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Why Are the Air Vents in My Car Smelly?

Usually, when you turn on your AC or heat, you don't expect any scent to come out of your vents. However, whenever you start noticing foul odors, it could mean bigger problems for your car's ventilation. It's vital that you try to find the source of the stench as it could potentially harm your health and the overall safety of your vehicle. Below are some common explanations for smelly vehicle air vents:

Fluid Leak

Leaking chemicals are a common reason behind strange car smells. The air circulating out of your vents actually comes from the engine bay. Therefore, oil, anti-freeze, and other fluids in that general area of your car can leak onto your cooling system. Most of the time, you can distinguish with oil, as it can smell like burnt oil. On the other hand, coolant has a sweet syrupy smell to it.

Mold Growth In Vents

If you live in an area prone to humidity, bacteria may be susceptible to growing in some regions of your home A/C system. Your car is no exception. Bacteria can grow in the evaporator, where a lot of the moisture sits. You might notice a musty, old smell as a result. Usually, you can get rid of it by airing out your car and using air fresheners. However, if the problem persists, you may want a mechanic to check it out. 

Problem with Electronics

Nowadays, most vehicles have an electrical-powered computer system that oversees the car's engine, sensors, and other important components. If you notice a burning plastic smell when you turn on the A/C, you might have an electrical fault. To be sure, we recommend taking your car to a trusted repair shop like RM Automotive, Inc.


If you need help diagnosing an unusual vehicle smell or auto HVAC repairs, please bring your car to the professionals at RM Automotive, Inc. in Northridge, CA.