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BMW X3 Windows Fog Instantly

pp2009pppp2009pp Posts: 228
edited June 2014 in BMW
Windows fogged up in about a second. From clear to opaque with fog and total driver blindness in about a second. I have never seen anything like this.

Temperature in the 50s, not raining, heater on AUTO.

Fix? Prevention?

- Keep the AC on all the time the heater is on. This apparently fails when the ambient temp is below freezing. In that circumstance turning on the defogger will fog the windows instantly?

- Never recirculate the air when the heater is on. Why not disable recirculate when the heater is on to prevent fogging?

Beyond that, who knows what is going on. The car was dry on the inside, only one person was in the car and for less than 5 minutes when this happened. It was cool but certainly not cold.

When this happened it was impossible to see out the passenger side or out the back so it was impossible to pull over to the shoulder. Luckily, there were no cars and a left turn where the car could be stopped, the windows opened and the fog wiped out. I can't imagine what would have happened if I had been on the highway.

Car windows were clean, no antifreeze leak that I know of usual suspects. Other cars with recirculating modes do not do anything like this. Cars fog up but not instantly like this.


  • pp2009pppp2009pp Posts: 228
    Worth keeping in mind to open the front passenger side window if this happens again. That provides enough visibility from the mirror to pull over to the right shoulder.
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 12,747
    Oh no!!!


    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport; 2014 M235i; 2009 Cooper Clubman; 1999 Wrangler; 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2015 X1 xDrive28i Son's: 2009 328i

  • pp2009pppp2009pp Posts: 228
    It's sad that some people have no idea what a good car is really like so the herky and the jerky and the rocky and the bouncy and the instant blindness are considered not only acceptable but DESIGN FEATURES. This is probably most evident in those who lease 3 series cars. They are probably their first 'nice' car and they simply accept that these oddities are 'premium' features.

    I have a nice orange bridge....

    ======= Other ways to clean window fog off of your BMW X3:

    - Clean your windows and then take a damp cloth and use some shaving cream to coat them. This is an alternative to the commercial products like Rain - X. I haven't used this so can't vouch for it.

    - Dry out the car on a sunny day with the windows open. Check under the mats and in the trunk for wet spots. As an alternative, use a commercial desiccant.

    - Keep as much water out of the car as possible by shaking everything dry: shoes, coats, umbrellas, hats, towels, etc.

    I like this comment: "(I think the closer a car is to a simple metal box, the worse the fogging)."

    Now THAT is funny.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Fairly common occurance in modern day cars, even the manual control HVAC but most especially those with automatic climate controls. Correlates directly with the A/C cooling system being previously used, even yesterday, and subsequently not in use.

    Best procedure is to somehow disable the A/C when not needed for actual cooling.

    My '01 911/996 C4 has a "hidden" switch that I use to open the A/C compressor clutch circuit throughout the wintertime. My '01 F/awd RX300 has two factory c-best options for this purpose that I had the dealer "reset" not to the factory defaults.
  • pp2009pppp2009pp Posts: 228
    Never had this happen in any other car. The X3 is a universe unto itself with its own set of strange rules.

    You have to keep the AC on because it is the compressor that takes the air and dries it out. That works until it gets too cold and then the compressor stops working.

  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "...this works..."

    Only randomly, only under Mother Nature's rules.

    The ability, efficiency, of the A/C to dehumidify the incoming fresh air is dependent on the current climatic conditions, a hit or miss situation, if you will. Not knowing whether or not it will work, reasonably efficiently or even not at all, at any given time means it's best to simply leave it OFF, not rely on it for purposes of dehumidification EVER.
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 12,747
    The X3 is a universe unto itself with its own set of strange rules.


    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport; 2014 M235i; 2009 Cooper Clubman; 1999 Wrangler; 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2015 X1 xDrive28i Son's: 2009 328i

  • pp2009pppp2009pp Posts: 228
    Everything I read said to leave the AC on whenever the heat is on. It may not be enough but it does help. Also, leaving the AC off during the colder months damages the AC itself. I have heard that it causes the seals to become brittle and leak.

    I can start off with perfectly clear windows and get them to fog up in a few seconds.

