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Mildew Problems With 2014 Lexus Ls460


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Last month I purchased a LS460 F Sport new. It is a great car. The only problem I have encountered is a bad mildew smell.

I took it to the dealer, and at first they implied I must be doing something wrong, but finally they admitted that this was so common that Lexus has put out a service bulletin on it. They cleaned out the mildew and replaced the cabin air filter.

According to the dealer, this is an issue with the 2013 and 2014 models. These models are programmed to run the air conditioner all the time in Recirculation mode. This is because by closing the vents to prevent fresh air from entering, it increases fuel economy, and this is one way they have employed to meet the fuel economy standards.

They recommended that when I get about a mile from my destination to switch to fresh air mode (press recirculate button twice - to go from Recirculate to Auto to Fresh). They said this would allow the car to breathe and prevent the growth of mildew. I have been doing this for the last week and have not had the mildew return. When I crank the car, it returns to Recirculate mode, so I have to do this every trip.

This seems like an odd workaround for a car of this quality. Has anyone else experienced this? Any home remedies?

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have a 2013 LS460 F-Sport and experienced exactly the same thing. Shortly after purchase, my brand new high end luxury car started to smell stale. I keep the interior clean, I do not smoke, and I *never* eat in the car.

Dealer gave me the exact same answer, turn off recirc before you get home. I have been doing this as often as I can remember to, and also replaced the cabin air filter. The smell has mostly disappeared.

As expensive as this car was, I'm appalled and dismayed that I forever thus must manually intervene to prevent something Lexus should have never allowed to happen.

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Thanks for sharing your experience. I had the dealer clean out the smell and replace the filter at 3500 miles. At the 5000 mile service still OK. I am now up to about 6500 miles and the smell appears occasionally but not as intense as the first time. If it continues, I will ask them to fix it at the 10000 mile service.

The trick about manually shifting to outside air seems to work most of the time. I have found it best to just run it this way all the time in town rather than try to remember when to change it when I get close to home. On long trips, I will still use the Auto mode and shift it to fresh air when close to destination. I agree it is a pain to constantly have to be thinking about mildew while you are driving.

I found that Lexus addresses this issue on page 409 of the 2014 Lexus LS460/460L Owner's Manual. I quote,

"To reduce potential odors from occurring:

  • It is recommended that the air conditioning system be set to outside air mode prior to turning the vehicle off.
  • The start timing of the blower may be delayed for a short period of time immediately after the air conditioning system is started in automatic mode."

My fear is that at some point, Lexus will refuse to clean out the odor and point to the manual and say "working as designed." I hope they prove me wrong.

I hope Lexus can figure out this issue. It is otherwise a great car. Yesterday, I ordered a vanity license plate with the letters EFFSPORT.

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@Jeff in TX, Thanks for your input. Everything you say makes sense. And you are right that I don't know what would have happened if I ran everything in Auto mode (but you still have to manually switch to Auto Mode!). But I do feel that I should follow the dealer's recommendations on this, if for no other reason that that when I take it back in with the same problem, I can say "I tried what you suggested, but it didn't help." I wouldn't have a leg to stand on if I did not at least attempt to follow their advice.

I am curious Jeff in TX, are you an owner? Independent mechanic/specialist? Do it your-selfer? The reason I ask is if you happen to know any good mechanics in Charlotte specializing in Lexus, I would be very interested. I have a very good shop here in Charlotte for Mercedes, but his expertise is not deep on Lexus. If, in your travels, you hear of a good third party shop in Charlotte, please let me know. I can see you have helped a lot of people here in the forum, so thanks for that!

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@Paul A. - Written communication on the internet is dangerous because you can't see tone of voice, eye contact, etc. It is sometimes difficult to tell what someone means.

