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UGH - The smell of it. [AC Smell]

P3dStealth

Active Member
Nov 12, 2019
1,271
1,551
USA
Did it work better this way or no?

No not really. Everytime I clean it the smell goes away anyway so it doesn't seem to matter how I clean it. It comes back around 6-10 months later. When it first starts smelling again I just deal with it for a while so I am not sure how long cleanings last.

It's such a strange issue. I pretty much never even changed the cabin filters in my other cars.
 

Skotty

2014 S P85 | 2020 3 P19"
Jun 27, 2013
2,589
2,059
Kansas City, MO
No not really. Everytime I clean it the smell goes away anyway so it doesn't seem to matter how I clean it. It comes back around 6-10 months later. When it first starts smelling again I just deal with it for a while so I am not sure how long cleanings last.

It's such a strange issue. I pretty much never even changed the cabin filters in my other cars.
Seems to be a design issue, but often not well understood. Does anyone believe to have good knowledge of why most cars have zero issues with this, but cars like the Model 3 (and a few limited others from other brands) do? Has to be a design issue. Right?

They should definitely try hard to fix it. It matters. It's the difference between me buying another Model 3 some day or looking elsewhere. I would switch brands to avoid this issue, even though it's not serious and can be dealt with using regular maintenance. But there is just something about this issue. Makes me not want the car. Things like breaking door handles on my Model S don't bug me near as much.
 
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Seems to be a design issue, but often not well understood. Does anyone believe to have good knowledge of why most cars have zero issues with this, but cars like the Model 3 (and a few limited others from other brands) do? Has to be a design issue. Right?

They should definitely try hard to fix it. It matters. It's the difference between me buying another Model 3 some day or looking elsewhere. I would switch brands to avoid this issue, even though it's not serious and can be dealt with using regular maintenance. But there is just something about this issue. Makes me not want the car. Things like breaking door handles on my Model S don't bug me near as much.
I really don't know for sure, but perhaps one flaw is how close the filter is to the evaporator. The evaporator is where water will condense and allow a surface for bugs to grow. If the filters are close enough to the evaporator, then possibly the condensation can travel to the filters and wet them and allow the bugs to grow on it. In other cars perhaps the filters are in different path of the airway.
 
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I really don't know for sure, but perhaps one flaw is how close the filter is to the evaporator. The evaporator is where water will condense and allow a surface for bugs to grow. If the filters are close enough to the evaporator, then possibly the condensation can travel to the filters and wet them and allow the bugs to grow on it. In other cars perhaps the filters are in different path of the airway.

I'm not sure it is due to that, as I have tried filters with plastic/nylon housing as well as adding a standout frame to keep the filter off the fins. There is already a foam border that should keep filters off. Plus the stench doesn't seem to be just on the lower part/half it seems like it is through the whole filter. So I think the filter is just filtering and retaining the smell/mold/whatever. Because while the filter "stinks" just running the fan for a minute clears out the worst of the smell.
 
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I tried a 3d printed barrier and it had the same effect as a normal cleaning. Didn't bother with it the next time.

I've also just sprayed it in with the fan on. Bubbles come out your vents.

Oh man, I thought I was a genius. You might link to your 3D print, you might be able to sell them.

I actually called Tesla first to buy a spare cover to drill into, but they said it's not a serviceable/sellable part. (It is not in their parts catalog).
 

P3dStealth

Active Member
Nov 12, 2019
1,271
1,551
USA
Oh man, I thought I was a genius. You might link to your 3D print, you might be able to sell them.

I actually called Tesla first to buy a spare cover to drill into, but they said it's not a serviceable/sellable part. (It is not in their parts catalog).

They are on thingiverse I didn't design it other people did. There are a couple of versions just search Tesla coil cleaner.
 
Update on my service request for this. Tesla scheduled me a mobile visit with a line item of: Model 3/Y HVAC Air Leak Sealing - Engineering Study. This seemed very promising to me. I was thinking they finally found something new to try and are addressing this issue. A couple of days later I got a message saying Mobile Service cannot do what I need and I had to move my appointment to the Service Center. Sounding even better!

Well yesterday I got my estimate and while the Engineering Study thing is still on there, they added evaporator cleaning service and diagnostic fee for a total of about $250. I called and spoke to them because I wasn't prepared to pay for evaporator cleaning/new filters when I've already done two in the past 1.5 months (and I've always done them according to the instructions the Tesla SC originally gave me). Come to find out, the AC Leak Sealing line item is being added by default for all Model 3/Y tickets, has nothing to do with my issue, and isn't even a real service. They don't do anything for it, it's simply to track for engineering. Turns out the only reason they moved me from mobile service to SC was in case they needed to do further diagnostics.

So all they were going to do is the evap. cleaning again (at full price) and I said no thanks and cancelled the appointment. So I'm back to square one. Evaporator cleaning & filter change no longer seems to work for me (although now about a week later since the last one, I can say it's not as bad as usual, it's still there). Also FWIW, I have always made sure to spray some of the evap cleaner into the tube in the frunk to hopefully clean that out as well during the process.

At this point I may try the tip I've seen on here, and also what a friend says has helped with his model 3, of blasting the heat on high for a few hours to see if I can at least get back to the status quo of bi-annual cleaning and filter changes to resolve this issue which is obviously a design flaw that Tesla still refuses to acknowledge.
Another update if anyone is interested. About a month ago I sucked it up and had mobile tech out to do another cleaning. Fortunately the tech understood my situation and did it for free. Well about a week ago the smell came back. Worse than ever. Smells light straight vinegar now vs. mild vinegar and mildew combined. I have been forced to park outside instead of in the garage at work more often lately so maybe that’s part of it. But man, the full cleaning was a month ago.

