Why Does My Car's AC Smell Like Vinegar?

Why Does My Car’s AC Smell Like Vinegar?

September 15, 2020

You get in your car, turn it on, crank up the air conditioner… and suddenly get a strong whiff of vinegar? Most people find this to be not just startling, but unpleasant to boot. What causes the vinegar smell in your car’s AC vents in Everett, WA, and what can you do about it?

Why your car smells like vinegar

If the vinegar smell only occurs when you’re using your car’s air conditioner, that indicates that the problem is in the AC, rather than in another component. To double-check, drive around without operating the air conditioner—the smell will likely only occur when it’s running.

Vinegar smells in your air conditioner doesn’t mean that someone tampered with your car. On the contrary, there are a few different reasons things might smell sour, and they have nothing to do with salad condiments. Instead, you likely have some sort of buildup of natural material in your air conditioner or vents. As plant matter decays, it can ferment and turn into alcohol, then “sour,” forming either vinegar or a vinegar-like smell.

So, what could possibly be lurking in your car’s AC vents in Everett, WA? First, you might have a mold buildup. Air conditioners give off a significant amount of condensation, which can eventually turn into mold and mildew if it doesn’t dry completely.

You might also have leaves or other natural material building up in or around your air conditioner. As it decays, the air conditioner will blow the vinegar smell into the cabin. Your electric air conditioner motor may also be emitting ozone, which can have a sour smell—especially when combined with any of the other potential causes. Finally, it could simply be that your air conditioner filter needs to be replaced.

What you can do to eliminate it

The easiest way to eliminate the vinegar smell in your car’s AC is to bring it in to a trusted mechanic, like the team at Auto Truck Service Inc. Your local mechanic and repair shop can examine your car’s air conditioner to see if it’s the source of the problem, and then eliminate it—whether that means digging out decaying plant matter or simply switching out the air filter.

If the smell isn’t caused by your air conditioner, your mechanic will rule that out and consider other sources of the problem. Often, taking your car to the shop will save you time, money and frustration later on. While plenty of people feel comfortable switching out an air conditioner filter, fewer know what to do in the event that the filter doesn’t solve the problem. Taking your vehicle to an expert eliminates the guesswork—and the possibility that you might accidentally damage your car while trying to fix it.

Is your vehicle’s AC giving off a sour smell in Everett, WA? Bring it in to the team at Auto Truck Service Inc. We’re dedicated to providing you with affordable, efficient and reliable repairs, from your air conditioner to your axles. Call us today to set up an appointment.

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