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Mildew Odor From A/c?


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#1 labsr4me

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 02:46 PM

Hello...

first post...

I have a 2004 RX330...about a month ago I noticed a mildew type smell in the interior of the car...i promptly checked all floor panels, carpets, and interior fabrics including leather seats for moisture and a possible source of the odor. The odor smells like a wet towel left to sit a few days....not foul smelling, but mildew.

The interior review indicated no moisture at all, so I assumed an A/C or undercarriage blockage that was trapping moisture....

I took it in to dealer and he cleaned carpets, checked undercarriage and said he flushed the A/C...it smelled like cleaning solvent when I picked it up.

I borrowed a friends ionic breeze fan and put it in the car for two days and did not use the car...the bulk of the odor was gone when I went to use the car two days later...however, after a 10 mile drive and the car sitting in a covered lot while i was at my office, the odor returned when i opened the door to drive home.

it is now getting worse, and I am suspecting the A/C condenser...a friend who owns a mitsubishi dealership said this a common problem he sees is a fungus in the condenser....it is so bad that I have had sinus issues the past few days and with the exception of taking the car to thedealer tomorrow, i will not drive the car.

I even tried some of the fungicides that you spray into the intake vents....by the way, can someone confirm that tha A/C intake vents are under the hood near the base of the windshield?

Has anyone had this problem? The car is less than a year old, and I am afraid the condenser and carpets will require replacement.

ANy help or comments would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Labs

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#2 4482

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Posted 30 September 2004 - 06:07 PM

I had heard the smell might be from the A/C filter located above the glove box. I try to keep my A/C air intake control button to use the outside air and not recirculated air.

Carl

#3 labsr4me

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Posted 01 October 2004 - 10:39 AM

Thanks...it is at the dealer now...they will be replacing carpet and jute (sp?) to see if that is the culprit....my money is still on the A/C condenser, but we'll see

#4 wwest

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Posted 03 October 2004 - 06:59 PM

The problem is really within the plenum containing the A/C evaporator, the heat exchanging device that cools and dehumidifies the airflow coming into the cabin.

The odor results from the thin film of moisture that will always remain on the 10,000 square inches of cooling vanes surface area immediately upon shutting down the A/C. Absent some source of fresh airflow, forced or convection, this mositure may evaporate but most of it will remain within the plenum area.

Dark, damp, dank, and about 65 to 75F overnight provides an excellent breeding area for the microbes that comprise the mould and mildew "family".

The very best thing to do is leave the windows down every night, religiously, in the garage to allow the system to air out naturally.

For more info go to airsept.com and read about their EED.

I have heard that some dealers will exhaust a spray can of lysol into the air intake air just under the rear of the hood at the bottom of the windshield while the system blower is running on low or medium and in fresh mode. I wouldn't advise using the car for many hours afterward.

Additionally I understand the above only provides a temporary fix, say a month or so, and the real answer is to keep the A/C evaporator dried out when not in use.

#5 labsr4me

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 03:41 PM

Thanks for the suggestions....I should be getting the car back on weds or thursday and we will see if the smell remains.

I will also try leaving the windows down and see if that helps.

#6 mailrail

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Posted 04 October 2004 - 06:18 PM

I've had that problem with my Acura Legend. It's an older car (1992) and I've always suspected that it was mold and/or mildew somewhere between the air intake and the inside vents. Like wwest talked about, I've also done the "Lysol thing". Seems to work for a few days and then the smell's back. Kinda unusual to see or hear about this problem on such a new vehicle as yours. I read somewhere that another "fix" for this problem (if it persists) is to shut your A/C off a couple of miles from home, especially when parking it for the night. This gives the ventilation system a little headstart in evaporating the moisture on the inside of the system. That seems to have helped me a little. Keep us all posted as to what the dealer finds.

#7 labsr4me

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 12:27 PM

OK...i got the RX 330 back last night...they replaced the carpet in the vehicle for the passenger area. They told me that there was a stain on the underside of the carpeting on the driver side, between the "jute" (SP) and the carpeting. This is interesting, because there was no stain on the carpet side, so whatever moisture was creating the odor was coming up from the floor board rather than down thru the carpeting. He said there was a considerable amount of mildew and they washed it out and used bleach in some areas to make sure they got all the mildew.

