Welcome to Tesla Motors Club
Discuss Tesla's Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, Cybertruck, Roadster and More.
Register

Cabin Filter Replacement with Breathe Easy Filters | AC Smell

ebmcs03

Active Member
Dec 22, 2017
2,187
1,345
So Cal
Hey guys, I made a follow up video regarding the tesla model 3 ac smell and thought this video would be helpful for those who have an AC Smell. I also did an air test in comparison to the OEM Tesla stock filters.
Link to that particular brand of filter?
 

Phlier

Bluebird
Jun 12, 2019
1,868
3,199
Utah
I'm just up I-15 a bit from Vegas in St. George, Utah. We stay within about 5F of Vegas year 'round. And yeah... it's dry here in the desert.

My car does get the funky AC smell, but it doesn't last for long. Usually for less than five minutes after first getting in it. The smell isn't pleasant, and of course it happens when the car's interior is at its hottest. Unpleasant smells seem even more so in hot air.

I do remember the firmware update notes about making a change so that the fan stays on after driving the car in hot weather with the AC running. It definitely runs longer now after exiting the car than it used to. It did help somewhat with the funk, but it didn't eliminate it.

I really feel for your guys that live in humid areas and have to put up with that stench for longer than a few minutes... it is pretty nasty.

On the bright side, the AC system in this car is more than capable of taming the desert heat. More so than any car I've driven in the 30 years I've been a desert rat. And it works far, far, far better when the car is stationary or at low speeds than ICE cars; we aren't dependent on engine RPM to drive the system like an ICE vehicle. Both vehicle types benefit from speed to get more air flow over the heat exchanger, but the fan on the Model 3 moves more than enough air to keep the car completely comfortable when the car is stopped.

For us, putting up with a few minutes of stench is worth the trade off for how amazing the system works. No ICE vehicle I've owned had a system that would work well enough with the car idling to allow us to leave the dogs in the car with the engine idling and AC on. Our pups appreciate being able to go with us on hot summer days when they would have had to stay home pre-Tesla.

If that stench hung around for more than a few minutes, though, I'm sure I'd change my opinion.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AC2DC

aspec818

Member
Nov 15, 2018
657
322
Bay Area
Due to the recent California fires, I have been running my car in auto and recirculation mode for over a week. I have never smelled anything off until today when I went to start my car after it was sitting for a few hours outside. Stinky feet galore. So this has everything to do with recirculating air and the mildew buildup. I just gotta remember to run the fan for a bit before I park now. Btw the car filters the smoke well when recirculating.
 

vickh

Active Member
Dec 16, 2018
3,149
709
az
FWIW I was at an event recently where a Tesla Ranger said the AC smell is really only prevalent in highly humid areas, and that replacing the filter once a year seems to be the best remedy.

nope I had it in AZ last year. Tesla Ranger said firmware update should fix, and only free once. Returned for a little bit this year but not as bad..
 

EnrgyNDpndnce

Member
Sep 12, 2016
652
1,124
Charleston, SC
nope I had it in AZ last year. Tesla Ranger said firmware update should fix, and only free once. Returned for a little bit this year but not as bad..

So just to clarify, the Tesla Ranger I was quoting said this issue is PREVALENT in humid areas. He did not say it occurs exclusively in humid areas. For those of you in Arizona or Vegas or other dry climates, yes you can experience this issue. But at least according to the Ranger it is more common and perhaps more intense in humid areas.
 
  • Informative
Reactions: vickh

NOLADriver

Member
Sep 16, 2019
368
466
New Orelans, LA
I am still pretty aggravated that I have to go thru this on a new car. This really seems a design defect more than anything. I just did the procedure again, with two cans this time, and the above listed filters, and the prefilter. Lets see how long this lasts for. It didnt last much last time. Frustrating. Hopefully two full cans will kill everything of the funk.

I wonder how many owners are dealing with this.
 

plasmo

Member
Mar 12, 2016
457
360
Chicago
I am still pretty aggravated that I have to go thru this on a new car. This really seems a design defect more than anything. I just did the procedure again, with two cans this time, and the above listed filters, and the prefilter. Lets see how long this lasts for. It didnt last much last time. Frustrating. Hopefully two full cans will kill everything of the funk.

I wonder how many owners are dealing with this.

I didn’t see this thread until just now, but I dealt with the smell last year. Changed filters and applied the spray and it fixed it until now. Same smell is back. Agree. I’ve had two model X’s and a model S, and nether of them had this smell issue. My other ice cars never had this as well...well maybe one.
 

TyH2009

Member
Apr 12, 2019
522
601
St. Louis
I had a 2013 Cadillac ATS that had the smell, I took it to the dealer and they fixed it under warranty. I only kept the car about another 9 months after that, so not sure if that would have come back as well.
 