Made service center appointment. They checked my drain tube and said no issues. Replaced the filters again. Here’s the news: The advisor claims they are no longer doing the evaporator cleaning process, as it and I quote “Doesn’t do anything to help the problem.” He claims only filters are needed.

Now, my situation is still unique in that it keeps coming back in a month instead of a year like before, but I find it interesting that they claim they are no longer doing any kind of spray on the evaporator. I am headed out to pick up the car now, and I expect the smell will probably be gone again, but I certainly don’t expect that to last, so I forsee another SC visit in my future.
 
Another update if anyone is interested. About a month ago I sucked it up and had mobile tech out to do another cleaning. Fortunately the tech understood my situation and did it for free. Well about a week ago the smell came back. Worse than ever. Smells light straight vinegar now vs. mild vinegar and mildew combined. I have been forced to park outside instead of in the garage at work more often lately so maybe that’s part of it. But man, the full cleaning was a month ago.

Made service center appointment. They checked my drain tube and said no issues. Replaced the filters again. Here’s the news: The advisor claims they are no longer doing the evaporator cleaning process, as it and I quote “Doesn’t do anything to help the problem.” He claims only filters are needed.

Now, my situation is still unique in that it keeps coming back in a month instead of a year like before, but I find it interesting that they claim they are no longer doing any kind of spray on the evaporator. I am headed out to pick up the car now, and I expect the smell will probably be gone again, but I certainly don’t expect that to last, so I forsee another SC visit in my future.
Yeah I doubt filters are the culprit. When my car got the feet smells i changed the filters and sprayed the evaporator, the filters were a bit dirty but didn't have a hint of the feet smell at all.
 
Yeah I doubt filters are the culprit. When my car got the feet smells i changed the filters and sprayed the evaporator, the filters were a bit dirty but didn't have a hint of the feet smell at all.
Who knows at this point. It's all very frustrating. I can say that the filter change they just did has eliminated the smell for now and they say they didn't do anything else. I do remember hearing that when this happens the filters don't necessarily look bad or even smell UNTIL they get wet and that's what releases the stink. But again, I'm at a loss at this point.
 
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Seems to be a design issue, but often not well understood. Does anyone believe to have good knowledge of why most cars have zero issues with this, but cars like the Model 3 (and a few limited others from other brands) do? Has to be a design issue. Right?

I had this issue on BMWs. The only way I'm aware of to prevent it is to run the AC with recirculation turned off for about a minute before shutting the car down after using the AC, which dries the coils and gets the moisture out of the system. On my Tesla I've been using this method since new and after about 5k miles it still has no smell and I use the AC all the time. On the BMWs, once the smell started, there wasn't a way to get rid of it, even using the aforementioned method. I think Tesla could completely solve the issue by programming the fan to run for 1 minute with recirculation turned off everytime the car is parked.
 
@fries Tesla already does this. If the system has used the cabin evaporator during your drive, it will run the fan for about 15-60 minutes (I haven't determined exactly how it figures out how long to run it) after you park it. Haven't you heard the fan running after you park the vehicle? It's very obvious from the outside because it's sucking in air through the intake vents underneath the frunk to purge the evaporator coils of moisture.
 
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@fries Tesla already does this. If the system has used the cabin evaporator during your drive, it will run the fan for about 15-60 minutes (I haven't determined exactly how it figures out how long to run it) after you park it. Haven't you heard the fan running after you park the vehicle? It's very obvious from the outside because it's sucking in air through the intake vents underneath the frunk to purge the evaporator coils of moisture.
I've heard it running but wasn't sure if it was an HVAC fan or battery cooling or something else. Maybe it's not running long enough or the car being stationary reduces the effectiveness? I'm hesitant to rely on it until the smell complaints stop. Based on experience with previous cars the smell is hard to get rid of once it starts.
 
I've heard it running but wasn't sure if it was an HVAC fan or battery cooling or something else. Maybe it's not running long enough or the car being stationary reduces the effectiveness? I'm hesitant to rely on it until the smell complaints stop. Based on experience with previous cars the smell is hard to get rid of once it starts.
I started to get a small amount of smell from the AC system. Replaced the filter and everything went back to how it was the day I took delivery of the car. I think the issue is that the filters are below the evaporator coils, and condensate from the evaporator drips onto the filters.
 

LBM4

Tesla Fealty
Aug 20, 2021
351
331
California
Seems to be a design issue, but often not well understood. Does anyone believe to have good knowledge of why most cars have zero issues with this, but cars like the Model 3 (and a few limited others from other brands) do? Has to be a design issue. Right?

They should definitely try hard to fix it. It matters. It's the difference between me buying another Model 3 some day or looking elsewhere. I would switch brands to avoid this issue, even though it's not serious and can be dealt with using regular maintenance. But there is just something about this issue. Makes me not want the car. Things like breaking door handles on my Model S don't bug me near as much.
This has me very curious. Been watching this thread on and off since I bought my Model 3, 13 months ago. Could this issue be a couple of factors?

Where I live, the humidity is nearly non-existent (desert climate) and it almost never rains. After owning my car for 13 months, I have not had this smell (I bought the HEPA filters, just in case, several months back). So, while it may be a design issue, the climate could also be a contributing factor as to whether you will get this smell or not, or if it will happen more frequently if you do?
 

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