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      01-17-2013, 06:06 PM   #1
rjg
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Odd smell from vents with AC off

When I turn the fan on with the AC off, the air coming through the vents has an unpleasant smell. It doesn't strike me as a chemical odor, nor does it smell like burnt oil (I know that valve cover leaks can sometimes cause a burning oil smell in the cabin, but that's not what this smells like).

To be frank, the odor calls to mind a neglected public restroom where people have been pissing on the floor. Switching between fresh air, recirculate, and auto-recirculate doesn't seem to have any affect on the smell. However, if I turn the AC on, the smell stops completely.

The dealer changed the cabin filter just a few weeks ago, but the smell is still there.

Any ideas?
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      01-17-2013, 06:20 PM   #2
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Get some lysol disenfectant spray and pull your cabin filter. Spray that down into that area with the fan at full blast. There might be a little bit of mold or mildew in the ducts
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      01-17-2013, 07:14 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CGMike View Post
Get some lysol disenfectant spray and pull your cabin filter. Spray that down into that area with the fan at full blast. There might be a little bit of mold or mildew in the ducts
Dont bother with Lysol. I had a horrible oder in my car right afte i purchased it. I bought a solution that I found from a manufacturer locally to me and it worked so well i couldnt even tell there ever was an oder in the car. The product is called Biolife

Here is the link. A little pricey at 28.99 but totally worth it.
http://www.dvelup.com/Cart/index.php...roducts_id=109

maybe you can call them and ask if they have a smaller quantity. you wont need much but i ran my AC and sprayed every inch of carpet and let it suck through the vents. The oder went away fairly fast and has never returned. I know this company sells to dealers who are looking for a fast fix to sell cars. They claim that they used the solution on a vehicle that was filled with smoke order from a person smoking in it and the oder went away. I of course cannot confirm this as I dont smoke.
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      01-17-2013, 07:32 PM   #4
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Dont bother with Lysol. I had a horrible oder in my car right afte i purchased it. I bought a solution that I found from a manufacturer locally to me and it worked so well i couldnt even tell there ever was an oder in the car. The product is called Biolife
Thanks for the tip, but I'd like to figure out what's actually causing the smell. Like I said, it's only there when the vent fan is on without the AC; otherwise, there's no smell from the carpets, etc.

My car is still under warranty till the end of March, and this can't be a "normal" smell from the ventilation system. I suppose I'll have to take it to the dealer, but I just know that this sort of issue is going to be tedious to address with the service department.
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      01-18-2013, 12:12 AM   #5
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It could be mildew. Thats why I suggested lysol, to kill the mildew. Or you can try what the other guy posted. It will take you a couple bucks and 5 minutes to try, if the smell returns, then take it to the dealer.
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      01-18-2013, 12:53 AM   #6
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Check your Cabin Air Filter. they are very easy to get access too. If you find a DIY for an Oil Catch Can, it covers the steps necessary to remove the shrouding covering the filter.

If you still have warranty on your car, BMW will switch it out for you. BMW recently replaced my filter during a routine service. I had no issues with the old one.
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      01-18-2013, 01:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjg View Post
When I turn the fan on with the AC off, the air coming through the vents has an unpleasant smell. It doesn't strike me as a chemical odor, nor does it smell like burnt oil (I know that valve cover leaks can sometimes cause a burning oil smell in the cabin, but that's not what this smells like).

To be frank, the odor calls to mind a neglected public restroom where people have been pissing on the floor. Switching between fresh air, recirculate, and auto-recirculate doesn't seem to have any affect on the smell. However, if I turn the AC on, the smell stops completely.

The dealer changed the cabin filter just a few weeks ago, but the smell is still there.

Any ideas?


