Smells like school glue

Hi, all…

I have a 1999 Ford F-150 pickup with a little over 150K miles on it. Lately, whenever I turn on the fan (not even the AC necessarily), a tangy smell like Elmer’s School Glue or caulk comes out of the vents. The mechanics at Firestone don’t recognize the smell. Any ideas?

The Engine Coolant Level Has Been Checked, Right?

A leaky heater core, under the dashboard, can cause vehicle occupants to smell coolant (anti-freeze). Low coolant would indicate a problem that needs to be addressed right away.


I agree with CSA, but offer another possibility. Winter mix window wash. When I squirt mine prodigouslly (to get the BIG bugs off) and the odor migrates through the vents below the windshield I get a school-glue odor. Smell some from the bottle and compare.

Anyone ever had an evapoator leak in the A/C? Not sure what that would smell like, but that is also a possibility.

I think Freons are odorless, but the oil in the A/C system would probably smell … well … oily. Coolant? I think that coolants – Ethylene glycol and Propylene glycol – are also odorless in their natural state, but are mixed with something to give them an odor. Classically, coolant has a sweet smell, but that’s not to say that it couldn’t have a different smell if the manufacturer desires. But, I’d go with the windshield washer fluid as a first guess.

Easy enough to check. There’s a big container full of windshield washer fluid somewhere under the hood. Likewise the coolant. That’s probably best done at the overflow tank and with the engine cold – why ask for trouble?

I am getting the same glue like smell in my XJR, not the smell of coolant. Happens whenever I start the car?

Could be a musty smell from mold. Might try Lysol or some other type of disinfectant.