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Why Does My A/C Smell So Bad?

There is near on nothing worse than having a bad smell from your A/C in the middle of summer. Having to put your windows down to blow 40+ Celsius wind into your face or choosing to leave the A/C running and have the smell of rotting Koala farts living with you is a horrible choice to make.

Here’s what you can do to fix it, improve it or make it easier for a mechanic to diagnose when it finally becomes too much.

When you have a smell come through, it’s often because of a few common issues, water, dead foliage, rotting food, animal presence or you’re a smoker. Some of these are really simple to deal with and some are a little more painful (ref. 13QUIT).

The first thing to check when you have a bad smell in your car is that there is no rotten food, etc. throughout. Check under all the seats, in the boot, any cracks where kids might put chips for safe keeping and under the boot floor.

The solution to rotting food is by far the easiest, take it out and leave the windows open over the weekend to let it air out. If the smell is stuck to the carpet (imagine spilt milk), book a ‘wet-vac’ from Woolworths or Bunnings and take the opportunity to clean the whole car. It’ll surprise you how many farts your drivers seat catches over the years.

If there isn’t any food, press on the carpet using your hand and feel for any wet spots and check the spare wheel well for water. If there is water in the carpets, it’s likely that your car has a leak when it rains.

This is a little more painful to fix but, you can check all the door and boot seals for damage and, if it’s in the boot you can check for leaves clogging around the boot seal. Otherwise, it might be worthwhile to visit a mechanic.

On top of foliage being present in the boot seals, there may also be dead foliage or animals in the engine bay where the cabin air comes from. In any case, remove and clean, let the car air out and test it again.

The final option is less likely to be for the home-gamer and requires the checking of the cabin filter. This filter does exactly what it says on the box and ensures that the air coming into the cabin of the car is clean and healthy. These are super popular hiding spots for rats and mice and can also become laden with dust and water.

If this is the case, replace it immediately and use an A/C treatment to get a head-start on removing the bad smell. If you are finding animal related debris around as well, make sure to bait the area where you park your car to prevent it from happening again.

Remember though, always feel free to contact our Kashy mechanics if you’re having any problems.


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