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      08-12-2019, 11:21 PM   #1
Fraspas
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Musty sour smell coming from air vents - remedy?

Hi all, new here and hopefully could find some answers. Long story short, my 2016 X1 was purchased used, previously a lease vehicle. Since the weather's been hot lately, I've been using the A/C more and I noticed when I first fired it up, it had this awful musty, moldy, sour smell - kind of like dried pee or a gross public bathroom or something. It would last a few minutes but eventually dissipate. The smell actually goes away quicker when I turn on the A/C but it would always be there when the fan is first on. I haven't been recirculating my air so the vents are open to the outside air intake. Also have been making sure the A/C is off and fan running before I get to my destination.

Now I've been perusing the interwebs for DIY but it doesn't seem to take care of the smell. So far, I've swapped the cabin air filters to new ones. It was a bit annoying to change as its placed in a very inconvenient spot. I've also used Klima's foam cleaner twice on the evaporator unit as its there in the opening where you swap out the cabin filter. The evaporator looks clean so I'm assuming the smell is not originating from there. Yet, this stinky sour smell still exists when I turn on the fan.

What else could I do to remedy and eradicate this smell? Is there a way to clean the area where the air is going in from? I've read that its under the hood behind the engine compartment. Is this area easily accessible and reach? Should I bring it in to someone to take apart and flush/clean the entire system? I've already mentioned this smell numerous times to BMW service but they don't seem to want to anything about it...

Any insights would help! Thanks
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      08-13-2019, 05:08 AM   #2
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Hi i had the same thing 2 weeks ago i took delivery of my x1 f48 and it smelt of pee i blasted the AC for about 20 minutes full speed both HOT and COLD settings dont seem to get it anymore. Make sure that you leave the Climate control on Auto with the AC on. Hope this helps
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      08-13-2019, 07:38 AM   #3
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I've been fighting that stench in my wife's f48 for over a year now. It drives me mad!

I've had the dealership do the AC cleaning service several times to no avail. The only thing that seems to help is to turn the ac off when shutting the vehicle off then back on after start up.. then roll down the windows so that the smell doesn't linger in the vehicle (it soaks into the carpet otherwise).

I wish I could find a fix.. between that smell and the uncomfortable standard seats (my wife loves them..I do not) I'm about ready to start looking at the X3.

I hope you can find a solution!
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      08-13-2019, 08:20 AM   #4
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I'm in the same boat. It started shortly after using the Ventilation Timer on the BMW Connected App for me.

Ive tried every single DIY remedy possible to no avail. The smell usually goes away on high heat for me so thankfully during the winter I won't have to deal with it.
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      08-13-2019, 11:46 AM   #5
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Augh, thats just maddening that there is no clear solution. How does this even happen in the first place and to a premium car/brand no less?

Is there a way to take it apart and manually clean and scrub the ventilation system? I did reach out to some local shops around me and one suggested they can do this service called MiSt by Terraclean - I never heard of it but there's this informational video that looks like its from the 80s.



I guess I'll continue to spray stuff into it and report back with results. To be fair, the Klima treatments did alleviate some of the smell as it was way worse before but still...since I can safely conclude there's no grime on the evaporator, I am at a loss. Do you know if there is an outside air intake filter or does our X1 only have filters for cabin air.
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      08-13-2019, 11:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fraspas View Post
Augh, thats just maddening that there is no clear solution. How does this even happen in the first place and to a premium car/brand no less?

Is there a way to take it apart and manually clean and scrub the ventilation system? I did reach out to some local shops around me and one suggested they can do this service called MiSt by Terraclean - I never heard of it but there's this informational video that looks like its from the 80s.



I guess I'll continue to spray stuff into it and report back with results. To be fair, the Klima treatments did alleviate some of the smell as it was way worse before but still...since I can safely conclude there's no grime on the evaporator, I am at a loss. Do you know if there is an outside air intake filter or does our X1 only have filters for cabin air.
Same results for me too unfortunately... treated evap with Klima Cleaner + Freshfx vent cleaner a couple weeks back and now the smell is slowly returning. Quite frustrating.

I think you're thinking down the right track as this issue likely exists upstream of the evaporator core, but I haven't done any further digging yet. I was thinking of having the dealer try to address this issue, but the service bulletin for this problem on newtis only has the evap core cleaning protocol, which we already know won't fully resolve the issue.

I'm going to try the max heat/cold for xx minutes trick to see if it helps. Also, I'll try to be more diligent on turning AC button off right before shut off to see if it'll help with prevention.

Also, everyone with this smelly AC issue, please file a complaint with NHTSA here: https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/VehicleComplaint/. If the federal government receives enough complaints, they'll be required to investigate this concern. Note in your complaint this foul smell is a health concern as it's a sign that mold/mildew/bacteria is growing somewhere inside the AC system and is a significant respiratory risk. It may cause or exacerbate respiratory or breathing issues.

Last edited by Skyline2.0; 08-13-2019 at 12:24 PM..
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      08-14-2019, 07:56 PM   #7
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OP...aren't the cabin filters in the engine bay (just under the base of the windscreen)? You've replaced the filters I guess? If you were able to see the evaporator, did you scrub it with something (as well using the Klima spray)? Maybe also as much as you can reach of the ducting leading from the air intake into the actual cabin?

Have you tried the 'bomb' type spray that you set off in the cabin (i think while the engine and HVAC are running)? That's supposed to clean out the vents (in cabin intakes and outlets).

I had this exact problem in a second-hand VW GTI that was only 2 years old when I bought it. There had been a lot of buildup of leaves in the HVAC intake, which I suspected may have contributed to buildup of mould in the pipework.

In that car the evap was very hard to reach as it was behind the centre console inside the car.
let us know how you go
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      08-15-2019, 04:49 AM   #8
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There is a solution!
Always, ALWAYS leave your climate control on "Auto" with the A/C switched on. Use the temperature controls to adjust comforts for Summer or Winter. This prevents moisture build-up in the ventilation system, which encourages bacteria and mould to grow (and make the car smell)
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      08-15-2019, 12:22 PM   #9
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That's a prevention though, we all need a cure
I've had same problem for past 6 months or more and I've left the aircon on permanently and still get the pee smell when first starting up
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      08-15-2019, 09:56 PM   #10
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In my experience, there is no full cure unless you strip down, clean and disinfect the ventilation system. Everything else is partial because the bacteria and mould remain
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      03-27-2020, 06:27 PM   #11
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Well I put new cabin air filters and just serviced my ac. Smell is still present when car is started. I submitted a complain to the NHTSA.
Never had this occurrence in any other carry including much older ones.
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      03-31-2020, 09:50 AM   #12
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I was advised by my previous Audi dealer that it is best to leave the climate control/aircon running at all times because it prevents the build up of bacteria/mould (as per the post from tttimbo above).
The other, perhaps even more important, aspect is that the refrigerant in the system contains lubricants to protect the seals within the system and if the aircon isn't run at least frequently the seals can dry out, leading to a costly replacement job. This was confirmed by a neighbour who rarely used her aircon, thinking it added substantially to fuel consumption, and when the seals etc failed she ended up with a very large bill. Whilst many years ago aircon systems did involve hefty fuel consumption penalties, the latest systems are far more economic to run. I haven't turned mine off in the 2 years since buying my car and have no intention of turning it off anytime soon.
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