Weird AC Smell - NOT mildewy coil

Discussion in 'Gen 1 Prius Plug-in 2012-2015' started by PiPLosAngeles, Oct 5, 2021.

  1. PiPLosAngeles

    PiPLosAngeles Senior Member

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    Let me start off by saying this is NOT your standard musty smell from moisture in the evaporator coil. I know this because the smell does not happen by pressing the A/C button to turn off the compressor, and there is no smell when starting the car after it was turned off with the A/C running.

    Now, what's happening is that approximately every 10-15 minutes while the A/C is running in the 2012 PiP there will be a strong smell in the car that smells almost exactly like salt. I mean exactly like if you go open a large container/bag of table salt and take a whiff. It goes away after a minute or two until the next round.

    The A/C seems to be working alright, but that smell is hard to take and I'm worried that it might not be good to breathe. In typical fashion the dealer just blew me off saying that it's normal for the A/C to have a smell as the compressor cycles. Never mind that I've been driving this very car for a decade and it never did this until the last couple of weeks.

    Any ideas appreciated.
     
  2. QuantumFireball

    QuantumFireball Active Member

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    I'd still put it down to the evaporator coil, maybe it's just some different mould than usual. Check the cabin filter too, I've found dead insects in there before.
     
  3. PiPLosAngeles

    PiPLosAngeles Senior Member

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    I wonder how a mold or filter issue would only cause the smell while the A/C is running and not when it's manually turned off. Since I am not willing to spray anything in the vents, what would be the best way of ruling that out?
     
  4. QuantumFireball

    QuantumFireball Active Member

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    With mine it can smell a bit funky either when the aircon starts, or when the ICE starts. I don't know if it's something about the flow of refrigerant or coolant causing some stinky reaction, or whatever way the flow of air changes in either situation (not sure if it does) - I haven't investigated and haven't tried inspecting/cleaning the evaporator coil (yet).
     
  5. PiPLosAngeles

    PiPLosAngeles Senior Member

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    Mine only smells when the compressor has already been running for about 10-15 minutes. It lasts for about 1 minute and then goes away for another 10-15 minutes. Repeat ad infinitum. It doesn't smell musty or sour like mildew. It smells like salt, specifically.
     
  6. vvillovv

    vvillovv Senior Member

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    Just a shot in the dark PiP maybe it can give some ideas at least.
     
  7. Colorado Boo

    Colorado Boo Member

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    If your car is like mine, it likes to turn on the recycle air option which can lead to strange smells....turn that off unless it's a really hot day and you need max A/C. Also, turn off the A/C when you are within about 10 minutes of where you're going and put the fan on max to get everything in there dried out real good.
    Scotty Kilmer has a video on how to disinfect the system...might also try this.

     
  8. PiPLosAngeles

    PiPLosAngeles Senior Member

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    I don't think it's related to mold or mildew since I cannot create the odor by manually cycling the compressor on and off.

    I will not spray chemicals into the system, especially if those chemicals have an odor. That would be pretty much the same as dumping a porta potty in the back seat IMHO.
     
  9. Bucky35

    Bucky35 Junior Member

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    Run your car in Power Mode and you will have no AC smells. It works!
     
  10. vvillovv

    vvillovv Senior Member

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    I find that really interesting, as I don't see to many posts here at PC about using Power mode.
    I'll go way out on a limb with a question here since I don't use Power Mode very often and I don't have an issue with A/C either, but am still interested. Do you have any clues as to why it works in Power Mode when A/C has odd smells in ECO or Normal modes? tia
     
  11. Bucky35

    Bucky35 Junior Member

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    In Power Mode the AC is not cycled, so it generates enough condensate-water- to flush the box and keep out the stink. All the other drive modes cycle the AC to conserve power and don't generate enough water and it just festers.

    Additionally, here in Florida Power Mode AC is a must (for me anyway). You can really tell the cooling difference.
     
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  12. PiPLosAngeles

    PiPLosAngeles Senior Member

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    What would the difference be between manually cycling the compressor and the compressor cycling automatically? Because when I manually cycle the compressor I don't get the smell.
     
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