smelly vent

dhl7dhl7 Member Posts: 1
edited March 2014 in Acura
Whenever I turn my fan on, the air smells
like old laundry. Is there a way to clean
the vent? I have '96 integra.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    This is a common problem with A/C systems, caused by mold and bacteria that love the moist air in there.

    Your dealer probably has a pretty good fix...sometimes a spray like "OZIUM" works, but sometimes if it persists, you need to towel out the vents and that may require some disassembly. You need to get that crude out of there somehow.
    You might also give a call to Acura customer relations. Your dealer has the number.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 868
    Here is an expensive solution: Buy an ozone machine. They are in the hundreds of dollars, depending on the size, but they work.

    We have a "living air" machine, and use it for everything. It eliminated the smoke smell in our basement in 1/2 hour during the salesman's demo, so we bought it. Frying in the kitchen? We run it to eliminate the smell. Turned on the furnace last week. Pointed the air cleaner into the furnace intake to eliminate the initial burning smell.

    Smells in the air are due to active substances. Ozone, O3, is very reactive, and reacts with these substances to eliminate such problems.

    Sorry for the commercial guys. No I have no stake in these things.

    I did see one article on the net on how Canada's health agency recommends to NOT use these things. High levels of ozone are dangerous, keep that in mind. I am careful to turn it down if anyone smells ozone in the house, and it has EASILY solved numerous problems, so we don't worry about it.

    Community Leader/Vans Conference
  • btroybtroy Member Posts: 92
    I live in North Carolina - plenty of humidity and long summers with A/C running the whole time. The perfect recipe for moldy ducts, which are a very common problem here. I would really be interested in finding a solution, too. I know you can go to the dealer and pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a thorough internal cleaning and treatment with some sort of chemical, but the way I see it, this is a chronic problem, so what do you do when it comes back??

    I have tried spraying Lysol into the vent intake. I think my owner's manual even recommends this. It may help somewhat. I also try to dry the ducts out whenever possible by running with the A/C off. This probably helps a little bit. The problem hasn't gotten out of hand yet on my current car, but I'm afraid it's just a matter of time. Yesterday I bought a can of "ozium" and am trying this currently (I won't really know if this makes much difference until next summer).

    One really interesting thing I read about yesterday at (mechanic section) is that GM supposedly offers an "after blow" kit that works by running your vent fan for a period of time after you shut off your car. The idea is to dry out the ducts to keep growth down. Sounds like a fantastic idea. Make one for my Ford and make it affordable (and simple to install)!! This seems like a real solution.

    Car makers: are you listening. I don't want a TV/VCR in my car or satellite communication. I just want the fan to blow for a few minutes after I park. How hard can that be? One of your college interns could design that in during your coffee break.

    I think it is truly unfortunate that cars are designed and built by people who live in cool climates (Detroit, Germany, etc.). We don't need your seat heaters, block heaters or headlight wipers, thanks anyway.

    I'll keep you'all posted if the ozium helps or I learn anything else.
  • pat455pat455 Member Posts: 603
    If you use the "see all responses" choice at the top of the page under the topic title, you can read through all the posts here. There have been several suggestions for odor removal earlier in this topic.

    Good luck. Sounds horrible. :-(

    If you have success, come back and let us know what worked for you.

    Community Leader/Maintenance & Repair Conference
  • mike21210mike21210 Member Posts: 1
    ozone generators or "ionizers" are not always a great solution. Ozone is known to cause adverse health effects and does cause some people to be even more sensitive to other pollutants.

    The American Lung Association and the EPA suggest not using ozone generating air cleaners.

    Yes they can work effectively, however, they should never be used in an occupied room. you won't die, but it can relate to health problems.

    This makes it a BAD choice for a vehicle. Dealers or detailers can clean the vent/AC system to eliminate the odors.

    But the WILL RETURN unless the source (pooling water or high humidity) is eliminated.

    The next best "band-aid" would be a cabin filter with HEPA filtration and a carbon filter. These are not common accessories that I am aware of.

