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Why Does My Car A/C Smell Bad?

Driving on a hot day can be enjoyable and comfortable when your air conditioning is working efficiently. However, weird smells coming from your car’s A/C can make for an unpleasant ride. If you notice unusual smells in your vehicle, it is best to identify and repair the issue sooner rather than later to prevent further damage. Keep reading to discover the different smells that could emanate from your car A/C, what they mean, and the impact on your vehicle.

properly functioning ac in car due to air conditioning repair

Stale Air

One common smell your car A/C could produce is that of stale air. If you notice the air smells like dust and bacteria in the ductwork, this typically means that your cabin filter is dirty and needs replacing. To improve your car’s cabin air quality and keep your car smelling fresh, have your car’s cabin filter replaced by a professional mechanic near you.


A moldy or mildewy smell often occurs because of debris buildup in the under-hood air intake vent. Air vents can quickly get blocked with debris such as leaves, flowers, grasses, and bird deposits. Water and moisture can get trapped within this debris, leading to mold and mildew build-up. These elements produce smells from the AC system. It is best to call your mechanic to inspect the A/C and repair the issue.

Chemical Odor

If you are experiencing a chemical odor in your car, the A/C evaporator could be leaking refrigerant. Oil from the leaking refrigerant can trap dust and dirt, blocking airflow from the vents. In order to have this issue properly repaired, it is best to seek help from a professional mechanic.

Sweet/Pungent Smell

A sweet or pungent odor coming from your car’s A/C could indicate a leaking heater core. Fixing this issue may require installing a new heater core, which is best left to be handled by an auto repair professional.

Fix Your A/C Issues with Custom Complete Automotive

If you notice any unpleasant smell coming from your car’s air conditioning, let our certified mechanics at Custom Complete Automotive check, identify and repair the issue as soon as possible. To learn more about our air conditioning repair services, or to schedule an appointment at one of our locations in Missouri, contact us today!

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About the Author
Eric Riddles

Eric Riddles is an ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician who has been working as an auto mechanic since 1998 and originally joined the team at Custom Complete Automotive in 2005. Eric has numerous certifications in various aspects of car repair and spent 10 years training the next generation of auto technicians at a local high school Auto Shop classroom.

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