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How to avoid a smelly air conditioner

In Queensland, we rely on our vehicle’s air conditioners constantly throughout summer. However, they can be forgotten about during the colder months, and this can lead to problems when we turn them on again. One of the biggest issues that can arise when we finally use our car’s AC again is a bad odour. There is nothing worse than expecting a blast of refreshing cool air and you are instead hit with an unpleasant smell.

So, what causes a smelly air conditioner?

There’s a leak 

There’s a good chance that the bad odour you are detecting is the smell of gas. When our air conditioner is not used for a long period of time, sometimes leaks can go undetected. The first thing you need to do is determine if the smell is in fact gas. If you think that it is, this should be seen to ASAP. Leaving leaks will only allow them to get worse and could result in more complex (and expensive) repairs.


Growth of bacteria in a damp environment can result in a build-up of mould or mildew. Unfortunately, this can happen in our vehicle’s air conditioning systems. The most common way this happens is a build-up of bacteria in your evaporator behind the dash panel. This smell then passes over the evaporator, entering your car and causing that nasty stink! One way you can combat this is by spraying an antiseptic into the exterior air vents. When you do this, change your AC settings so that the air is being pulled from outside rather than inside the car. This will allow the antiseptic to circulate throughout the system and combat the bacteria.

If you are having repeated issues with mould and mildew, you might have to change the way you use your vehicle’s air conditioner. The main change you can make is switching off the AC 2-5 minutes before you stop driving, and only running the fan function. This will help to dry out the system before you switch your car off and prevent excess moisture from sitting around.

Dirty filters

Dirty filters in your air conditioning system can lead to dirt and dust buildup. Not only does this smell on its own, but a build-up in the filters can be another reason that moisture gets trapped and further results in mould or mildew. The good news is that this is a pretty easy fix. Air filters are relatively cheap and easy to replace.

If you try all three of these steps and still find that you can’t shake the scent from your smelly air conditioner, your next step should be to visit a cooling expert such as Red Devil Radiators. Get in touch with our team today!



(07) 3260 5977

(07) 3205 6155

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(07) 3209 2611

(07) 3274 1064

(07) 5596 4296


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