They then ran water on the floorboard to ensure that the plugs were sealed, and he said that they were...he has no idea where the moisture came from. They replaced the carpet and gave me new mats, and although he didn't say it, he treated the A/C with something, because the setting on the A/C when i got in the car was MAX COLD, and when I turned on the A/C the frangrance coming from the A/C was strong...

There are traces of the mildew smell remaining, and I am hopeful that if I treat the leather with some leather cleaner and conditioner that some of the smell that likely permeated the seats will diminish...

I had a friend take a ride, and didn't tell him about mu troubles, he did notice traces of the odor, but said that after a few secs it was masked by the fragrance of the A/C and the freshener they applied to the floors.

I will air the car out with windows down as much as possible, and I will utilize an ionic fan for the next week to see if all the odors can be eliminated...

I am very pleased with the service, but skeptical if the problem is really over and the odor will go away....

As I am less than a year into a 39 month lease, I hope they can help me resolve the problem if it is not already fixed.

#8 RX in NC

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Posted 06 October 2004 - 12:49 PM

I'd be very skeptical of the dealership blaming the problem on your previous mats and/or carpeting. I still suspect the a/c evaporator and plenum, as wwest pointed out in a very detailed manner in his previous post.

Let's hope the problem truly was under the carpet, but unless you left your windows down during a thunderstorm or someone dumped a pitcher of water in your vehicle without you knowing about it, that's a very unlikely fix....

#9 wwest

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Posted 07 October 2004 - 09:34 AM

Mould, mildew, and sudden spontaneous windshield fogging over.

These problems have been with us since A/C began to be used, but became dramatically more prevalent with the advent of the use of the new, less efficient, refrigerant.

When the LS400 was first introduced in 89 the A/C design was already r-134 compatible.


Basically that meant a much greater complexity, density, for the A/C cooling evaporator, 10,000 square inches in the LS versus 4400 in an 84 T-bird. Another means to improve efficency was to dramatically reduce the cabin atmospheric outflow. The idea being that once the cabin atmosphere is cooled don't let it escape very rapidly. This last bit obviously had a positive effect on the fuel economy as now the A/C need not cycle on as often. The other result from more thoroughly sealing the cabin from outflow is that the system blower can be run at a much lower speed (less fresh air inlet) thereby improving the efficiency of the system to even a greater extend. The longer it takes the air to more through the 33F evaporator the colder it will become.

So here we are in 1990, 91 with a SUPER efficient A/C system in preparation for the use of r-134 but the factory is still filling it with freon.

Soon customer complaints start to come in about horrid A/C smells and sudden windshield fogging. So lexus decides that the odor problem can be overcome by coating the evaporator surface area with a porous nylon film into which is embedded an anti-microbial chemical to prevent the inordinant grown rate of the microbes that comprise the "family".

Then things start to really go WRONG!

First, they over-looked the Fed's requirement to file a form (MSDS??) acknowledging the use (and testing"") of a chemical fungicide to which ALL passengers in their vehicles will be exposed. And second, they completely overlooked the fact that with repeated "washings", daily use and non-use of the A/C, the result of which the chemical was quickly "leached" from those pores.

That, of course, resulted in the porous surface now acting very much like a huge sponge, absorbing the moisture condensed on the evaporator and retaining it for much longer periods than would be normal. About a pound of water over a week of exposure sitting by itself, open, alone, in a closed two bay garage.

And because that porous nylon film was created by human designed manufacturing process the pores themselves turned out to be of a fairly consistent size and/or volume.

Those of you who are schooled in atmospleric sciences and have an understanding of "vapor pressure" are probably well ahead of me at this point.

The suddenness of the complete and spontaneous fogging over of the interior surface of the windshield that many owners started experiencing with the arrival in the marketplace or the 92 model was directly related to the initial use of the nylon film containing the fungicide.

I probably have the only existing copy of any Lexus documentation indicating the illicit use of the fungicide for that short period during late 91.

So, the horrid odor of the out-gassing of the microbial spores breeding every night in 60-70F dark, dank and DAMP atmosphere of the AQ/C evaporator has been with us since the advent o fthe use of A/C. But the neeed to improve the efficiency of the system for the use of a new much less efficient refrigerant has obviously led to the horrid dirty gym socks odor being more pronounced and prevalent.

