Why Does My Car A/C Smell?

  • Aug 31,2020
Woman smelling a bad smell coming from the A/C Woman smelling a bad smell coming from the A/C

There's almost no better feeling than starting your car on a hot day and cranking that A/C to max cold. But that cold breeze can quickly go from refreshing to repulsive if it's blasting a funky smell! Is it just you, though, or is there something seriously wrong with your car? Learn what types of smells can creep through your car's A/C and what they could mean for your vehicle.

Why Does Car A/C Smell?

Your vehicle's air conditioning system can either condition air from outside the vehicle or condition the air that's in the vehicle by recirculating it through the system. If the source of a strange odor exists near or inside your car, then your air conditioner essentially channels that smell straight through your vents and into your face!

Strange, sudden odors coming through your A/C from inside or outside your vehicle can usually be resolved by removing or driving away from the odor. But if your car A/C smells like vinegar, gas, mold, mildew, or even like it's burning, there may be cause for concern.

Your A/C Smells Like Gasoline

While your cabin air filter does a good job of filtering out dust, debris, and other harmful materials, it's not quite strong enough to filter out stronger smells like gas. If your vehicle is leaking gas, there's a good chance that the smell of gas will get sucked into your cabin through the air conditioning.

A gas leak can be very dangerous. If you smell gas in your A/C, it's best to shut off your car immediately and have it towed to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care to have your fuel system inspected and repaired if necessary.

Your A/C Smells Like Mildew or Mold

If your car A/C smells like mildew or mold, it could very well be actual mildew or mold! As your vehicle ages, bacteria can grow in the system where moisture typically collects — particularly on the A/C's evaporator. When this happens, a pungent, mildew-like smell can get blasted into your cabin through your A/C vents.

If your mold or mildew problem seems mild, there are over-the-counter remedies available. If you're looking for something with an easy application, try a vent and duct cleaner you can spray into your vents to help neutralize the odor. For a long-term solution, schedule an A/C service appointment at Firestone Complete Auto Care to have your system inspected and repaired as necessary.

Your A/C Smells Like Vinegar

Are you smelling a pungent vinegar smell when cooling down your car? While this foul odor is undeniable, the source may be a bit tricky to pinpoint. Certain types of mold can cause your car's air conditioning to smell like vinegar.

Much bigger issues could cause foul odors in your A/C, too, such as ozone emissions, which tend to smell vinegary, or leaking battery acid, which has a strong sulfur smell. If a vent and duct cleaning spray doesn't eliminate your vinegar odor issue, it's best to have a professional inspect your air conditioning system.

Your A/C Has A Burning Smell

A burning smell from your car's A/C is never a good sign. But the type of burning smell can make a difference in how you react! Here are a few common types of burning smells you could smell coming through the A/C.

Burning Rubber

You may smell burning rubber if there is an issue with the A/C compressor, A/C compressor clutch or a misaligned pulley. Either of these may cause the belt to drag which may cause a burning rubber smell.

Burning Plastic

Electrical shorts, burning wires or hoses, and even excessive dust in the vents can cause a burning plastic smell in your vehicle's air conditioning.

Burning Oil

Over time, oil can leak from your engine through gaskets, hoses, and even the oil filter. When this leaky oil hits your hot engine or other heated elements under the hood, it can quickly emit a burning oil odor that can blow in with your A/C.

In general, it's safe to assume that any burning smell emitting from your vehicle's A/C is not a good sign. Since each type of burning smell can be caused by a number of issues, it's hard to diagnose the problem with just your nose. Instead, head into your closest Firestone Complete Auto Care to let our professional technicians sniff out the root of that burning odor, so you and your car can stay safe and cool on the road.

Your A/C Smells Sweet

Can you smell a sweet scent coming from your A/C? You might not want to take a big whiff. A sweet scent in your car's air conditioning could indicate an antifreeze leak in your cooling system. Ethylene glycol is a component in antifreeze that makes it excellent at lowering the freezing temperature of the liquid. It's also the same substance that gives antifreeze it's strangely sweet scent.

Leaking coolant can be detrimental to your vehicle. If you smell something sweet in your car's A/C, it's vital to have your vehicle brought in immediately for a Complete Vehicle Inspection.

Freshen Up Your A/C with Firestone

Strange smells in your air conditioning can be unpleasant, and some can even be downright dangerous! If you've got a weird smell blowing out of your A/C, then it's time to head into a Firestone Complete Auto Care near you for expert A/C service and repair! We'll give your system a thorough inspection — from seals and hoses to compressors and blower motors — and repair or replace the necessary parts to ensure your air conditioning is at its freshest!

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