Smell from the defroster

I have a 3-month old 2007 Hyundai Tucson that has recently developed an unpleasant smell when I turn on my defroster. I live in an apartment complex without covered parking and have only noticed this since the leaves have started falling heavily and the weather has turned cooler and damper in Oregon. The smell reminds me of stinky refrigerator or freezer(not from bad food, just the smell of the appliance). I mention the leaves because my late mother-in-law had a late '80s Honda Accord that had the same smell and she always had lots of leaves around and on the car in the fall and winter as she parked outside also. We’ve cleaned all the leaves out that we can find, but this smell is driving me crazy. Any ideas/help?

Only the defroster? Can you smell the same thing when the heat is on? Or just when air is coming into the vehicle?

If some leaf debris has made its way into the HVAC system, it might explain the smell, but if you only smell it during “defrost” mode it could be something else.

If it smells like stale curry, and fogs up the windshield in the defrost mode, is is probably a leaking heater core.

  1. If the leaves dropped inside the cowl vent, then the vent may need to be removed to get all the leaves out that fell in. The Dealer may have a fine mesh screen kit that can be installed on the underside of the cowl vent slots to lesson the amount of stuff that falls in, if theres not one already there.

  2. Check to see if your car has a cabin air filter, if it does not then there may be previsions to install one. This would catch the debris before getting into the A/C evaporator coil.

  3. The stench is already in place, so at this point the A/C evaporator coil will need to be disinfected and or cleaned to get rid of the smell.

  4. Consult with the dealer first before doing anything to get there recommendations. See if they will do something to fix this problem under warranty. Its worth a shot.