How to get rid of odors in your car

If the air coming out of your car’s vents smells like a high school locker room, the problem likely has to do with your climate control system. “What you’re probably smelling is condensation coming from the evaporator inside your heating and cooling system,” says Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. “Basically, water collects in that area and if it sits long enough, it creates the musty smell.”

You can fix the problem yourself with air conditioner disinfectant you can buy at an auto parts store or Lysol aerosol spray. First, turn on the car’s interior fan on the low setting and open the car windows. Then spray the disinfectant on the AC intake vents, which can be found at the base of the outer side of your windshield, near where your windshield wipers are located. For more details, read our complete guide to fixing a moldy air conditioner.

While you’re at it, change your cabin air filter. This filter keeps the air inside the car free of allergens and contaminants and is usually accessed through the glove box. Some are easy to reach; others are not. Dealers often charge much more than the cost of the filter itself, so it’s a good idea to do it yourself if you can. Instructions can often be found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. John Ibbotson, CR’s crew chief, says YouTube instructional videos can also be helpful.

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