    That is all for now...
  • 92mx692mx6 Member Posts: 1
    This is actually a problem that is experienced with most Honda made vehicles. It is caused by mold in the climate control system. To get rid of your problem Honda recommends turning your heat on high (as hot as it will get), I believe with the AC on and allow the system to dry out (let it run maybe a half hour or so). This should help kill most of the mold and get rid of your smell. Also, when it is moist or humid out only put your heat/AC on recycled air (prevents introducing moisture to system) and on nice days use fresh air (helps keep the system dry). Hope this helps. They also say if the problem is bad enough you'll have to take the advice of Mr. Shiftright and disassemble and clean, but after that if you follow the above your problem will be eliminated.
  • hopinghoping Member Posts: 3
    Ford has a September '99 technical service bulletin for a moisture reduction module (MRM) to be installed in ductwork to run for a few minutes after car shuts down in order to dry out ductwork. It was installed on my '98 Sable, but it didn't work. If only they would install it BEFORE the problem develops, but that would make too much sense. However, you could try asking them to do so. Show them this response!

    So far as ozone is concerned, it also didn't work on either my 86 Taurus, my 98 Sable, or my 99 Sable. Where does one find "Ozium"? I'll try anything, at this point, because it looks like Ford isn't the only one with the mold problem. Maybe with monthly applications of it, I can stay ahead of the problem. I can't keep taking the car apart each month to clean all surfaces. Why are all these mold problems occurring, anyway? Are they something new due to new materials or designs?
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 868
    How was ozone used on the vehicles it didn't work on? Can?

    Community Leader/Vans Conference
  • hopinghoping Member Posts: 3
    To try to get rid of mold within AC system, we used an ozone machine, running it inside car, all closed up, with AC on high. Then we put it next to air intake in cowling, put fan on high. Tried both small and mega ozone machines, but still mold, though a tad reduced. Is it possible to get ozone in a can, and how would application be any different? Why would results be any better than what we tried?

    I must admit I am more sensitive to mold than most people I know with allergies. The bottom line is that although my husband isn't bothered at all by my car, I am the one who drives it so it is now for sale. I give up. Anyone want a good deal on an excellent car? Merc Sable LE Wagon for $17,200 with every option except CD. 19K.
  • bobs5bobs5 Member Posts: 557
    Make sure the drain for the ac/heater assembly is not clogged with leaves or debris, as this will hold water and cause mold.

    Saw on one of the tv car programs (Motorweek I think) where they used a disinfectant foam which was pumped throughout the entire air vent system. This supposedly worked for them.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 868
    Hoping, what you did is the best way to fix the problem. I was worried that you might be using a can, which is worthless.

    I don't know why this doesn't work. The machines are producing ozone, right? Nasty smell?

    I just remembered, we used the machine at sister's house. Water running down basement walls. A whole wall full of mold. Machine killed it all. Hmmmm....

    Community Leader/Vans Conference
  • hopinghoping Member Posts: 3
    I know the ozone kills organic things, but somehow it didn't work in my car. Ozone does work well in buildings and is used in car industry to remove smoke odor before reselling (or even dead animal/human odors). But no dice in my car's vent system.
  • butch11butch11 Member Posts: 153
    Yeah when ozone hits a moist surface, there is a reaction-something to do with a free radical-it kills things. Let's see our lungs are moist-when ozone hits the damp surfaces of our lungs---.

    People like these things because of the clean "smell" of nascent oxygen. It is dangerous in my opinion.

    In the summer when I start my AC on my honda-it reeks-that blast of stuff has a lot of mold in it-it too can be very bad for people with respiratory issues or allergic reactions. Found if I turn on the heat just before I shut the system down and dry it out-helps.
  • insc007insc007 Member Posts: 3
    While this is unlikely to be your problem, my old boss used to have a 1981 mustang that had an aweful stench coming out of the vent...tried the sprays that are supposed to eliminate the contaminants with no luck. it eventually got so bad that we took took the dashboard apart and ended finding a mouse in the ducting. the mouse had apparantly nested in the car while in storage and did not live to see the light of day.
    good thing it's not very likely to be your problem.
  • light2light2 Member Posts: 6
    My problem with my Nissan is that it smells like exhaust inside the car. Drive with windows open. Nissan (Corporate) is not helpful. Any consumer organizations or is anyone else having problems with this type of smell in ANY car?
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 868
    Does this car have a lot of miles on it? Is it possible the catalytic converter is rusted through?

