Car AC Smells Like Vinegar

When you get into your car for a drive, you don’t want to smell anything unpleasant. What do you do if your car's AC smells like vinegar. The car's AC can get a strong odor and this is a sign that something needs to be done.

To determine where the smell may be coming from, we examine each option. So you can enjoy your vehicle again, we also offer possible solutions. 

Índice de Contenido
  1. The Reasons Your Car AC Feels Like Vinegar
    1. 1. Mold in Vents or Ductwork
    2. 2. Cabin Air Filter: Old and dirty
    3. 3. The Evaporator Fins or Coil are a problem
    4. 4. Excessive Condensation
    5. 5. Natural Material Dead
  2. Vinegar Smell in Car
    1. 1. Change cabin air filter
    2. 2. Clean Inlet & Drain
    3. 3. Use an Air Condition Cleaner
    4. 4. Car that is clean
  3. Do I have the right to drive my car if it smells like wine?
  4. Questions about Car Smell
    1. What is the best way to clean my AC unit?
    2. How much does it cost to clean a car’s AC?
    3. Is it really worth cleaning AC coils?
    4. My car's AC is obnoxious.

The Reasons Your Car AC Feels Like Vinegar

The most common reason why your car’s AC smells like vinegar is that mold may have grown in the air valves, ductwork or components. It could also be caused by too much condensation and an old, blocked cabin air filter.

Below is more information about why your car's AC smells like vinegar.

1. Mold in Vents or Ductwork

One of the main reasons vinegar smells is caused by mold growth. Thankfully, mold doesn’t grow quickly, so it’s easy to prevent this situation from happening, especially if you keep up with AC system maintenance. 

Mold growth can be more common in areas with high humidity. That’s why it’s important to clean out the air conditioning system as often as possible. Mold could be a problem if you don't clean it regularly. You must immediately deal with mold if you find it. It can result in respiratory illness, especially for those who are most at risk. It can also cause irritation of the sinuses and headaches that you shouldn’t have to deal with. 

RELATED: 8 Car Odors & Smells You Shouldn’t Ignore

2. Cabin Air Filter: Old and dirty

Clogged or contaminated cabin air filters can often cause unpleasant odours. The filter traps particles and debris to keep the AC system clean. But, if the filter becomes clogged it can retain moisture and mold growth. 

To prevent this, you must make sure that you are replacing the cabin air filter at the specified times indicated in the owner’s manual. This filter should be replaced every year. However, many people forget this. It’s a simple process that saves you from smelling vinegar and keeps the cabin air at its highest quality. 

RELATED: 5 Symptoms of a Bad Cabin Air Filter (& Replacement Cost)

3. The Evaporator Fins or Coil are a problem

It’s also possible that the mold has built up in the evaporator coil or fins. Usually, this happens when the vehicle isn’t used regularly and it sits. You can keep moisture from building up by running your car regularly, turning on the AC to dry it and then turning the AC off. 

The vinegar smell is just one indication that there’s mold in the system. If the mold growth is severe, it could cause the AC to fail completely. 

4. Excessive Condensation

Water and moisture build up in the AC system. This condensation alone can lead to a vinegar smell, even if mold hasn’t begun to form. Trapped condensation often occurs because the system hasn’t been run or there’s a clog somewhere. 

A good way to tell if there’s a clog is to watch for the regular water flow that should be coming from under your car when the AC is running. If you don’t spot this normal dripping function, which is the system draining, the moisture might be getting trapped somewhere inside. 

5. Natural Material Dead

It is possible for animals to get in the system. Although nobody wants it, this can be a reality. Even if the vehicle has not been sitting long enough or there is food and crumbs inside, animals will try to get into cars. 

It would eventually die if the animal got trapped inside the car. It wouldn’t take long after this process for you to smell the decaying corpse, which could resemble vinegar. It will be stronger if you are near the blower. 

RELATED: How to Remove Skunk Smell From Your Car (Exterior & Interior)

Vinegar Smell in Car

1. Change cabin air filter

If your car's AC is smelling like vinegar, the first thing you need to do when it smells musty is check when the cabin filter was changed. The make and model of your vehicle will determine how often you should change the filter. Usually, it should be replaced every year, but check your owner’s manual for the correct schedule.

Anyway, replacing the cabin air filter is often quite cheap and easy, so if you suspect the filter is bad – replace it.

2. Clean Inlet & Drain

The cabin filter must be checked for mold or other condensation, regardless of whether it was replaced recently. You should look for leaves stuck in the inlet of the cabin air filter and under the windshield. If the leaves clog the drain pipe under the windshield, the water will flow into the cabin air filter and start to mold, so it’s important to keep it clean.

Due to the fact that it can be very difficult to reach the inside of the vents to clean them properly, it’s much better to spray a special cleaner into the system to kill the bacteria.

3. Use an Air Condition Cleaner

To kill mould and bacteria, you can spray special cleaners into your air conditioning system. The bottles can be purchased for a very low price and anyone could try them. Be sure to change the cabin filter and get rid of any leaves.

ArmorAll has an Air Conditioner Cleaner that you can purchase. It is an affiliate link, and you may be eligible for a small commission.

4. Car that is clean

After you've removed any lingering odors from your vehicle it is time to wash the remainder of your vehicle. The smell could have permeated other surfaces, so you don’t want to take any chances. It’s important to get into every corner of the vehicle, but first, you have to start by removing any objects that don’t belong. 

You can then work on floor mats and seats as well as upholstery or hard surfaces. Just make sure you use appropriate cleaners for every surface and only use what’s safe for the material. Leather is a good example of this. 

Aside from this, it’s important to vacuum out the interior and wipe down every surface. A quality cabin air freshener could help reduce the unpleasant odor. Additionally, it’s wise to regularly clean the inside of the vehicle to keep the odors to a minimum. 

Do I have the right to drive my car if it smells like wine?

The smell of vinegar is usually not related to the car's mechanical components. For this reason, there’s nothing stopping you from driving to your next destination. If the AC parts are damaged, the AC might stop working. Mold can also cause illness so it is important to not drive more than you need.

It’s our recommendation to start the cleaning and repairing process as soon as possible. It will ensure that you have the cold air you need and keep you hydrated during every drive.

Questions about Car Smell

What is the best way to clean my AC unit?

Clean an AC system with ease by ensuring there is no debris blocking it, then changing the cabin air filter. Spray a cleaning agent into the vents using a spray bottle to kill any mold or bacteria.

How much does it cost to clean a car’s AC?

How much it will cost to clean a car’s AC system depends on how much you want to clean and how much you can do yourself. You can purchase AC cleaner sprays and apply them directly to the vents. This will only cost $50. It will cost you between $200-$400 to have it professionally cleaned.

Is it really worth cleaning AC coils?

You can clean the AC coil of mold and dirt. This will make it more effective and eliminate any unpleasant odors. But, it can be hard to clean an AC coil without the proper tools.

My car's AC is obnoxious.

The most common reason for a car’s AC to smell sour is due to mold and condensation in the AC system. This problem can be solved by replacing the cabin filter with an AC cleaner.

RELATED : How to Get Smoke Out of A Car

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