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My car smells

I have a 2004 Chevrolet Malibu Classic with 173k miles on it. Car runs great. AC works intermittently sometimes, but it’s not a huge issue. It kind of stops if your in city traffic, but at highway speeds, AC is dependable. Particularly when running AC (or it may just be because it’s the end of summer), I notice a smell on my clothes. It’s not necessarily like standing beside the exhaust pipe, but after driving for a while with AC, I notice it. I also sneeze some when this happens. I’d love any help. Thanks,

The “musties” are a very common problem in aging AC systems. There are various sprays etc. at any parts store to try to kill the mold spores. If your car has a cabin filter, you should change that too. The parts guy can look it up for you.

Comment: my car has all the hardware for a cabin filter but came without one. The following year’s model included the filter. I don’t know if this was common back in “the day” (mine’s a 2005) but it’s worth checking into.


@the_same_mountainbik is right on with the ‘musties’ Mold, leaves, mice etc can cause these smells. My 2005 Town & Country just started getting the musty / hay smell. I unloaded a bunch of lysol in the vents outside with the fan running a few times. It has helped but I need a few more doses.

Ozium air sanitizer will do the same thing as Lysol.

Sometimes the car does not get driven as it is our third string vehicle and I do a lot of traveling in our other vehicles. Does this contribute to the “musties?” Had our mechanic check on the cabin filter and they said that this model does not have one. I wonder if it has the hardware as you say, but lacks the actual filter.

unrelated to the smell, but it sounds like a good a/c service will take care of the a/c not working in city. It acts like it is a little low on a/c refrigerant.

If there’s a small leak in the bulkhead, engine odors could get into the passenger compartment. Or engine odors could get in just through the air vents under the windshield with the AC or fresh air vent fans on. Open the hood w/the engine idling, see if the odor smells the same maybe, might provide a clue to what’s happening.

If I had this problem first thing I’d do is open all the windows while driving, air the thing out. And I’d park it and blow air from one side of the car to the other with the windows open with an electric fan for a few hours every day, see if that helps.

Once you kill the mold/bacteria that causes the odor, don’t forget to replace the cabin filter also if your car has one.