    Community Leader/Vans
  • light2light2 Member Posts: 6
    Guitarzan, This is a 1999 Nissan Altima with 14,600 miles. The converter has already been changed once. The smell started 6 months after I bought the car. Dealer and manufacturer say it's the high sulfur content in Illlinois.

    Any ideas? Any others out there? I'm looking for others with the same problem to form a class-action team.
  • obyoneobyone Member Posts: 7,841
    Check out this website:

    for solution to smelly a/c vents.
  • light2light2 Member Posts: 6
    Having the heater on high in my 99 Altima makes the smell worse. Dealer says it's the gas in IL area, high sulfur content. I've checked out DWD Web site, but I think this is a defect that dealer should alleviate. Any other thoughts, success stories of dealer or manufacturer intervention would be appreciated.

    To Clean Air!
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 868
    Has it been ruled out that you may be smelling antifreeze? One possibility with such symptoms is that the heater core is leaking. Except for the fact that antifreeze is normally very recognizable, and you and the mechanics don't think it is that...
  • brian713626brian713626 Member Posts: 3
    Please do some research - at least read the health warnings from the health agencies. I have installed large ozone generators in hospitals, city morgues and in autos in the past. One of the company making these products is in danger of paying a huge fine due to its claims of killing bacteria. I will no longer install these units and have suggest the removal of installed units. I bought all of the claims SINCE THEY SEEMED TO WORK. I AM NOW CONVINCED that the units mask the offending odors . High levels of ozone are very dangerous to your health and this is why the health agencies has stepped in to file suit. Please call up Alpine ozone generators and make up your own mind. These units - in my lowly opinion- only mask the problem. It`s very simple in cars. Cold air in A.C. DUCTS CAUSE CONDENSATION ON THE WARMER DUCT WALLS.This moisture allows bacteria to grow inside your ducts. I found that if I turn off my A.C. unit during the last couply of miles of my daily commute and run outside air thru my duct system the moisture dries up. No moisture = no mold.
  • brian713626brian713626 Member Posts: 3
    In my above post I did not want you to call the ozone generator manufacturer I meant for you to go on line .Your search phrase is Alpine ozone generator. By the time you read all of the documentation I doubt if anyone will select the unit as a cure. Again I bought the claims since the unit seemed to cure odor problems.I didn`t realize the units mask the problem with the ozone odor.Please be careful this unit can be dangerous.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 868
    I've said this previously: Our basement smells terribly all year long, simply from using a wood burning stove over the winter. After 1/2 hour of running the Alpine ozone generator, then airing out all of the offending ozone, the smell disappeared completely. If offending smoke continues to come down the chimney in trickles, we leave the ozone machine on "low", to continue to react with the smoke.

    You have a good point, although your post seems a little misleading. Ozone IS dangerous to people's health. It takes the kidneys great effort to clean ozone out of our bodies.

    I am NOT saying the ozone machine is the best solution for water in the vents. After all, the moisture might come back daily depending on the weather, type of car, etc. However, an ozone machine can be used to rid any area of any offending smell. The procedure I would use: Close all windows, put machine inside vehicle, and turn on full blast. Leave it there for 1/2 hour-1 hour. Open vehicle up completely, and air it out. Ozone will stick to the fabric somewhat, so when first driving, open the sunroof, turn on the vents, open the windows, etc. to air the vehicle out thoroughly. Once the ozone is gone, it poses no health risk.

    O3, or ozone, is extremely reactive. Any active substance will combine with the ozone, forming O2 (oxygen) and harmless particulate matter. Then, like I said, the extra ozone should be aired out and not breathed in!

