Car Air Conditioner Repair: Is That Smell Radiator Fluid?

A car driving through the country

If your car's AC vents are emitting a bad or strange smell, it does not necessarily mean you need a car air conditioner repair. Most of the time, bad smells that emanate from the vents in your car's air conditioning system are easily corrected without a need for an actual repair. In fact, some smells will go away on their own after a short while. Nevertheless, you should be able to recognize smells that may come from the vents and what causes them. This article will attempt to explain to you what causes the various types or bad smells that can come from the vents in your car and how to fix or prevent them.

Mold and Mildew

Many times, people that live in warm climate areas operate their air conditioning systems on the maximum setting and also set the vent to draw in air from outside the vehicle. In dry climates, this is perfectly acceptable and should not result in any bad smells from the car's AC. However, if you live in a damp area, and drive with the vents open to the elements, moisture can find its way into the vents and settle. When this occurs, mold and mildew can develop and will cause the vents to produce foul smelling odors.

Even if you live in a dry area, you should be careful with the vent settings for your air conditioner. If you do need to use your AC during a rainstorm, adjust the vent setting so that the AC uses only recirculated air inside the vents. This will help to prevent moisture from entering the vents and also help prevent mold and mildew. You should also adjust the vent before using a car wash to clean your vehicle as high-pressure washes can easily get water into the venting system of your car air conditioner.

If your AC vents already have mold and mildew, you should have them treated with an anti-bacterial or microbial solution designed to kill mold and mildew in the vent system. Alternatively, you can spray some bleach water solution through the evaporator unit of the AC to try to kill the bacteria as well.

Causes of Other Strange Smells

If you smell something similar to burnt radiator fluid in the vents of your car's air conditioner, it could mean there is a crack or leak in the cooling system of your vehicle. Often when there is coolant leak, radiator fluid will leak on to a hot engine or heater core and produce the sweet burning smell that is easily recognizable. If you smell radiator fluid inside your vehicle, you should take your car in for service as soon as possible.

Exhaust and oil leaks can also produce smells that are unpleasant inside your vehicle. So, if you smell gasoline or burnt motor oil inside your car, this an indication of a serious leak that will need to be repaired before the problem causes other damage in your vehicle. You should take exhaust leaks very seriously, as they can cause high levels of carbon monoxide to be released inside your car. Overexposure to carbon monoxide is very dangerous and can be life-threatening in some instances.