When Jeff in Tx gave his original answer, it was difficult to tell, not being able to see or hear him, whether he meant that 1) Lexus LS never have problems, so I must not have a mildew problem, or 2) Lexus LS may have mildew problems, but the dealer's remedy made no sense. After corresponding with him, it is clear that he meant that the Lexus Dealer's solution made no sense. He noted that this happens on multiple manufacturers, and he shared an inexpensive remedy. I am grateful for his help on two levels. 1) If the dealer fails to fix the problem, I have an inexpensive solution to try. I am hoping that by the end of the 4 year warranty they will figure it out. and 2) I have a strong sense that fussing with the recirculate button has nothing to do with the problem, so I don't need to worry about it so much.

Anyhow, thanks for your help Jeff.

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I also have a new LS460 AWD and it has the same problem. Mildew smell on start up in the morning. It started at about 3K miles. The dealer gave me the same speel - no real fix (yet) - just take it out of recirculate mode. It reduces the smell but its not really a fix. And like you said, you have to do it everytime you start the car. Pretty poor performance for an $80K luxury car. I had a 04 LS430 and never had this type of problem. Very disappointing.

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Don, have you yet replaced your cabin air filter? The dealer quoted me a ridiculous cost, and, to add insult to injury, told me that the filter they would provide was not the charcoal activated one, which costs even more.


I found the charcoal filter on ebay for $22.95, see here. It's trivial to replace. Empty the glove box and remove the shelf insert, then slide open the cover at the rear of the glove box. The filter frame comes out easily, the replacement filter fits nicely into the frame and it goes back in the same way (pay attention to the arrows/orientation on the frame)

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They're not, but at $24 (from the ebay link) that's a pretty inexpensive thing to possibly help with the odor. Charcoal-activated filters typically can't be cleaned, they have to be replaced. The stock filter though, maybe? I wouldn't think it'd be worth it though. A charcoal filter is surely going to be more effective than a plain paper one any day of the week.

I bought my '13 new in early 14, but it had been a manager's ride for about a month. It had about 2500 miles on it. When I bought it, it didn't have any odor (and as well, unfortunately, not too much of the "new car smell" was left either). When I took it in for the first service (~5K) I immediately noticed the smell when I got it back. I even complained about it, but I didn't push the issue when it *seemed* to dissipate on its own. That was short lived, and by the time I took it in for the 10K service, after only 6 months of ownership, the smell was driving me crazy. That's when the service rep told me about the recirc, and when I learned their "replacement" filter was not even charcoal activated, and was something ridiculous like $85.

I found the charcoal filter on ebay, bought 3 of them, and when I replaced it, I was amazed at how filthy the original one was. You may be surprised to see how dirty yours is when you go to replace it. I wouldn't bother trying to wash it, just replace it with a charcoal one and see if that helps. It helped mine a lot. Combined with using recirc, and the cooler weather, the odor in my car has diminished greatly. It has not 100% gone away, but it's way better than it was.

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OK - that link worked. Just bought one. I also found a Beck Arnley filter on Amazon p/n 042-2189 @ $32. Dealer wants $54. Thanks again for the help.

In Dallas TX, there is a Lexus dealer named, "Sewell Lexus". They have a large parts department and provides excellent service, looking up parts help, and part numbers as well as offering tech asst.

When you log onto Sewellparts.com they have a section for members of Lexus Owners Club. By clicking on that section it identifys you as a member which gives you a substantial discount on parts. They will help you find a part or part number. Their service is excellent.

A few months ago I needed a new key FOB for my 2013 - ES350. My dealer wanted $240. Sewell Lexus sold it to me for $161.

They are easy to deal with.

I imagine we would all like to know what Sewell's price would be for the part being talked about here.

Paul

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@Paul A. - Written communication on the internet is dangerous because you can't see tone of voice, eye contact, etc. It is sometimes difficult to tell what someone means.

