles I read on this last night say it is caused from lack of fresh air in the system. So, no. 100% recirculate potentially causes the issue. Also noted were clogged drains - so maybe the Model 3s AC system's drains are susceptible to clogging.
 

garsh

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#14
Wouldn't mildew be LESS likely if the system was recirculating the drier cabin air instead of bringing in new warm and humid air from outside? Because the air inside has already been dehumidified.
The air inside is also being made humid whenever a passenger exhales, so there's a continuous battle between the two. Which air is drier will depend on current outside humidity, number of passengers, fan speed, etc.
 

fsKotte

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Jan 18, 2018
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264
Location
Walnut Creek, CA
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#15
Been awhile since anybody posted in this thread, but I came across it via a search after the weather changed recently here in Northern Cal to be a bit warmer and I started using the A/C again. The smell is AWFUL. My seven year old very accurately describes it as "poop smell." Running the A/C on a fairly low temp (67 or so) with fresh air (recirc off) eventually clears the smell, after around 5-10 minutes. But it is now coming back Every. Single. Time. I get into the car. So the first five minutes at least of every journey in the vehicle now features a pungent smell of excrement. Every time.

During winter, I didn't really pay too close attention to my settings, but I probably did not run the A/C for a couple of months. It also rained a lot. So potential culprits could be some poor drainage, junk on the condensate coil, damp air filters perhaps.

Will be calling service on this, at this point. Not too acceptable to have a car that smells literally like sh*t every time you get into it, for the first 5-10 minutes. Mine's a 26XXX VIN, delivery 5/30/18, 13,700 miles give or take. Shouldn't be like this within a year. Or ever really.
 

PNWmisty

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#16
Our Volvo and VW Eurovan had this bad. Then I learned to turn off the A/C a couple of minutes before arriving home to allow the A/C core to dry out. It also helps to avoid really low fan speeds. But none of that worked on our Mazda CX-5 which had a pretty strong A/C smell even though I took the proper precautions.

Neither of our Model 3's have even a hint of A/C smell. Just fresh and clean air, direct from outside. If it smells like sh*t you might have a mouse problem. When proper precautions are not taken the more normal A/C smell is vinegar, ammonia or moldy smelling, not like fecal matter.
 

Needsdecaf

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Dec 27, 2018
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The Woodlands, TX
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Model 3
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#17
Neither of our Model 3's have even a hint of A/C smell. Just fresh and clean air, direct from outside. If it smells like sh*t you might have a mouse problem. When proper precautions are not taken the more normal A/C smell is vinegar, ammonia or moldy smelling, not like fecal matter.
Yeah, I tend to agree with this. I've never heard of ammonia smells, that's a new one. Only the musty smell. And the poop one is totally new to me also. Unless your family has some musty poop. ;) Definitely worth looking into rodents under the hood.
 

fsKotte

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Jan 18, 2018
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Walnut Creek, CA
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#19
Our Volvo and VW Eurovan had this bad. Then I learned to turn off the A/C a couple of minutes before arriving home to allow the A/C core to dry out. It also helps to avoid really low fan speeds. But none of that worked on our Mazda CX-5 which had a pretty strong A/C smell even though I took the proper precautions.

Neither of our Model 3's have even a hint of A/C smell. Just fresh and clean air, direct from outside. If it smells like sh*t you might have a mouse problem. When proper precautions are not taken the more normal A/C smell is vinegar, ammonia or moldy smelling, not like fecal matter.
I'll certainly try the turning off the A/C a few minutes before arriving to dry the core out. We never have done this with any other cars ever in the past (e.g. Toyota, M-Benz, Fiat EV, Lexus), so it's still just a touch annoying I have to do this sort of maneuver, at all. But it's better than the rank awful smell I'm getting now, so I'll have to just work with what I've got.

I also set an appointment with my local SC to look into this. At first, I thought I'd maybe just change the air filters to see if they're damp/smelly, see if that takes care of the problem. Then I saw a YouTube video showing how to remove the filters. Not a simple thing. So not going that route.

If there's a dead mouse in there, hopefully the SC will find it . . . .
 

Technical48

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Apr 29, 2018
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Oviedo, FL
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Model 3
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#20
With my A4 and A8L, I found that it was possible to avoid the musty AC smell by making sure the fresh air setting was on (recirc-off) for a minute before parking and turning off the car. I assume that recirc-off allows some ventilation and drying of the evaporator core. And perhaps the flaps stay in the recirc-off position after shutdown. Might be the same for our Teslas.

My wife uses recirc-on all the time we're in the car because she can't stand the smells from all the crappy oil burners out there clogging up our roads. 😊