#10 labsr4me

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Posted 08 October 2004 - 09:56 AM

Wow...that is why I posted on these forums...impressive summary and thank you...


several days since picking up the car, and there remains a hint of the original odor, but it is certainly not getting worse right now...the fragrances used by the dealer to deodorize are still quite strong, so that is masking it to some degree...

The dealer called me yesterday to see how things were going, and I am going to call him back today...I treated the seats with a leather cleaner and protector to see if some of the residual odor was in the skin of the leather,, and it really didn;t make much of a difference.

I think only time will tell, and if it is the A/C unit....well, the problem will repeat itself..

Thanks again for everyone's help

#11 labsr4me

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 01:14 PM

OK....the people here on this forum know more about my vehicle than the dealer who worked on it...

THE SMELL IS BACK!!!!!

I will contacting them today to take it back and ask them to replace the A/C unit...

If this doesn't fix the problem, what is the process by which I contact Lexus to see about getting into a new car?

Thanks for any help.

#12 BadBrad

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 03:18 PM

I always try to remember to "blow-out" the A/C plenum with non-conditioned air for a couple of minutes just before I shut down the vehicle. The closer you can get the evaporator to outside ambient air temperature after you drive the less likely it will be a magnet for condensation. Everytime I forget to do this on my truck or RX I'm usually greeted the next morning by a blast of stankiness.  :pirate:

#13 labsr4me

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Posted 17 October 2004 - 10:35 AM

OK...they have taken the car back, I have a new 2005 RX330 loaner...so at least for the time being my needs are met for the weekend.

They acknolwedged the smell was as bad as ever. They will be replacing the A/C evaporator to see if that is the problem. I spoke with the asst. service manager, who has been helping me all along, and has been very good. In addition, when I took it back this time, the parts manager made a point of introducing himself and told me if the evaporator fix didn;t work, he would be calling lexus corporate.

progress, however small is still progress.

#14 labsr4me

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Posted 10 November 2004 - 08:33 PM

Ok...it took several weeks, but I got my rx 330 back about a week ago after the dealer "discovered" that the windhshield and a grommet were leaking and the firewall insulation had soaked up most of the moisture and was the culprit for the offending odor. They replaced the windshield, they fixed the grommet, they tested for leaks, shampooed the carpets and gave it back.

Well...it smelled better, but the smell wasn't gone....after a couple days, it got stronger...and the padding under the driver side has started to "buckle" and raise up from floorboard...lastly, the one touch moonroof is no longer one touch, I have to hold the button to open the moonroof all the way.

Having said that...the parts service asst. mgr called today to see how things had gone with the car during the last week...I explained what was going on, and he was gracious and told me to bring it back as soon as possible.

My dilemma....I do not believe that this car will ever be odor free (no seinfeld car smell jokes please). The lease is less than a year old...and is financed thru someone else other than lexus financial...what can i do with Lexus Corporate to get this resolved or get this vehicle replaced?

Thanks for any assistance.

#15 RX in NC

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Posted 11 November 2004 - 07:29 AM

First, maintain your professional demeanor with your Lexus service manager but be clear and firm in continuing to let them know that you are not satisfied with the situation and you will not be satisfied unless and until the problem is completely resolved and no residual odor is present.

Second, educate yourself on the arbitration process in your state. Contact your attorney general's office in the state capital and obtain the documentation pertinent to automobile "lemon laws" as they pertain to you. In many states now, the dealership gets four separate attempts to repair/replace the offending damage. If the vehicle is still not up to standards after the fourth attempt, the laws turn greatly in the favor of the consumer. But you'll need to study the process for your state and ensure that you follow the steps exactly, documenting your actions and results every step of the way.

And finally, somewhere in the paperwork that you received when you leased your vehicle is a general brochure pertaining to arbitration that is provided for situations just such as this one. Find it, study it, and let it be your guide along with the material you obtain from your attorney general's office.

You may never need this information, but you must be prepared in case you do. Most manufacturers prefer to work directly with the customer to satisfy the situation, particularly when they have already acknowledged that the problem you describe does in fact exist and they've taken steps to rectify it. The good news is that your Lexus dealership is still attempting to work with you in order to get the problem resolved. The bad news is that all traces of the offending smell may never be removed unless all carpets, sub-mats, insulation, fabric, and anything else made of moisture-absorbing fibres are replaced and all surfaces around and underneath them are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

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