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      06-17-2019, 02:38 PM   #1
RobinLegin
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Nasty smell from air vents

Drove back from daughter and son in law on Sunday and noticed an unpleasant whiff coming from the air vents. We only use the a/c when the weather is hot. Otherwise we use the heating set to the required temperature.
I assumed it was a microbial deposit around the a/c so turned heating up to maximum (28 degrees C max!). We drove sweltering for about 10 minutes, then turned the heating back to 21degrees C. The smell was noticeably improved, but just still here.
Any other suggestions please?
Incidentally we have just passed 20,000 miles.
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      06-17-2019, 05:19 PM   #2
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It's generally advisable to use the aircon at all times and best with it set on 'Auto', because by doing so you are likely to avoid unpleasant smells due to build up of bacteria etc. A further consideration is that the aircon coolant contains lubricants to keep the system working correctly, including lubrication of the system seals. If the seals dry the refrigerant can escape and you may be faced with an unwelcome bill to have them all replaced. I think you'll find a schedule for the air-conditioning service in your owners handbook - its usually at around two yearly intervals.
With current climate control systems the impact on performance and fuel consumption is much improved on what it would have been a few years ago.
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      06-17-2019, 07:11 PM   #3
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I may be stating the obvious, but try changing the cabin air filters. 20k miles on the original filters is a good amount of time/distance if they haven't been replaced before. It's a huge PITA to get to compared to many other cars, but do-able with a bit of flexibility and patience. Installing new filters should be much easier than getting the old ones out.
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      06-18-2019, 03:53 PM   #4
oakey46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyline2.0 View Post
I may be stating the obvious, but try changing the cabin air filters. 20k miles on the original filters is a good amount of time/distance if they haven't been replaced before. It's a huge PITA to get to compared to many other cars, but do-able with a bit of flexibility and patience. Installing new filters should be much easier than getting the old ones out.
I think that would only filter out any incoming air/odours from outside, whereas the type of odour mentioned is most likely coming from the heater/cooler matrix where microbes will have become active and produced the stink. Cabin air filters are also a standard service replacement item, although I cannot recall the time interval frequency (the service schedule booklet is locked in my car for the night!).
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      06-23-2019, 06:45 AM   #5
RobinLegin
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Thanks guys. The a/c is on now all the time. Will get the dealer to look at it.
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      06-23-2019, 08:53 AM   #6
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check the prices as dealers can be a lot more than independent's
Our local main dealer has an offer on for Air con service but they will often price match a genuine offer from a reputable alternative.
The latest "gas" has resulted in a major price increase from that used previously.
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      06-24-2019, 10:41 AM   #7
oakey46
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Here's a link to the BMW UK web page for air-con servicing:
https://www.bmw.co.uk/bmw-ownership/...ioning-service
Particularly useful is this section from the page:
BMW Air Conditioning Refresh.
Is your BMW starting to lose that new car smell? It may be time for a refresh service. We want your drive to be as comfortable as possible and we have the expertise to make that happen; we recommend you take your BMW to your local BMW Centre so a highly trained BMW technician can clean and disinfect the evaporator and air duct systems, as well as treat the air vents and the interior to keep that new car smell for a little longer.

As indicated by Abh29, It may be worth checking with a local BMW specialist to see what price they may charge and then talk to your dealer to try and get them to price match.
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      06-28-2019, 08:43 AM   #8
yeezy
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I thought this was just happening to me because i park it in my building's garage which kind of smells funky already.
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      06-29-2019, 04:26 PM   #9
knightarmor
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If you leave the A/C on constantly (like literally don't turn it off prior to turning off the vehicle) try turning it off before turning off the car and then turning it on after turning the car on. My wife's X1 had the same problem, I noticed she would leave the A/C system just on when turning the car off. I told her to start turning it off before turning the vehicle off and the smell has gone away.

My theory is that some vents stay open when you leave the A/C on prior to turning off the car and this causes the unpleasant damp odor over time.

It's been about a month since since we started making sure the A/C is off prior to turning off the car and so far so good.
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      06-30-2019, 03:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knightarmor View Post
If you leave the A/C on constantly (like literally don't turn it off prior to turning off the vehicle) try turning it off before turning off the car and then turning it on after turning the car on. My wife's X1 had the same problem, I noticed she would leave the A/C system just on when turning the car off. I told her to start turning it off before turning the vehicle off and the smell has gone away.

