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How long does it take for a newbie to change air filter to fix smelly AC?

coolmanfever

Member
Dec 1, 2019
538
420
toronto
So I have been driving model 3 with smelly AC problem that many people experience here. I tried the air spray and refresher but don't work well now. I think it is time to replace the filter.

How long does it take for a newbie to change air filter to fix smelly AC?

I am trying to figure whether it is worth the time to do it myself or just have tesla service do it?

Thanks
 

MorrisonHiker

S 100D 2021.4.18.2
Mar 8, 2015
9,841
9,211
Colorado
So I have been driving model 3 with smelly AC problem that many people experience here. I tried the air spray and refresher but don't work well now. I think it is time to replace the filter.

How long does it take for a newbie to change air filter to fix smelly AC?

I am trying to figure whether it is worth the time to do it myself or just have tesla service do it?

Thanks
It's easy to change the air filters:

You might want to research replacing the desiccant bag in addition to replacing the air filters.
 
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Phlier

Bluebird
Jun 12, 2019
1,476
1,862
Utah
You might want to research replacing the desiccant bag in addition to replacing the air filters.
That's a new little morsel of information for me, thanks for that!

Having a saturated desiccant bag could contribute to the stinky AC for sure. Makes a guy wonder if that's why a lot of guys that have changed the filters repeatedly haven't been successful at getting rid of the smell, as a water saturated desiccant bag is just bound to stink.

Time to search around a bit for this...

OP, it really isn't tough to change the filters yourself. If you're capable of changing your tires, you can do the filter swap.
 
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Frank99

April 2018 Model 3 LR RWD, EAP, FSD
Apr 7, 2016
250
330
Arizona
When I do it for the third time next year, I expect that it'll take 10 minutes. The first time, if I were you, I'd budget for 30 minutes AFTER watching a youtube video on how to do it.
Figuring out where that G**D****d screw is, and then figuring out how you're gonna get your driver onto it, are the biggest problems. I end up on my back with my knees around the headrest and my head in the footwell when I'm doing it.

Just a suggestion: Once you've done the work to get the cover off and the filters out, use a can of this:
https://www.amazon.com/nextzett-96110515-Klima-Cleaner-Conditioner-Cleaner/dp/B0002Z2MKO
to clean the evaporator core. The instructions tell you to spray it in from the condensate drip tube, but don't bother - you've got the evaporator core right in front of you. It foams up, so just empty the can into the hole where the air filters go, moving the tube around to get all the corners. Be careful not to let the tube out of the hole, because it'll make quite the mess in the passenger footwell (and all over your face). It'll drip out the bottom of the car, so best to do this in the driveway rather than in the garage. This cleaner will remove any mold or mildew on the metal evaporator core and inside the air box which might still smell after replacing the filters.

I'm just happy that Tesla fixed this in an OTA. Right now, if you use the A/C at all during a drive, the fan will come on to dry out the evaporator core/filters for about half an hour after you park. So once you've done this, you really shouldn't experience it coming back.
 

zhu-

custom title
Oct 24, 2018
926
772
NJ
Like everyone mentioned, it's really one single screw that requires you to become a contortionist to take out. With some trial and error it was also easier for me to lay my back on the passenger side floor and removing it that way. Everything else is simple and straight forward. After the first time replacing everything yourself is probably faster than scheduling and meeting up with mobile service for the task.
 

coolmanfever

Member
Dec 1, 2019
538
420
toronto
thanks guys for all the tips. It seems like there is one screw that is making difficult to do the job. What tips do you guys to access this one screw easier?

someone mentioned flex driller adaptor. But what is that?
 

TLLMRRJ

Active Member
Dec 19, 2019
1,928
1,908
Houston

How would that help with the musty smell that is caused from moisture on the outside of the evaporator coils?

I am still miffed that Tesla had that as a service item. Opening the A/C system just to replace the desiccant doesn't make any sense at all. The only reason moisture can enter the pressurized system is if you open it. If you never open it, you never need to replace the desiccant, that is only there to collect any moisture. Of course, if you open the system to replace or repair a component, then you definitely need to replace the desiccant, and many repair shops and home mechanics won't bother, which is terrible.

It seems that Tesla backing away a bit from that recommendation in their service scheduled, and I have never seen it in on any other manufacturer's schedule. But even if it made sense to do it, which it doesn't, I definitely don't see how it would help the musty smell unless you completely broke your A/C in the process. Then you wouldn't have any moisture on the coils to grow moldy stuff.
 
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MorrisonHiker

S 100D 2021.4.18.2
Mar 8, 2015
9,841
9,211
Colorado
How would that help with the musty smell that is caused from moisture on the outside of the evaporator coils?

I am still miffed that Tesla had that as a service item. Opening the A/C system just to replace the desiccant doesn't make any sense at all. The only reason moisture can enter the pressurized system is if you open it. If you never open it, you never need to replace the desiccant, that is only there to collect any moisture. Of course, if you open the system to replace or repair a component, then you definitely need to replace the desiccant, and many repair shops and home mechanics won't bother, which is terrible.

It seems that Tesla backing away a bit from that recommendation in their service scheduled, and I have never seen it in on any other manufacturer's schedule. But even if it made sense to do it, which it doesn't, I definitely don't see how it would help the musty smell unless you completely broke your A/C in the process. Then you wouldn't have any moisture on the coils to grow moldy stuff.
There are threads all over the internet about how moisture in the system can cause mildew and odor. If you search around, you can see this has been an issue for years. Here are but a few threads:

Tesla did a software update a couple years back to keep the fan running a while after the A/C is shut off in an effort to evaporate the moisture. Another way owners have tried to avoid the smell is to manually turn off the A/C (but keep fan running) a few minutes before arriving at their destination.
 
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TLLMRRJ

Active Member
Dec 19, 2019
1,928
1,908
Houston
There are threads all over the internet about how moisture in the system can cause mildew and odor. If you search around, you can see this has been an issue for years. Here are but a few threads:

Tesla did a software update a couple years back to keep the fan running a while after the A/C is shut off in an effort to evaporate the moisture. Another way owners have tried to avoid the smell is to manually turn off the A/C (but keep fan running) a few minutes before arriving at their destination.

We are on completely different wavelengths. It sounds like you have never worked on a car's A/C system before to know how it works. I have replaced A/C compressors and dryers and pulled vacuum and refilled them with refrigerant on multiple cars with great success, so I know well about these systems and how they work. If you have moisture inside your A/C system, you won't have an A/C system for very long. Moisture in the refrigerant will destroy them very quickly.

Bottom line is that the desiccant bag in the dryer of an A/C system is not, and will never be, the cause of a musty smell. It's moisture on the outside of the evaporator coils that gets there from the difference in temperature between the coils and the air going across it pulling the humidity out of the air.

All A/C systems pull moisture out of the air, and that's a very big part of the benefit of an A/C system to dehumidify the air in the cabin.

By the way, for anyone with the musty smell, the best thing you can do is run your cabin fan with the A/C compressor off (or heat pump off for the later models) for a few minutes after driving the car. That way the airflow will warm up and dry off the coils. Control moisture, and you control mold/mildew growth.

Morris, here's a video showing you at 1:19 where the desiccant is in the system and what it's doing.
 

Effopec

Member
Apr 11, 2018
80
60
Texas
Definitely get a flex bit driver. I didn't have one and there was no way I could get to that screw. Needed to make a trip to Lowe's in the middle to go get one. I have no idea what they were thinking when they put that screw at the top of the panel, not the bottom. Some evil plan to get people to say screw it and take it to service maybe.
 
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