    You may be right that ozone doesn't kill bacteria. I have no idea about that. All I know is any time we have an offensive smell around our house, we put the ozone machine in the area, turn it on full blast, remove it within an hour, and air the area out.

    I do know that at some medical facilities they turn these things on, and leave a concentrated ozone spread throughout people's living quarters. This is plain DUMB, and serves NO purpose, other than to potentially damage the kidneys and poison-removal bodily systems of those people around it.
  • domino8domino8 Member Posts: 2
    light2 - I have a 1999 I30L - great car, 6 mo. old. In October I started to smell that rotten egg smell. A few phone calls & a trip to the dealer and all they could give me was "It's not your catalytic converter - it's the sulfer content in this year's gas". Apparently in the Northeast from Oct. to April they change the gas we use for the winter months. Wouldn't have bought the car if I had known. I have NEVER had this problem with any car - smells like sewage. Other than that I love everything else about the car. Find it really hard to believe that Nissan (and according to my dealer - Lexus & Toyota)can get away with catalytic converters that can't deal with normal levels of sulfer in gasoline. They also said that it's worse for around-town driving.............Still looking for a solution to this one. One more thing, the dealer's best suggestion was to try different gasolines (stations/brands) until I found one that alleviated the problem some. Have you had any luck with yours?????
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    The GM TSB was one that I could load up on the computer without any hassle.I don't recommend any chemicla additives or sprays other than coatings put out by the manufacturer.If you read the GM TSB I posted,you will see an appropriate cure for the problem.
  • staff2staff2 Member Posts: 1
    Help, I have never heard of such a thing, have you? I have a very heavy flower smell that does not smell good come from my vents both A/C on or off. I took it to the dealer. They looked everywhere (supposedly). Even took off the dash to see if anything in there. The dealer has no idea of what it is or how to get ride of it. I have never used any air freshners as I suffer from headaches with all most any smells. Why is this smell there, why won't it go away?
  • j_colemanj_coleman Member Posts: 143
    I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day about smelly car parts. It was specifically about Mercedes. They have investigators who have very good noses that are able to smell the bad parts on the assembly line whenever customers complain about odors. This happens sometimes since many parts used in cars today come from recycled materials.
  • riolomasriolomas Member Posts: 1
    We bought a 1998 Nissan Sentra about 2 weeks ago form a new/used car dealer. I noticed a strong and slightly sweet perfume smell that I thought the dealer put in just to freshen the car up. But now I'm wondering if someone was trying to cover up a mold or mildew smell. The car seems to be making me sick with an odd sore throat, eye irritation, fever, headache and a buzzing in the head. I notice it for several hours to a day after I use the car. My wife hasn't used the car as much and doesn't have these symptoms but she has developed an unusual rash on her neck. I took the car to a local Nissan dealership and he took it for a drive and said he didn't notice anything unusual - just a perfume smell some dealers put in their cars. But I truly feel sick after I drive this car for any length of time. And now I'm quite worried that this is very dangerous. Is there any way to find out if its mold for sure?
  • rykeronerykerone Member Posts: 7
    Look under the cars and around areas that cannot be seen for water damage. Look for stains, muds, debris that does belong there.

    Your symtoms may be from the mold.
  • light3light3 Member Posts: 3
    99 Nissan Altima that has smelly inside (fka light2.

    Nissan (Corp) inspector could not smell it and say there's no defect.

    Domino8, stinking in Mi too, riolomas, staff2, I suggest you do what I didn't. If your car is under warranty, take it in everyday for the smell. You may be able to get it replaced within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles. But you must follow your state's lemon laws (you can find on computer).

    Action is key! Keep taking it back to dealer. I'm out of time on my 12 months and nothing was ever recorded to be wrong on service records, so they think I'm a pain in the butt.

    I'm suggesting people not buy 99 Altimas and hope no one else has to go through this. It's so frustrating!

    Lawyer said certified mechanical has to sign statement and testify to take action and what good is 1 person against Nissan?