    - turn heat on 20 degrees or so above OAT
    - turn AC off
    - turn recirc to fully on

    I'll have to try different permutations now that it is reliably cool outside.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    I have NEVER used, or allowed to be used, my A/C compressor during the winter months, going all the way back to the era of automobiles being commonly equipped with A/C. In previous years, going back to at least '68, I have simply disconnected the A/C compressor clutch circuit throughout the cold climate period.

    My current DD, an '01 F/awd RX300, came with a factory C-BEST option that I had the dealer set to allow me to turn off the A/C indefinitely for the winter duration.

    Probable an aggregate of a million miles with no resulting A/C failure.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "I can start off with perfectly clear windows and get them to fog up in a few seconds.."

    Let me guess...

    You made use of the A/C system for dehumidification yeaterday.

    "This" morning was coolish or cold, the X3's blower was programmed, so as to not unduly discomfort you, to NOT come on until the engine coolant temperature rose to ~130F. Maybe even like Lexus the system outlet airflow was "baffled" against incoming outside COLD airflow (discomfort prevention, again) due to forward speed by routing the airflow to the windshield defrost/defog/demist ducts.

    About a mile or 2 down the road the engine coolant rose to 130F, the blower come on while the system airflow was still routed to the interior system of the windshield, condensation began to form there and the driver reacted by activating the defrost/defor.demist mode.


    Your still coolish windshield is now almost, if not fully, fogged over and now you must pull over and wait for more heat to "arrive".

    Did I get that right..??
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    Contributing factors...

    1. Cabin windows and doors double and triple SEALED against NVH.
    2. Cabin airflow THROUGH-FLOW exhauster ports minimized for A/C cooling efficiency... FE
    3. Super Complex, SPONGE-LIKE density of the A/C cooling vane evaporator surface area, ~10,000 square inches of surface area.
    4. To much, to often, use of recirculate mode, intentionally or inadvertently(***).
    5.Possible...Evaporator vane surface area coated with a porus nylon surface film into which is embedded an anti-microbial chemical, fungicide, to combat the breeding of teh microbes whose "leavings" constitute the mould and mildew odors now so common to these modern systems. Once the chemical washes out of the pores in as little as a few months (days?? {my '92 LS400}, weeks??) you now have a TRUE SPONGE.

    Yesterday when you shut the car down for the day those ~10,000 square inches of evaporator vane surface area was coated with a thin film of condensate, even worse if the nylon pores had become available. During the night the condensate may have evaporated off of the surfaces but with nowhere to "go" just sat there as a huge moisture BOMB awaiting the action of the blower.

    The only easy answers I know of is to leave the windows down each and EVERY night to allow natural convection airflow. But that doesn't solve the problem of the A/C working until the OAT declines below ~35 and the A/C compressor is automatically disabled.

    So the only true solution is to disable the A/C compressor ENTIRELY during the period wherein it's only functionality would be for dehumidification.

    There is a third option, the EED that can be purchased from airsept(.com).

    *** NipponDenso, Denso US have patents involving a technique being used to extend the efficiency of the A/C system for dehumidification. This technique uses a recirculate airflow method, possibly more than 50% recirculated airflow, even with the system in FRESH inlet airflow mode.

    NipponDenso, Denso US, HVAC systems seem to have an unusually high propensity for windshield fogging due to the idiocy of their designs. Most HVAC system of european design, Bosch, etc, react to activation of the defrost/defog/demist mode by provided HEATED airflow to the windshield even on the hottest day of August. Most of these more well thought out systems will also bring on the A/C system but only as an POTENTIAL assist.

    NipponDenso, Denso US, supplies their HVAC design engineers with rose-colored glasses for addressing this problem. You are left on your own to raise the heating level of the windshield airflow in this circumstance.
  • pp2009pppp2009pp Posts: 228
    The time it happened unexpectedly:

    - The car had been driven a few miles and then sat in a parking lot for a few hours. No rain, but humid and a bit chilly. This was in the late afternoon.

    - Drove the car a few miles and managed to fiddle around with the AC. Turned the snowflake button off and the recirc to on (it was chilly) and the windows fogged up instantly...all of them front, back and sides.

    - I now drive with the recirc off, the snowflake button on and add the front and rear defrost/defog as necessary. I do not get the full car fog.