CyberGus

Not Just a Member
May 5, 2020
1,051
2,354
Austin, TX
What this really needs is UV lights in front of the filters, although I can't find any suitable products.

One of my cars had an unidentified gag-inducing smell for months, before we finally found the culprit: a half-full latte that had dumped under the seat (milk + Texas heat, omg). No amount of cleaning would eradicate the smell...until I got this:

High Capacity Commercial Ozone Generator - Amazon

It took two days of soaking in ozone, but the smell is finally gone. So if your funk is regularly reoccurring, I would recommend a heavy-duty ozone generator like the above, with the climate recirculating. Since it gets into all the nooks and crannies, it should at least extend the time between cleanings.

NOTE: ozone is great in the stratosphere, but poisonous to inhale. If you do this, make sure the car has been completely ventilated before entering!
 

TyH2009

Member
Apr 12, 2019
522
601
St. Louis
What this really needs is UV lights in front of the filters, although I can't find any suitable products.

One of my cars had an unidentified gag-inducing smell for months, before we finally found the culprit: a half-full latte that had dumped under the seat (milk + Texas heat, omg). No amount of cleaning would eradicate the smell...until I got this:

High Capacity Commercial Ozone Generator - Amazon

It took two days of soaking in ozone, but the smell is finally gone. So if your funk is regularly reoccurring, I would recommend a heavy-duty ozone generator like the above, with the climate recirculating. Since it gets into all the nooks and crannies, it should at least extend the time between cleanings.

NOTE: ozone is great in the stratosphere, but poisonous to inhale. If you do this, make sure the car has been completely ventilated before entering!
I saw someone talking about these before, maybe it was you, and it has me interested.

My family owns rental properties and sometimes we get left places that don't smell so great, so wondering if this would help too. Is the one you linked large enough for inside of a large room? I assume it can't do a whole house all at once, you'd have to do room by room.
 

CyberGus

Not Just a Member
May 5, 2020
1,051
2,354
Austin, TX
My family owns rental properties and sometimes we get left places that don't smell so great, so wondering if this would help too. Is the one you linked large enough for inside of a large room? I assume it can't do a whole house all at once, you'd have to do room by room.

The model above states it's coverage at 2,250 sq. ft. and has a 3-hour timer, so I'd say it could fill that capacity in 3 hours. I've only ever used it in one room at a time (plus the car lol) because, well, I live there.

The same warning about ozone applies: if you work one room, you need to shut off the vents, or turn off the A/C entirely. And if you do the whole house, you need to remove people/pets/etc, and afterwards let it air out.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Phlier
Oct 31, 2019
274
412
Murica
This issue has been pretty bad for me, especially this time of year. It's hot outside and when we have a rainstorm, it is 100% humidity in the garage that is 85+ degrees.

What I've found helps is I occasionally run the heater on high and the highest fan setting. I let it run for about 10 minutes when the car is plugged in. It has helped remove the smell, but it eventually comes back after a few weeks.
 

Phlier

Bluebird
Jun 12, 2019
1,868
3,199
Utah
What this really needs is UV lights in front of the filters, although I can't find any suitable products.

One of my cars had an unidentified gag-inducing smell for months, before we finally found the culprit: a half-full latte that had dumped under the seat (milk + Texas heat, omg). No amount of cleaning would eradicate the smell...until I got this:

High Capacity Commercial Ozone Generator - Amazon

It took two days of soaking in ozone, but the smell is finally gone. So if your funk is regularly reoccurring, I would recommend a heavy-duty ozone generator like the above, with the climate recirculating. Since it gets into all the nooks and crannies, it should at least extend the time between cleanings.

NOTE: ozone is great in the stratosphere, but poisonous to inhale. If you do this, make sure the car has been completely ventilated before entering!
Higher end car detailers will also use ozone generators when detailing the inside of a car to help remove odors. Other than chemically induced odors (think of perfumes and chemicals like ammonia) the primary cause of foul odors is biological. Fungi, bacteria, etc. release the pungent odors into your car's atmosphere. Destroy the organism causing the stink, destroy the stink.

I worked at a high volume car detailer that prepped used cars for dealer's lots when I was in high school, then continued to do part time high end detailing until just a few years ago when my spine gave out on me. We would use ozone generators to great effect in removing the stink from cars.