    So, I'm stuck. Hope to trade in before 3 years are up because windows are rattling now.

    Good luck to you. Remember to keep taking it back and get what they did recorded on your records and theirs.
  • mrldmrld Member Posts: 1
    I bought a Lexus RX300 in March. As the new car odor started to lessen, I noticed an overtone of a chemical type odor. Last month, I went to the dealer for service and mentioned the odor. The serviceman did the service and then told me there were parts of a dead rat in the air conditioning filter. I think it was there when they sold it to me. The odor is still there. Any suggestions?
  • sbrandonsbrandon Member Posts: 24
    Although this may be too late for some, and may not even work, but we had a dealer tell us that if you run the a/c on recycle, you need to switch to open vent and let run for a minute or two when you are ready to shut down for an extended period. The closed loop of the recycle does trap "stuff" in the system. So far this has worked for us (in MD). I'm trying to get my folks in SC to make sure they do the same.
  • dougmahoneydougmahoney Member Posts: 1
    I have a Tacoma P/U & an Avalon both 1999 that both have the mold problem as well as my sisters 1995 Camery.the manufactures have been aware of this problem for many years and have failed to implement known solutions. The dealers solution is to turn on the blower to high and introduce lysol into the intake. Now I have a truck that three days after still smells of lysol so bad it just sits in my garage with the windows open. Help!!! this mold is a serious health hazard the warrants a recall on all makes and models where are the lawers for a class action?
  • jontyreesjontyrees Member Posts: 160
    I have a '99 Trooper that suffers from B.O. (blower odor), as does about every other car around here, (Austin, TX). I'm ready to try the Lysol remedy, or actually Clorox air freshener, but I'm not sure where the air system pulls in air. Someone told me to squirt it into the windshield defroster vents when the a/c is on recycle - does this make sense?

    Quick bad-smell-horror-story: my uncle in England had a Citroen that had the air vents between the front seats, (go figure, my brother had a Renault with a manual stick shift that you pulled and twisted out of the center of the dash!) Anyway, new puppy, car sick, dog vomit in heating vents, smell there for years.

  • auzivisionauzivision Member Posts: 8
    My wifes Saturn started having this moldy smeeling odor after about 1 year. She took it back to Saturn and they installed a devise that runs the blower motor for about 10 minutes to dry out the system after the car has been parked for about 30 minutes. If Saturn can do it, why don't the higher end producers do it?
  • garyg4garyg4 Member Posts: 2
    I bought a 2000 Camry LE, living in Houston. In July, with 1800 miles, the a/c system starting emitting musty odors when I started the car up. Dealer says this is normal for Houston and provided a "one-time good-will" evaporator cleaning and said they couldn't do anything more. Has anyone had any experience to get this fixed with Toyota? Is there a Technical Service Bulletin from Toyota out there? Appreciate your responses.
  • mizeumlmizeuml Member Posts: 50
    I have a 1999 Pontiac Montana and am experiencing a bad odor from the vents. This problems happens every time we start the van up. If the A/C is on,
    then the smell only last for a couple minutes, but
    if you turn the A/C off and just run the outside
    vent, then the smell is constant and does not go
    away. This problem started at about 20,000 miles
    and the dealer installed an Electronic Dryer Module which cost GM Warranty about $800. I found out that there was a GM Service Bulletin out about
    this problem and it required installing this module so I passed on this information to the dealer and they did it. This helped for a couple monthes, but now the problem is worse than ever and the dealer has been unable to fix it the last couple visits. Last time they disinfected the A/C, but this did not help. They said this was common on the Buicks and thought this would solve the problem. Has anyone else experienced this smell from the vents? Any ideas on how to solve it? We now have about 35000 miles on the van and the warranty is about up. This has been one of the many problems this van has had and we have been back to the dealer over 15 times for different repairs. I have listed them under the Topic "2000 Montana". I live in NC where the humidity is bad.

