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Smelly stinky socks / mold in Model 3 AC

So what is the actual design flaw in this system that requires the A/C to have so much attention?

This is not a new problem why is it that it still has not been corrected?
It may be related to the cabin overheat protection (COP) and moisture build up. I've been told this issue doesn't happen when you use COP without the A/C. Circulating cool air through the vents all throughout the day, day after day, adds condensation in the ducting. Cool moist area over time can lead to mold or weird smells. That's why I just have them spray whatever they do in the ducts and change the filter every 6 months. Seems to be a non-issue by doing this.
 
Stinky A/C again and again. Seems like I have to change the filters and clean condenser every 5 months.
This is ridiculous. Get that mild moist dirty sock smell when you turn on the A/C initially. Like everyone
else it seems to go away after it runs a bit but why?

Filters are simply not even dirty after 5 months. This has to be some design flaw a=on why we have smelly A/C units.
I do live in a humid area but have never had this horrible smell on any other car other than Tesla Model 3.

Any other solutions to this?
Running A/C in record makes ZERO difference also.
Same here. I have the smell coming back less than a week after filter + a bottle of HVAC cleaning spry can "maintenance". I have tried Lysol and 1:10 bleach spry too.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY A DESIGN FAULT ON THE Y/3. Zero issues on my S or any of my previous cars from other automakers. We shouldn't have to go through stupid routines to make sure our cars doesn't smell on every drive.

My family is pissed off every time we have to smell the start of the AC/Heat cycle on our 2020 Y. This is not a filter issue like you stated. I bought way too many cabin filters for a 15K mile odometer car.

*I should add my dad thinks the cabin filter is a life time part and never changes it and his cars (Toyotas) never smells like our Y.*
 
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2 filters and 2 cans of Klima foam cleaner (Klima is a bigger can than Kool-it and seems to work better). I do this in the spring and fall. Proactive rather than wait for odor to start. Cabin filters are a paper element and are NOT lifetime. My Acura changed annually. Manual says every 2 years and I suppose you could clean the condenser and reinstall the old filters but they are inexpensive depending on the source. It is a DIY if you chose. The Tesla site has the steps and plenty of YouTube.com videos.
 

terranx

Member
Aug 29, 2019
793
1,142
USA
I noticed this like 4 months and 5k miles into the ownership of my model 3. If I remember to precondition my car before getting in there isn't a noticeable smell, but otherwise there's like a 50/50 chance. Sure sounds like there's a design flaw somewhere for it to crop up that soon.
 
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I noticed this like 4 months and 5k miles into the ownership of my model 3. If I remember to precondition my car before getting in there isn't a noticeable smell, but otherwise there's like a 50/50 chance. Sure sounds like there's a design flaw somewhere for it to crop up that soon.
Also try running with recirculate off unless needed. Some will also run heat on high for 30 minutes to try to dry out and kill any molds.
 
Also try running with recirculate off unless needed. Some will also run heat on high for 30 minutes to try to dry out and kill any molds.
The air flow goes from Outside air inlet(or interior recirculation) -> Air blower fan -> Interior air filter -> AC evaporator -> Heat condenser -> Interior air outlets

So in order for the heat to kill the mold, it needs to heat up the whole interior, get the hot air sucked back in through the blower and filters before heating up the AC condenser. You can heat up the interior to what, 80f? That won't kill anything. During the summer heat wave in LA my car interior got up to like 130f for hours on end, that actually did make the smell very faint for a few weeks.

Believe me, I wish this heating trick worked, I tried it. My car's got the smells and I ran the heat at HI for 1 hour. It seem to smell fine until the next time I ran the AC, got into a store for 10 minutes, and got back inside the car. The smell is just as bad.

The only thing that really seem to work (at least for a few months) is a nice big can of Klima.
 
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Has anyone have any luck with understanding the warranty on the AC filter. We had the car for a few months when it started smelling like stinky socks and mold.

We did not call it in right away since the car is not driven that much initially. Then when the passenger door did not close properly, we had to call for service. Oddly, back passenger car door was not used much. I feel like we got a lemon.

Anyhow... we wanted to address both issues. Door is covered under warranty but not AC filter. They want to charge $149. There was a message that the AC filter will be changed with no charge, but message disappeared when service person came to the house and insist that we have to pay.

I told him to get me the Service Manager but we cannot get anyone on the phone. I told him to fix only the door and now I cannot see the History on the app.

I am on the Tesla chat and said I needed help with the AC filter on car and was transferred to an "Energy Customer Service' who is not transferring me to Vehicle. It's been over 20 minutes and no one is on my chat.

Anyone can explain the filter? I read it's a software update from 2020 posts. With that said, why would we be charged! Service person said we need to change and clean filter every 10 months. I used to drive BMW and Mercedes and I don't recall having to do it every 10 months - nor did I have the aggravating moldy, smelly socks to deal with. This seems expensive.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
My 2022 M3LR also started stinking in 6 months. I run HVAC on Auto, on all my cars. None of them have this problem.