My theory is that some vents stay open when you leave the A/C on prior to turning off the car and this causes the unpleasant damp odor over time.

It's been about a month since since we started making sure the A/C is off prior to turning off the car and so far so good.
The aircon/climate control will switch off in any event when the car ignition is switched off; certainly with UK X1s. If you are hearing a fan noise after the engine has stopped, it's the engine/radiator cooling fan, which will run on for a while if the engine is hot and that function is controlled by a thermostatic sensor.
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      07-01-2019, 07:09 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobinLegin View Post
Thanks guys. The a/c is on now all the time. Will get the dealer to look at it.
You may wish to consider using a car aircon purifier (aerosol which contains anti fungal and antibacterial agents). You basically run aircon on recirculate mode, place canister in footwell, press discharge button and vacate car. Leave aircon running for 10 mins and problem solved. Several makes/brands but have given links of types available. Your BMW dealer would change aircon filter and use this but charge £100+ for privilege.

https://www.halfords.com/motoring/en...purifier-150ml

https://www.halfords.com/motoring/en...ir-con-cleaner

They work, but may need repeat every 6 months or so, usually problem caused by rare/infrequent aircon use (something which also allows aircon system seals to dry out and fail). Modern car aircon systems needs to be left on permanently, even in winter,

Last edited by MJE60; 07-01-2019 at 07:17 PM..
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      07-02-2019, 03:30 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MJE60 View Post
They work, but may need repeat every 6 months or so, usually problem caused by rare/infrequent aircon use (something which also allows aircon system seals to dry out and fail). Modern car aircon systems needs to be left on permanently, even in winter,
I think that's along the lines of my earlier post above. I was advised several years ago that it's false economy to only use the aircon occasionally and mine is on all year round, as you suggest. I've known neighbours, who have only rarely used their system, have to get seals replaced and the system re-pressurised. Haven't tried the Halfords products, because I've left the servicing to the dealer, especially with my cars generally going at the end of the 3 year UK warranty period.
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      07-02-2019, 04:23 PM   #13
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I think may be the problem cames from same leakage in the ventilation box.
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      07-03-2019, 04:14 PM   #14
RobinLegin
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Problem solved. ‘Twas not the a/c after all. But the bottle for the dog’s water usually situated in the plastic recess in the boot. It had been leaking and the water in the recess had become very pongy !��. Meantime I had followed the advices for which I am nonetheless grateful.
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      07-04-2019, 10:04 PM   #15
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Thanks for this thread. I'm glad to learn that the near-year round A/C use we have here in Texas is actually a good thing for the system.

Slight offshoot to this conversation: I actually have zero bad smell issues at 20K miles, but I was just at the dealer (warranty-covered repair of moon roof headliner that broke off the track) and the service report recommended "Perform evaporator cleaning service (Based on vehicle mileage/time)" for $250.

I'm glad to be proactive about maintenance, but is this really necessary or just the dealer trying to sell me some extra servicing?
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      07-05-2019, 11:00 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattomatto View Post
Thanks for this thread. I'm glad to learn that the near-year round A/C use we have here in Texas is actually a good thing for the system.

Slight offshoot to this conversation: I actually have zero bad smell issues at 20K miles, but I was just at the dealer (warranty-covered repair of moon roof headliner that broke off the track) and the service report recommended "Perform evaporator cleaning service (Based on vehicle mileage/time)" for $250.

I'm glad to be proactive about maintenance, but is this really necessary or just the dealer trying to sell me some extra servicing?
Car aircon evaporators can get clogged with dirt, grease and bugs etc and this will reduce airflow and therefore efficiency. A good indicator of a problem is when you have had the aircon refrigerant topped-up * and the system is still NOT working as well as it used to. If your car aircon IS still working well then imo an evaporator declog is not necessary and there is no harm in leaving it.

* - (refrigerant top-up is important because they also add lubricants to protect system the system seals)
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      07-23-2019, 08:17 AM   #17
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Possible under $30 DIY solution - I cleaned my AC evaporator this past weekend and eliminated the musky smell I was having on initial start up.

Products used: (1) Armor All FRESHfx Vent & Duct Cleaner Odor Neutralizer-Tranquil Skies (5 oz.) (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079TM4RV6..._ydVnDb8QE6BAC), and (2) nextzett 96110515 Klima-Cleaner Air Conditioner Cleaner - 10 fl oz (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1). Also, there's a newtis service instructions on this problem here: https://www.newtis.info/tisv2/a/en/f...ioning/2gWSJiy.