  • darthpeckerdarthpecker Member Posts: 8
    Musky smells in summer are typically due to molds from the A/C vents. Ways to prevent this is to turn your A/C off when you get out of the car and turn it to a vent switch (not bi-level or defrosts). This will allow outside air to circulate (got that tip from my Ford Explorer owner's manual). Our old '96 Accord had this problem. My wife leaves the A/C on when she turns the car off, even worse was she left the A/C in recirculation (MAX A/C). DO NOT LEAVE THE A/C ON- MAX OR RECIRCULATE. Outside air can't come in to dry out the vent system. The condensate creates a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.

    I finally got her out of that habit with the Explorer, showing her the recommendation from Ford. I then used a trick that I saw on the evening news. Spray Lysol into all of the vents to kill the mold. Her Explorer is now smell free.
  • rhiarhia Member Posts: 1
    We purchased a VW Jetta in 97 and have had the mold problem ever since. We had it back to the dealer at least 5 times, and they never were able to fix the problem. We were told by the dealer and a German import mechanic that it is a design flaw. Seems to me that should warrant a recall to address the problem. Does anyone else have a similar problem?
  • fumesbegonefumesbegone Member Posts: 1
    Does anyone know of a manufacturer that has NOT gone to the automatic opening to fresh air when defrost is selected, even though recirculation is engaged? I've found that most salesmen do not know that the vehicles they sell do this until I ask them to check the owner's manual. I am extremely sensitive to many chemicals, including exhaust fumes, and have always had Toyotas specifically for the manual recirc. feature. Alas, even they have gone to the auto. opening. I know their reasoning, but it is a nightmare for people who are highly sensitive to these fumes.
  • wwestwwest Member Posts: 10,706
    1. The new refrigerants are less effective than freon, therefore the evaporators in most new cars are now more dense and complex than previously, total surface area is MUCH greater.
    2. Efficency is further improved by keeping the blower velocity as low as functionally possible. The slower the air moves through the evaporator vanes, the cooler it becomes.
    3. Many new cars have variable levels of flow-through (new intake air), RECIRCULATED air often does not need to be heated or cooled as much as incoming outside air. In automatic mode most cars modulate the amount of incoming airflow.
    4. Many manufacturer's signed on to NipponDenso, Denso USA's practice of embedding an anti-microbe chemical within the evaporator, this was done by attaching a porous nylon material to the vanes of the evaporator into which the chemical was "soaked". Once the chemical was all used up these nylon pores becames an excellent storage place for the cool moisture molecules which promote mold and mildew.
    5. In older vehicles, and in many newer vehicles such as Saab, the A/C compressor was not allowed to operate below about 45F. Then someone decided NipponDenso again?) that the A/C could be used below this temperature to help defog the windshield, IF (DAMN BIG IF!) the system could be made efficient enough to actually extract (condense) moisture from incoming airflow that was already cold.
  • wwestwwest Member Posts: 10,706
    1. Disconnect the A/C compressor power at the clutch itself during continuing operation with outside air temperatures below 50F.
    2. If you are able to do so, open as many windows as possible when the car is parked, expecially overnite.
    3. Always use HEAT and flow-through ventilation mode to defog the windshield, and to dehumidify the cabin atmosphere, especially when temperatures are below 50F.
    4. Running the system on MAX HEAT, MAX blower and FULL recirculate mode (the A/C evaporator is upstream of the heater core, INCOMING outside air would not be heated)for a few minutes after the cabin becomes uncomfortable before shuting the vehicle down for the evening will certainly help.
    5. For those of you who still insist on using the A/C to dehumidify the cabin or defog the windshield please remember that by design, THERE IS NO EXISTING SYSTEM THAT WILL COOL THE EVAPORATOR BELOW FREEZING, and most cease to operate the compressor altogether below about 35F.
    If you drive into a climate wherein temperatures decline below this level the dehumidification capabilities of these systems will become nill. What is even worse is that the moisture previously condensed onto the evaporator surfaces will then begin to evaporate into the incoming airstream, sometimes rapidly so.

    So, be REALLY careful out there!
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