Pay attention to your AC performance. If it starts to decline, then the problem could be the evaporator. I had the same problem, 1st the smell, we tried everything that could help with no success...then I noticed that the performance of the AC was declining, a couple of months later, AC just stopped cooling. Took it to the dealer and they diagnosed evaporator Mulfunction "leaking gas" that's where the smell was coming from. They put a new evaporator, AC was back and the smell is gone.
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      01-18-2013, 01:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rori zahr View Post
Pay attention to your AC performance. If it starts to decline, then the problem could be the evaporator. I had the same problem, 1st the smell, then the performance declining, then AC just stopped cooling. Tok it to the dealer and they diagnosed evaporator problem. They changed it.
+1. Except mine never failed. It just smelled really bad and I couldn't handle the smell
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      01-18-2013, 04:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenkirby21 View Post
+1. Except mine never failed. It just smelled really bad and I couldn't handle the smell
The AC in my car failed almost 8 months or more after the smell was 1st notice.
I was breathing GAS for all that time
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      01-18-2013, 05:26 AM   #10
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I wouldn't use Lysol. You need to use a product designed to kill the mold and junk growing inside your HVAC and vents.


I bought a used e39 5er (last year) and the former owner smoked and the car had some "funky smells" inside the cabin. This product from SONAX total go rid of the smell(s).


DIY... How to rid your HVAC of that funky smell...
http://www.1addicts.com/forums/showt...ht=sonax+klima
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      01-19-2013, 11:55 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rori zahr View Post
Pay attention to your AC performance. If it starts to decline, then the problem could be the evaporator. I had the same problem, 1st the smell, we tried everything that could help with no success...then I noticed that the performance of the AC was declining, a couple of months later, AC just stopped cooling. Took it to the dealer and they diagnosed evaporator Mulfunction "leaking gas" that's where the smell was coming from. They put a new evaporator, AC was back and the smell is gone.
Thanks for the response. The smell that I'm referring to is only present when the AC is off, and it does not smell like a chemical. Did yours smell when the AC was off, and did it smell "chemical", or "organic"?
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      01-19-2013, 12:27 PM   #12
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The issue of mold/mildew/bad smell in the ventilation systems of BMWs is pretty well documented in other posts. You typically smell it when the AC is off and it doesnt have anything to do with AC performance or the cabin filter. I have had it in several cars despite trying to turn the AC off a few miles from my destination to allow the system to warm up and avoid condensation in the system. Somewhere there was an older 3 series DIY regarding de-odorizing and cleaning the parts of the system, but it was pretty involved and required getting up and into the dash to expose parts (condenser?) of the system. There are also other posts describing how to spray chemical agents into the system through the front cowl in the engine compartment. I think I saved links to them, so I will try and post when I find.

