Why You Air Conditioning Smells And What You Can Do About It

13 June 2017
 Categories: , Blog


When you power on the air conditioning in your car, the last thing you expect to be greeted with is an awful smell. However, when there is an underlying problem with the unit, this is exactly the type of experience you might encounter. Since different smells can mean different things, learning just some of the key things to look out for is helpful.


A sweet smell coming from the vents may be an indication that there is a leak in the cooling system. Antifreeze, which is the primary cooling agent for the vehicle, is a toxic and powerful chemical blend that also happens to have a very sweet scent.

If you're smelling this scent, this could mean that some of the antifreeze is leaking out. Not only will this leak lead to more damage to your unit when not addressed, inhaling these fumes is also unhealthy. If you have a pet, antifreeze that leaks on the ground can produce fatal injuries if they consume it.

Musty Odor

An awful musty odor is often indicative of one of two, or both, things – bacteria and mold development. Particularly when a vehicle is on the older side, bacteria and mold can start to develop around the evaporator. As the air blows over the evaporator, it carries the scent of these growths through the vents and into your vehicle.

Like antifreeze, it is unhealthy for you to this in. This is especially the case if you have young children, an elderly person, or someone with respiratory problems in the vehicle with you. However, these growths typically form when there is an excessive moisture buildup. Your unit is not eliminating the excess moisture correctly and needs to be serviced.

Foul Smell

Offensive odors are also a warning sign that you don't want to ignore. Every unit has an air filter installed it in. Just like the filter that is used in your home's HVAC system, the filter can get dirty and must be replaced over time. When a filter's lifespan has expired, it's safe to assume that it's covered in all types of pollutants including stagnant water, dirt, and even dust mites – all of which don't have the best smell.

In many instances, eliminating this smell is as simple as having the filter changed. However, it's still wise to have the unit inspected to be on the safe side, especially if the smell is very strong.

If your air conditioning unit is causing an odor in your vehicle, make certain you understand that this is not normal. Have a service professional inspect your vehicle as soon as possible.