That being said, rather than replacing the filter, I did something simpler. I parked my car and started the HVAC full blast with no recirc. Then I opened up the hood and sprayed a few shots of “Zero Odor” doen the air vent and let it run for 5 more minutes. No more odor.

40FB1DF0-BD6F-4E12-ADB3-C16D965A2F35.jpeg
 
3 months after using a can of Klima cleaner, it started to stink again. Took about 2 weeks from starting to stink to "Wow this is fully stinky".
So in my experience, both Interdynamics AC cleaner and Klima Cleaner lasted about 3 months each, sprayed directly onto the coils. I'm going to spray whatever I try next down the exterior intake with the AC filters taken out.
 
Been doing this now for 2 tears. The model 3 stink from ac starts for me now every 9 or 10 months.
Forget the cleaners, NOT NEEDED. The coil is not dirty and it is not what is causing the smell, save your money and time.
Just change the air filters and the smell will be gone.

Have done this several times, the bottom filter tend to get wet from the coil. Humid days are usually the cause. The damp filter is the cause of the smell not the coil. If you just change your air filters the smell will be gone.
 
Been doing this now for 2 tears. The model 3 stink from ac starts for me now every 9 or 10 months.
Forget the cleaners, NOT NEEDED. The coil is not dirty and it is not what is causing the smell, save your money and time.
Just change the air filters and the smell will be gone.

Have done this several times, the bottom filter tend to get wet from the coil. Humid days are usually the cause. The damp filter is the cause of the smell not the coil. If you just change your air filters the smell will be gone.
I totally agree. Coils are not the issue. Never has been in any hvac system for being smelly. It is always the filter. My car stinks when we get in. Once the hvac starts running, the stink disappears as the filter is dried out by the flowing air.
 
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stopcrazypp

Well-Known Member
Dec 8, 2007
13,587
10,196
I totally agree. Coils are not the issue. Never has been in any hvac system for being smelly. It is always the filter. My car stinks when we get in. Once the hvac starts running, the stink disappears as the filter is dried out by the flowing air.
I don't think making that general statement is true. For some people they didn't solve the issue for good until they cleaned the coils. There was mention of a Toyota TSB in one thread and I believe the replacement part had a mold inhibiting coating on the coils which solved the problem for that car.

A wet filter does not automatically mean the smell, there has to be mold or mildew, and that certainly can grow on the coils (as well as other parts of the system).

Also the reason why when AC is on the smell goes away is not necessarily the filter drying out, but because our sense of smell works better in warmer humid air than dry cold air.
 
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I don't think making that general statement is true. For some people they didn't solve the issue for good until they cleaned the coils. There was mention of a Toyota TSB in one thread and I believe the replacement part had a mold inhibiting coating on the coils which solved the problem for that car.

A wet filter does not automatically mean the smell, there has to be mold or mildew, and that certainly can grow on the coils (as well as other parts of the system).

Also the reason why when AC is on the smell goes away is not necessarily the filter drying out, but because our sense of smell works better in warmer humid air than dry cold air.
The water drips off of the metal coil. Not so with a cloth/paper filter which is why it smells like dirty wet socks. I hope this helps.
 
Also the reason why when AC is on the smell goes away is not necessarily the filter drying out, but because our sense of smell works better in warmer humid air than dry cold air.
They work hand in hand. Hot humid environment provides the energy to the growth of the smell bacteria. Remove the humidity from the picture + remove the heat energy and that equals loss of stinking bacteria.
 
Been doing this now for 2 tears. The model 3 stink from ac starts for me now every 9 or 10 months.
Forget the cleaners, NOT NEEDED. The coil is not dirty and it is not what is causing the smell, save your money and time.
Just change the air filters and the smell will be gone.

Have done this several times, the bottom filter tend to get wet from the coil. Humid days are usually the cause. The damp filter is the cause of the smell not the coil. If you just change your air filters the smell will be gone.
I have come to the same conclusion. I get about 6 months before I need to replace the filters. Now I just buy the cheapest ones.
 
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As I give it some more thought, the Zero Odor will only help till some more dampness comes on and then some more smelly bacteria. With that in mind, I am now trying out a way better approach. @elonmusk better give me a free FSD for this initiative 😝

The air filter gets damp. That is the root cause for the stink. Apart from redesigning the placement of the filter, this is my approach:

Spray the air filter with 3M Scotchgard™ Fabric Water Shield. This will repel water and not let the air filter get damped. I have already bench tested it out on a spare air filter and it does not get wet at all, let alone get damp.


  • Doesn't impede fabric's breathability

scotchgard-fabric-water-shield-main-13oz-jpg.jpg
scotchgard-fabric-water-shield-claims.jpg
 

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