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Sweet Solvent/Chemical Smell from AC (NOT mold/mildew related)

What you're smelling is the odor of activated carbon. I know that everyone has told you that activated carbon absorbs odors, but it isn't actually true. Activated carbon "adsorbs" some chemicals, which means that it holds onto the chemicals temporarily before releasing them back into the air. There is no evidence that carbon actually removes odors.

What it actually does do is add a sweet fragrance to the air, which can mask odors. That odor comes off faster when the humidity level is higher. When the car has been off for a while, the offgassing from the activated carbon builds up in the filter box. When you first turn the AC on, it all blows out at once and you notice it more than you would when the AC has been running for a while.

Not everyone notices the odor. Some people perceive it as the absence of odor. For me, it is very irritating, and causes headaches. When I buy a car, I always make sure that it doesn't come with a carbon filter, or that a filter is available that doesn't have it.

See, for example, this:

 
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Just another observation. I have new filters but they were changed by Tesla in April 2021, so more than a year ago. I also smell the sweet solvent odor, usually while it is raining, has rained, and/or high humidity. It's not too strong and often, but noticeable. I decided to experiment and turn on/off the recirculation, hoping that this might bypass the filters (I don't know for sure). Sure enough, the effect is immediate when you turn on recirculation -- the odor disappears. It reappears when you turn it off. Can anybody else confirm if the filters are used during recirculation?
 
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VikH

Active Member
Supporting Member
Nov 23, 2015
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Midwest, USA
Just another observation. I have new filters but they were changed by Tesla in April 2021, so more than a year ago. I also smell the sweet solvent odor, usually while it is raining, has rained, and/or high humidity. It's not too strong and often, but noticeable. I decided to experiment and turn on/off the recirculation, hoping that this might bypass the filters (I don't know for sure). Sure enough, the effect is immediate when you turn on recirculation -- the odor disappears. It reappears when you turn it off. Can anybody else confirm if the filters are used during recirculation?

Correct. If recirc is on then no filter is being used.

My filter was changed in December 2021 and the issue has come back recently. It is odd because my new 2022 MS LR does not have this issue.
 

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