Here's how to clean your vehicles carpets, and keep them fresh smelling afterward.... Have you ever gone to a high volume "car detailing" place, had them clean your carpets, only to have them start to stink in a few days? The secret is in the drying, or the lack thereof; the longer it takes carpets to dry out, the more time organisms have to breed and stink up your freshly cleaned carpets. At the detailing shop, we'd pull the carpets completely out of the vehicle, then use a commercial carpet extractor to deep clean them. This process left the carpets quite wet. We'd put them in front of commercial air movers to dry them, then install them back in the vehicle. At this point, we'd put an ozone generator in the car, roll up the windows, put a "Caution - Ozone Generator in Use" sign on a window, and let the car soak in ozone for 30 minutes. This process basically sterilizes your carpets, preventing them from developing any "drying stink." This same process works great for cleaning your home carpets, too, but as CyberGus states, make sure that you remove any people and pets from the area that is going to get treated, and thoroughly vent the area before re-occupying it.

If you get a small ozone generator, you can let it saturate your car's interior after your carpets have been cleaned from your local high volume car detailer and completely remove any carpet funk.

I love the idea of using UV-C lights to help with the Tesla AC stink. Has Tesla been able to identify the exact area in the system where the stinky stuff grows? I'd like to find this out, then buy some plastic strip UV-C LED's and 3M double sided tape them into position. The power wires would also need to be taped into the ducting to prevent rattling. Wire them up to a cigarette lighter.... er.. excuse me... 12v power port plug and see what happens. The hardest part about this is going to be finding actual, authentic UV-C lights. Many/most of the LED's that are supposed to be UV-C available on the market aren't actually UV-C. I'm sure bigclive on YouTube will have some ideas.

If anyone else decides to do this, please be aware of the fact that UV-C light is no joke. It'll give you "welders eye" very quickly, and it'll also burn skin. This isn't tanning bed type light (UV-A/B), this is the nasty stuff that the ozone layer in the atmosphere keeps away from the earth's surface, and it'll kill pretty much all living things quickly. Don't expose your eyes or skin to the light given off from a UV-C source.

Sorry for the wall of text... the home roasted coffee has been very good to me so far today. ;)
 
Last edited:

vickh

Active Member
Dec 16, 2018
3,149
709
az
So just to clarify, the Tesla Ranger I was quoting said this issue is PREVALENT in humid areas. He did not say it occurs exclusively in humid areas. For those of you in Arizona or Vegas or other dry climates, yes you can experience this issue. But at least according to the Ranger it is more common and perhaps more intense in humid areas.

Makes sense with more humidity= more mold. We do have some humid days (monsoon) but I haven't noticed it as much this year so maybe the firmware fix is working....

Glad since I'm not very handy and the filter is not easy to replace like my highlander
 

NOLADriver

Member
Sep 16, 2019
368
466
New Orelans, LA
I didn’t see this thread until just now, but I dealt with the smell last year. Changed filters and applied the spray and it fixed it until now. Same smell is back. Agree. I’ve had two model X’s and a model S, and nether of them had this smell issue. My other ice cars never had this as well...well maybe one.

Yeah, Mercedes just settled a MASSIVE class action on this, on 2.5 million of their cars, to pay back the costs associated with people having to do the cleaning themselves, and then for future, up to ten years, of costs to continue doing it. They knew their cars were designed bad and kept charging customers to fix it, finally someone formed a class and they lost big time. Tesla better fix their $hit if they dont wanna see the same road.

Mercedes-Benz agrees to massive settlement after mold found growing in HVAC systems
 

Big Ike

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jan 12, 2019
126
134
Arizona
It took two days of soaking in ozone, but the smell is finally gone. So if your funk is regularly reoccurring, I would recommend a heavy-duty ozone generator like the above, with the climate recirculating. Since it gets into all the nooks and crannies, it should at least extend the time between cleanings.
CG, I've got that machine and use it in my cars about every six months. Just got the SR+ and wondering how long you are running the ozone generator over those two days of soaking?
Many Thanks!
 

CyberGus

Not Just a Member
May 5, 2020
1,051
2,354
Austin, TX
CG, I've got that machine and use it in my cars about every six months. Just got the SR+ and wondering how long you are running the ozone generator over those two days of soaking?
Many Thanks!

@Big Ike I set the timer on 3 hours, but left the car alone for 24 hours. After I let the car air out, it showed a definite improvement but retained a lingering odor, so I repeated the process.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Big Ike

Xtrs

Member
Aug 16, 2020
10
10
Las Vegas, NV
Another of the "5" Vegas owners here to confirm the ac smell in the first few minutes of entering the car. I would assume this is amplified by the heat and also having cabin protection with ac on, although my car is primarily stored in the garage its still hot enough here that the cabin protection turns on at home thus draining the battery overnight. I have a carbon filled filter on its way from China so I cannot do any tests yet for longevity but will report back after cleaning and install

I'm curious if getting the aftermarket filters for the frunk would be helpful.... but doubtful it would prevent the moldy smell.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Matsayz

Big Ike

Supporting Member
Supporting Member
Jan 12, 2019
126
134
Arizona

Products we're discussing on TMC...

About Us

Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.

Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.


SUPPORT TMC
Top