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Burning eyes!

We have a '06 Mazda3. When driving with 2 passengers my wife and I noticed that our eyes started burning and tearing. The passengers weren’t effected. After dropping off the passengers we drove home “crying” all the way. We have had the same problem since, about a week, and finally found a friend who also has this problem while in the car. We have tried windows up, down, AC on , off, inside air and outside air. The dealer can find no issue with any spills on the engine or hoses, leaks of any kind that might be getting pulled into the ventilation. It seems to be getting worse now that it only takes a minute or 2 before we get burning and teary eyed. Help!!!

Does the car’s HVAC system have a cabin air filter?
If so, when was the last time that it was changed?

Thanks for the quick reply. Yes it does and the dealer thought of that first and did change the filter in addition to checking for coolant or freon leaks.

Was the vehicle cleaned recently? The reason I ask is that outgassing (or offgassing) can occur if strong cleaners are used on the plastic or carpeted areas inside your vehicle. Windows rolled up on a hot day can cause the effects to be amplified somewhat. I had this happen to me a few years ago and it was not pleasant. It took a week with the windows down to get rid of it.

Another great idea, which we had also. The car was cleaned about a week previously and the day we had the reaction was a warmer day than it had been. However, it’s still happening and it isn’t very warm at all now. Plus, other passengers except for one are unaffected. Both my wife and I are experiencing allergies to pollen so perhaps we’re more sensitized?

My vehicle had just been cleaned a few days earlier also. It turned out to be a cheap imported (China, I think) cleaner that they disposed of before I could find out the name. The week of windows down was the way I drove the car with the vent on and the fan on high.

I agree with the others, first change the cabin filter and disinfect the ducts. Also, are you directing the vents directly to your face? Pollen laden or clean air will dry your eyes quickly and cause pain.

Run it through the car wash and maybe the outside duct will be rinsed clean. Somebody may have sprayed something in there.

thanks all for the tips. the cabin filter was changed and we are not directing the vents to our faces for the very reason of trying to avoid the air. We have driven with the windows down and fan on hi with outside air to try and “flush” the ductwork. Maybe the car wash could help so we’ll try that next.

Is this car a hatchback? Any chance a body plug could be missing, rear hatch seal loose, rear hatch lid out of adjustment, etc, etc. and that carbon monoxide from the exhaust could be causing this?

A body plug could allow CO into the pasenger compartment and an ill-fitting rear hatch could be even more prone to doing this. At speed a low pressure are develops behind the rear of the car. This low pressure can pull exhaust fumes up and they can easily enter a car around a faulty seal, plug, etc.
If you’ve seen vehicles with a small spoiler on top now you know what that spoiler is really for. It’s to disrupt the low pressure area and prevent this to some extent.

Try carrying a CO detector with you to see if it goes off. If it does then you need to start examining body fit, etc.

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We washed out the interior with a baking soda solution and vacuumed everything. It was a cool and overcast day and we drove around for a couple hours. Still go the burning eyes just driving at 25mph in the city but…not as bad. Had the windows open and no venting open or fan on at all. Perhaps we just need to wait it out and see if it eventually clears.

I strongly suggest that you make sure that this is not a CO problem. You are aware that CO can kill you aren’t you?

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A CO (carbon monoxide) detector is inexpensive and can even be purchased at WalMart. You can use it temporarily in the car to see if CO is the problem.

If you have allergies to pollen, the things you are doing are making it worse. Windows down and outside air settings both bring in more pollen. Do you park under a tree that is dropping pollen into the vents?

Since this first occurred while driving a distance at speed and with the windows closed and the AC on I don’t think it is an allergy issue. The burning eyes seem more like a caustic problem. CO may be an issue but this happened out of the blue, in the middle of a drive and a week after the car had been cleaned, not detailed though. I am not negating the possibilities and I will get the CO detector. I don’t see how CO could be the issues with all 4 windows open while driving at 40 mph.I’m grateful for all of the ideas though.

I also had this happen with my 2007 Toyota Camry. I had the oil changed (to synthetic), had the car washed and the air cabin filter changed yesterday (NAPA brand) and my eyes have been burning ever since while I am in the car. I’m also experiencing headaches now as well if I am in the car for long. The passengers have not noticed a difference either, but I seem to be chemically sensitive to some things. I am attributing my episode to the cabin air filter and am going to change it out tomorrow because it is so bad … I guess I’ll see what happens. Did you ever figure your issue out? (I know this is going back a ways …)

I have a new 2018 Honda crv when I have my air on my eyes burn and water so bad I cant see to drive I have to open the windows to drive a repair mechanic said it was fumes from my air conditioner I think Honda should put in a new air conditioner so I can drive my new car in comfort

Did you take it to the Honda dealership to let their technicians check it? That’s what I would do since you still have a new car warranty…they’re not just going to replace an expensive A/C system on the word of another mechanic.

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Did you tell the dealer that? Has anyone been in the CRV when this occurred, and did their eyes water, too? Take the service rep at the dealer out for a ride and make his eyes water. Either they fix it, or you get a new one when you return it as a lemon. Get receipts every time you go in for this or any warranty problem. Also look on line for lemon law in your state to find out what you need to prove I need order to qualify for a lemon law replacement. I hope they can fix it before it comes to lemon law replacement, but you should be ready if they can’t.

Maybe yes, maybe no.
Every “Lemon Law” with which I am familiar states that the problem must be one that “materially affects the safety or drivability” of the vehicle.

Would an A/C-allergy-related problem fall under that definition? I don’t know the answer to that question in a definitive manner, but I think there is a very real chance that an A/C-allergy-related problem wouldn’t be covered.