BMW dealerships also have a typical AC air duct cleaning service. I have a $99 coupon (list for service is $260) that describes the work as follows: "The system will be deodorized and sanitized using a BMW approved process. An antifungal and sanitizing agent will be fogged through the ducting and A/C systems removing odor causing fungus and bacteria".
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      01-19-2013, 03:19 PM   #13
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Smell is organic, and the smell is there even when the AC is off as it's caused by a gas leakage from the evaporator. The smell will condensate inside the dashboard and then it would get through the vents and into the cabin as soon as you turn the ventilation or the AC on.
Several minutes after turning vent or AC on, the smell would fades away and becomes unnoticeable, until the next journey, the process repeats itself again and again...
if you want to make sure your AC system has no gas leakage, you can ask the dealer to put pressurise it and monitor it for 24 hours or so, if the pressure drops, then it's most probably the evaporator.
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      01-20-2013, 05:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjg View Post
Thanks for the response. The smell that I'm referring to is only present when the AC is off, and it does not smell like a chemical. Did yours smell when the AC was off, and did it smell "chemical", or "organic"?
I have had an E85 Z4 and two E60 5s, all of them smelled funky without the AC compressor on and cleaning the filter did not affect it. I figured the smell was due to moisture related gunk in the pipes, but you don't smell it with the AC on because the air is dry an cold..?
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      01-23-2013, 09:14 PM   #15
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happened to me recently! if it smelles like horse shit and mildew. that means ur ac needs to be repaired.
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      01-23-2013, 09:24 PM   #16
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I had a smell that kinda smelled like bad Indian food mixed with gym socks. Took the car to BMW and the tech just sprayed a disinfectant / anti fungal into the hvac system. The smell lingered a bit, so the next time I opened my ecu, I took the opportunity to clean out the hvac system which I needed to take off to access the ecu anyway. It's right up top, and very easy to clean yourself. Really, you usually don't even need to take it apart to spray stuff in it, but you can easily scrub the whole thing if you want to, just follow a JB4 install guide up to the part where you remove the hvac stuff.
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      01-24-2013, 09:16 AM   #17
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I had a smell that kinda smelled like bad Indian food mixed with gym socks. Took the car to BMW and the tech just sprayed a disinfectant / anti fungal into the hvac system. The smell lingered a bit, so the next time I opened my ecu, I took the opportunity to clean out the hvac system which I needed to take off to access the ecu anyway. It's right up top, and very easy to clean yourself. Really, you usually don't even need to take it apart to spray stuff in it, but you can easily scrub the whole thing if you want to, just follow a JB4 install guide up to the part where you remove the hvac stuff.
Can you please be more specific???
My hunch is that most of the molds would grow at or near the evaporator where the cold moister condenses and remains on the cold surfaces when operation ceases.

Can you actually easily get to those locations?

Thank you
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      01-24-2013, 10:15 AM   #18
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Can you please be more specific???
My hunch is that most of the molds would grow at or near the evaporator where the cold moister condenses and remains on the cold surfaces when operation ceases.

Can you actually easily get to those locations?

Thank you
Well I'll upload a couple pics. What you see in the first picture is the engine bay. I circled the HVAC ducting. You pull off the cowls on the left and right, then unscrew the ducting (six 8 mm screws) and then pull off the bigger cowl underneath the ducting (2 more 8 mm screws and some rubber tabs) after just unclipping the two rubber hoses running in front of it.



You should then be left with the underside exposed, like in this second picture, which shows where an OCC would install under all that:



In the second picture I circled one of the two rectangular holes (the only one visible since it's a zoomed in pic towards the driver side of the engine bay) where the HVAC ducting screws into. The ducting you took off will have the filter in it, with lots of little crevasses where fungus and bacteria love to grow. The evaporator/refridgeration unit is built a little further into the car, so you can't physically take it out or anything, but if you look at the way the ducting goes, spraying into the rectangular holes is MUCH more direct than sucking in the a spray cleaner from the exterior of the car.
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      01-24-2013, 02:23 PM   #19
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I'll add another datapoint to this discussion. Sometimes the AC performance can decline very slowly and might not be very noticeable. If you have access to a thermometer, check each side of the vents with the AC on high. If there is any more than a slight difference in values between the two sides, you probably have low refrigerant/leaking evaporator. The leak will cause a bad odor.

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      01-24-2013, 03:31 PM   #20
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I'll add another datapoint to this discussion. Sometimes the AC performance can decline very slowly and might not be very noticeable. If you have access to a thermometer, check each side of the vents with the AC on high. If there is any more than a slight difference in values, you probably have low refrigerant/leaking evaporator. The leak will cause a bad odor.
that's exactly what happened to my car, that's exactly what I was trying to explain above... it can take a year before it get noticeable...
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      01-25-2013, 10:01 AM   #21
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Thank you 1Speedbike.
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      01-25-2013, 01:48 PM   #22
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I had this problem on a few cars about 10 or 12 years ago but I found a way to prevent it happening. About 2 minutes before you arrive to your location turn the AC off but leave the fan blowing. The AC ducts and vents will warm up enough so that condensation won't build up thus not able to create mildew. Have had a smelly AC since I've started doing this.
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