When Jeff in Tx gave his original answer, it was difficult to tell, not being able to see or hear him, whether he meant that 1) Lexus LS never have problems, so I must not have a mildew problem, or 2) Lexus LS may have mildew problems, but the dealer's remedy made no sense. After corresponding with him, it is clear that he meant that the Lexus Dealer's solution made no sense. He noted that this happens on multiple manufacturers, and he shared an inexpensive remedy. I am grateful for his help on two levels. 1) If the dealer fails to fix the problem, I have an inexpensive solution to try. I am hoping that by the end of the 4 year warranty they will figure it out. and 2) I have a strong sense that fussing with the recirculate button has nothing to do with the problem, so I don't need to worry about it so much.

Anyhow, thanks for your help Jeff.

I understand your frustration Tim and If I were you, I'd be pulling my hair out.

I went back and looked at our sites search/data banks to see if the mildew odor had been noticed prior to 2014.

If you Tim, want to really dig into this, I would recommend visiting the "Toyota Information Services" site ; TIF Is a Toyota

owned website and provides everything technical about Lexus, Toyota, and Scion. This site was developed by Toyota for use by professionals and Lexus users. as well as Scion and the Toyota label. Information offered are things like all wiring diagrams, detail drawings and specs, along with service bulletins and recalls.

With your concern Tim about internet security you can also use the toll-free number. Here is the address.

"TIF.com"

One thing that always puzzles me, when these crazy situations come up, it seems that a lot of us are unwilling or just unaware to press their dealer for service under the warranty.

Read your Owners Manual. The warranty covers "Bumper to Bumper. The problem does not have to be a major failure. Yes, it's true that not all dealers are the same and some are out right bad guys. However trying the Toyota Information system is worth the $15 for 2 days use. You can have use of the site for $15 for 48 hours/ 2 days.

I have had excellent service as well when I've worked with the Lexus Customer Center. Their site is "Lexus.com". The "Lexus.com offers several services, including dealer problems, plus warranty issues.

Every Lexus dealer is covered by a regional Lexus factory rep. These people are also available to help resolve problems with your dealer and your side of the problem.

http://www.lexus.com/contact/

Paul

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  • 4 months later...

I just replaced the filter on my 2014 ES300h (20,000 miles). Easy to do, and the original paper filter was pretty dirty. I got replacement from Rock Auto. They have about 10 different brands (including carbon filters) to choose from. Prices range from $7 to $25 for the replacement filter. While I was on their site I got one for each of my vehicles (to save on shipping). My original Tacoma cabin filter was really bad (again only 20,000 miles). Glad I replaced them.

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Guess I will have to put myself in the lucky bunch for now. My car has 6500 miles and no smell. I do think that is because it is kept inside and has hardly ever been wet. I really appreciate the

(press recirculate button twice - to go from Recirculate to Auto to Fresh)

because I never knew that. I do see it likes to stay on recirculate. If that is an effort to increase fuel economy, put the feature on the Prius instead. Some of us actually like burning fuel.

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2 of my current cars have climate control (versus regular manual) systems. I never use AUTO with these climate control systems, I'm always in manual mode using outside air (because I control fan speed and set temperature myself, leaving in outside air mode, the AUTO light is always off) and it stays in this mode upon restart. Since I'm running outside air 98% of time, never had the problem. I've done this on cars that were always garaged and cars that were always parked outside (various climate control mostly premium cars, highest mileage one was to 128K miles), same results. My cabin filters are changed at intervals per owners manual. Hope this helps. It's worked for me for 20 years+.

Note: This stinky problem is not just a Lexus problem or LS problem, it occurs with vehicles of several automakers.

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In short (regarding Manual mode), once you fiddle with fan speed and temperature and outside air button, the AUTO light turns off and you are essentially in Manual mode.

In most cars it stays that way upon restart too, which is how I prefer to operate the climate control system on a daily basis. Sometimes I get my car back from service at Lexus dealership and it's in AUTO mode, but once I fiddle with fan speed, temperature, etc. it goes into manual mode until somebody hits AUTO button again.

The side effect of this mode of operation on regular basis is no stinky ventilation system. It's worked for me in several vehicles equipped with climate control systems (including Lexus, Mercedes, Jag, Porsche).

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