Does your car smell like a dirty old sock when you turn on the air conditioner? Or maybe a musty, moldy old attic? If so, you’ve probably got some mold growing in your vehicle’s air conditioning system.

Here’s how you fix the smell, and how you can keep it from coming back.

First, Where Does This Smell Come From?

When your air conditioner is used, condensation can accumulate inside. If the system is shut off, whatever condensation inside the system can collect into a small puddle of water (or more than one small puddle) inside the nooks and crannies of your air system. Given enough time, mold will grow in any moist, enclosed space.

How You Can Fix The Moldy, Musty Smell

About 90% of the time, the fix for your moldy or musty smell is super simple.

  1. While your vehicle is parked, start your engine and turn your internal air up to the highest setting, and make sure the A/C is on*.
  2. Step outside your car, and locate the air vents that your vehicle uses to ‘pull’ in outside air for the A/C system. Usually, they’re right at the base of the windshield.
  3. Spray deodorizing spray (Lysol, Febreeze, etc.) liberally into these vents.
  4. Check inside your car to make sure you can smell the deodorizing spray coming thru the air vents.
  5. Let the vehicle run for 10-15 minutes, periodically spraying more deodorizing spray onto the vents.

*NOTE: Do not use the ‘max A/C’ setting, as this forces air to recirculate rather than pulling air from outside the car. You need air pulled in from the external vent for this trick to work.

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