2015 Volkswagen Passat - outside smells enter the cabin

I have a 2015 Volkswagen every time a vehicle is in front of me that smells it goes inside my car through the air conditioning vents and I smell clear as day Definitely picking it up from outside going into my car

Your VW’s HVAC controls should have a “recirculate” setting to keep outside air out. I presume it’s not working. Have a shop look at the blend doors and accompanying actuators. The one that shuts off outside air is probably stuck.

I had the same situation on a 1948 Dodge I bought to restore. The air intake for the heater was combined with the cowl vent. I was driving along and smelled burning grease. I looked down at the gauges and all read normal. I pulled into a parking lot, grabbed the fire extinguisher, jumped out of the car and opened the hood. I had left the engine running and it was purring away with no sign of a problem. I then looked up and I was in the parking lot of a steak house. The burning grease smell was coming from the restaurant.

Have you tried replacing the cabin air filter?

It’s an activated carbon air filter designed to absorb odors.



… or, the OP is unaware of that feature.
A properly-functioning HVAC system should be able to keep ~90% of the outside air from entering the interior when “recirculate” is activated.

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It’s possible. I gave the OP the benefit of the doubt.

Yes, it is good to give people the benefit of the doubt, but–on the other hand–over the years, I have encountered an incredible number of people who were not familiar with the controls and/or features of their own car. Here are some examples:

My wacky ex-boss used to run his Oldsmobile’s HVAC system solely on the defrost function in the winter because “it gets too hot if I set it to heat”. I pointed out the temperature control lever (which was set for maximum heat) to him, and he said, “Oh, I always wondered what that was for”.

With another guy, I was helping him to jockey cars around one day, and when I had to double-park his Chevy Celebrity in the street temporarily, I activated the four-way flashers. When he saw the four-way flashers working, he went semi-berserk.
Why did he go semi-berserk?
Because he thought that they were a one-time only feature, sort of like a road flare.
No, I am not kidding.
When I showed him that I could turn the flashers off, and then activate them again, he calmed down.

Many years ago, my mother–who had never driven a car–was getting a ride home at night from a co-worker in that woman’s beautiful '55 Chrysler New Yorker. Oncoming motorists kept flashing their high-beams at the New Yorker, and the driver seemed to be confused about the reason. My mother said, “Anne, that red light* on your instrument panel tells me that your high-beam lights are on”. It turned out that the driver/car owner didn’t know that she had high-beam lights, and had no clue regarding that red* indicator light. My non-driver mother had to explain how to use the floor switch to change back to low-beam lights. And, the car owner/driver had been driving that New Yorker for about 7 years.

*Before any of the younger forum members try to tell me that the high-beam indicator light is blue, I have to point out that–in those days–it was red.


@VDCdriver. I have had issues with the controls on cars that I don’t own. I had a rental Nissan Sentra that my institution provided for me to drive to a conference 300 miles away. My research partner and I were coming back at night and both of us were annoyed that the dash lights were too bright and we couldn’t find any way to dim them. It wasn’t until a year later when I bought a Toyota Sienna where I found that the dash lights are controlled by turning the trip odometer reset button.
Another time, we had a Hyundai Sonata to drive to a convention 150 miles away. I was pressed for time to pick up my research partner who teaches at a institution 60 miles away. The driver side seat back was reclined too far for me to be comfortable. I couldn’t find any way to get the seat back in a more upright position. When I picked up my research partner, she offered to drive and I took her up on the offer. We swapped off the driving for 150 miles. For the return trip, I decided to be polite and drive the first 90 miles. When I pulled into the rest area after the 90 miles, I decided that no manufacturer would make a seat that uncomfortable. I looked again and found a second lever that adjusted the seat back angle. The lever I had pulled up.with no results, I pushed down. Pumping the lever up and down raised the seat. We both were able to find a comfortable driving position. In neither the case of the Nissan Sentra nor the Hyundai Sonata was the manual in the glove compartment.

A friend has a 2019 RAV4 hybrid. The owner’s manual is 728 pages, and the additional quick reference guide is 64 pages.
I am so glad that as cars have been around for a century or more, that they have gotten simpler and simpler!

Check the trunk. It’s often there in my experience. It might be in the spare tire well.

@jtsanders. I know I loaded suitcases into the trunk on both vehicles. However, on the highway at night with the Nissan, it was easier just to put up with the dashboard lights that were too bright than to search for the manual. Both the Nissan Sentra and the Hyundai Sonata had been rented from Enterprise by my university because all the cars in the university fleet had been already requisitioned.
I found the controls in Ford products in the university fleet more intuitive than other makes. Mrs. Triedaq agrees. She was on the road a lot in her position with the university and racked up quite a few miles.
The cars that neither of us liked were the Honda Civic Hybrids. The driving position wasn’t comfortable for either of us. The controls also took a while to get used to.
The last trip I made for the institution was in a Ford Fusion. The controls were very straight forward and the driving position comfortable.

@Triedaq Ford is introducing a new small pickup truck early next year, called the Maverick. You’d better stock up on Preparation H.

@old_mopar_guy. I am saving my pennies to buy a Ford Maverick pickup and the Preparation H to go with it.