The beginning is the same procedure as changing the cabin air filter. Once the 2 filters are out, the evaporator will be on the side towards the interior of the car, not the firewall. I had a electronic endoscope, so it was easy for me too see where I needed to spray. The evaporator is essentially slightly smaller than the size of the 2 cabin air filters stacked on top of each other. Also, remove the door flap as it'll make life much easier - you push up on the door flap slightly and it should slip out of the grooves.

If you get Klima Cleaner, use the included spray lance. From the very top, aim the tip towards the interior and spray in a left to right, top to bottom fashion. Empty the entire can and wait 20 minutes before reinstalling clean cabin air filters. Run the AC in fresh air mode and footwell vents open only for at least 5 minutes. Basically, this cleaning step is a combination of the Klima Cleaner directions and newtis service info steps.

The FRESHfx may not be necessary, but I got it for peace of mind. I used this for the vents only to eliminate any possible bacteria between the evaporator and vents. Do NOT run the fan/AC after spraying the FRESHfx into the vents. Follow the instructions on the can.

I'm happy to say the smell is gone (for now). To help prevent this problem, I'm not going to run the AC in recirc mode anymore unless necessary, avoid having the AC button clicked on all the time, and clean the cabin air filters more frequently (have K&N ones). Hopefully it'll prevent the nasty smell from coming back.

Hope this helps anyone that decides to tackle the funky AC smell issue.
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      07-23-2019, 04:10 PM   #18
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QUOTE:I'm not going to run the AC in recirc mode anymore unless necessary, avoid having the AC button clicked on all the time, and clean the cabin air filters more frequently (have K&N ones). Hopefully it'll prevent the nasty smell from coming back.
If you don't have the AC Button switched on you run the risk of the aircon seals deteriorating, which can be an expensive repair. The aircon 'liquid' contains lubricants to help prevent that from happening. I have, on all my aircon equipped cars, had the system serviced at manufacturer recommended intervals and I leave the aircon on all year.
A few years ago my next door neighbour had a very costly repair bill for replacement of the system seals because she hadn't been using the AC other than occasionally.
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      07-23-2019, 07:16 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oakey46 View Post
QUOTE:I'm not going to run the AC in recirc mode anymore unless necessary, avoid having the AC button clicked on all the time, and clean the cabin air filters more frequently (have K&N ones). Hopefully it'll prevent the nasty smell from coming back.
If you don't have the AC Button switched on you run the risk of the aircon seals deteriorating, which can be an expensive repair. The aircon 'liquid' contains lubricants to help prevent that from happening. I have, on all my aircon equipped cars, had the system serviced at manufacturer recommended intervals and I leave the aircon on all year.
A few years ago my next door neighbour had a very costly repair bill for replacement of the system seals because she hadn't been using the AC other than occasionally.
Noted, thanks for the feedback. AC button will be mostly on as it doesn't get cool enough without it. I'm just avoiding having it on 24/7.
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      07-27-2019, 07:48 PM   #20
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Just out of curiosity do your guys' X1's have A/C condensation drip under the vehicle after regular drives with the A/C on?
The funky smell (upon A/C startup) recently returned on our X1 and today while working on it (and after a long drive) I noticed no water puddle under the vehicle, nor any water drippage whatsoever.
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      07-28-2019, 11:20 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knightarmor View Post
Just out of curiosity do your guys' X1's have A/C condensation drip under the vehicle after regular drives with the A/C on?
The funky smell (upon A/C startup) recently returned on our X1 and today while working on it (and after a long drive) I noticed no water puddle under the vehicle, nor any water drippage whatsoever.
I think that probably depends on the humidity. Sometimes my X1 has obvious puddles under the car, usually in my garage, but others it doesn’t. I suppose the main thing is that my system works well enough, especially in the recent very warm UK weather.
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      08-11-2019, 07:11 PM   #22
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OP, do you use AC on recirc mode continuously?

On my previous car (VW GTI) that did exactly the same as you describe, I used an AC cleaner spray (i think from Wurth). Removed the pollen filter, and sprayed it into the AC intake while it was running. Let it run for a few minutes.

That way it cleans all along the AC intake passages. Also look into the AC intake and see if you can see small particles of leaves, etc and clean them out with a vacuum cleaner (before you spray).

If all that doesn't help, you could have mould build up on your evaporator. In which case professional AC repair place may need to somehow clean the evaporator.

let us know how you go
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