    As I understand it the trick is to bring in cold, dry air which is why cracking the front windows - airflow over the windshield - is supposed to help if you do not have a defogger. Now I leave the HVAC to auto and adjust only two things:

    1. overall temp
    2. the center rotary dial to adjust the temp of the air coming from the center vents
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "..the windows fogged up instantly.."

    I assume you are now aware that this was simply the result of...

    "..Turned the snowflake button off.."

    Turning the A/C compressor off after previous operation solely for purposes of dehumidication will almost ALWAYS result in a sudden rise in the passenger cabin HVAC system airflow humidity. Add cold, or even sometimes just cool, interior window/windshield surfaces to the equation and yes, the windows/windshield will fog over, sometimes virtually instantly.

    What you have to worry about moreso than manual intervention(***1), turning it off yourself, is the system itself disabling the A/C (***2) with no obvious indication/ALARM to the driver.

    ***1 You can become aware of the results of turning it off manually.

    ***2 OAT declined below ~35F, engine coolant is on the verge of overheating, and last, when you parked the car for 10-15 minutes, an hour, or even yesterday.

    "..I now drive with the recirc off and the snowflake button on..."

    Dangerous, that, you would be much more safe via disabling the A/C compressor entirely durirng the cold season. We, you, have no way of knowing if the A/C will be an effective dehumidifier, mother nature has complete and total control of that issue.

    Whereas HEAT, heating the incoming cabin airflow, or more especially, heating the airflow for prevention or removal of windshield condensation, Will ALWAYS be effective at lowering the relative humidity.
  • pp2009pppp2009pp Posts: 228
    If heating the cabin reduces humidity, why is there more fogging with a cabin full of people exhaling warm air?

    From what I have read:

    - cold air is drier which is why cracking a front window to pass colder outside air across the inside of the windshield reduces the moisture of fogging.

    - A/C compressor apparently quits around freezing but above freezing removes moisture from the HVAC system.

    - I thought the AC dumps moisture out of the car - there is a pool of water - when it is turned off. It doesn't get stuck in the system.

    I will try it with the snowflake button off and the recirc off and see if that snowflake makes much of a difference. Since the front windshield defogger is a big blast of warm air, I see what you are saying. I find the entire thing confusing.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    In a "static" situation heating the atmosphere will result in lowering the Rh. Put a steaming teakettle (four humans) in the mix and you will have to continually raise the air temperature to keep the Rh constant.

    Yes, cold air is consistently drier air. That's what makes this situation even MORE dangerous. That COLD and DRY FRESH airflow coming from the outside and flowing through an A/C evaporator covered with moisture due to just previous dehumidification capability will often result in SUPER-SATURATION of the cabin.

    Dehumidification of the system airflow can be efficiently done ONLY if chilling that airflow to ~35F will bring it to dewpoint. If the incoming airflow is both warm and humid then well and good. If the incoming air is fairly humid but already very near that 35F temperature then the efficiency of the A/C for dehumidification might be nil.

    "..It doesn't get stuck in the system.."

    But yes, it does..!

    Assuming climatic conditions allow, and the A/C system is operating, as more and more condensate accumulates on the roughly 10,000 square inches of evaporator vane surface area it will begin to form into droplets to the point wherein gravity will overcome viscosity and those droplets will now flow down the evaporator and eventually exit via the drain hose provided.

    As long as the evaporator is being cooled down to the level wherein dehumidification will occur this is a continuous, ongoing process.


    The instant you switch off the A/C compressor, or it is switched off automatically, the continual gathering of additional moisture soon stops. And now you might well have those 10,000 square inches of evaporator vane surface area thoroughly coated with condensate, WATER.

    Now it might well remain there until climatic conditions change to the point wherein the evaporation of the condensate will begin. Climatic conditions solely within the A/C plenum, within the plenum AND passenger cabin, or if you leave the windows down inclusive of outside climatic conditions.

    The 2010 RX350 has a new feature added to the climate control system. If climatic conditions warrant (I assume sub-45F OAT) it will automatically switch the system into combined footwell and windshield outflow. That's presumably such that the interior windshield surface gets continually warmed, hopefully keeping that surface well above the dewpoint of the cabin atmosphere.
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