March 20

Cabin Air Quality

Car Maintenance


Interior air quality is something that we take for granted… until it smells bad.

Although dogs and smoke can add an offensive odor to your vehicle cabin, the worst offenders can be molds and mildews. Not only do they create an uncomfortable smell, these nasty particles can create serious health problems.

How do they get into our cars? Molds and mildews grow in the presence of excessive moisture in the vehicle, and that usually happens in one of two ways. The first is through the improper long term storage of a vehicle, especially one that has a water leak. Once this type of mold gets into the vehicle it is almost impossible to remove short of replacing the complete interior. Fortunately this circumstance is quite rare.

The second and more common is mold and mildew formed in your vehicle’s air conditioning system. Under your dash sits the evaporator core, which is located inside a box. The evaporator core creates the cold air in the car and while it’s doing that it attracts moisture from the air. A great deal of water forms inside the box which drains out onto the road (if you look under your car on a hot day with the A/C running you’ll see this happening). Under certain conditions this moisture that can create a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

Relief from this problem is available in two ways. One is to remove the evaporator box and manually clean it: a very labour intensive and expensive job.

The more cost effective way involves a procedure which uses a special spray designed to kill the nasty particles and freshen up the interior. If you are suffering from a bad smell in your vehicle when the heat or A/C is on these sprays are usually the best cure. If you don’t have a functioning air conditioning system then you need not worry; this problem doesn’t apply to you.

Lastly, another routine service (on vehicles so equipped) is to replace the cabin air filter at regular intervals. These filters clean the air coming into your car, but if they are overly dirty, will cause a strain on your heater fan motor, lack of air flow and odor problems. If your car has a cabin air filter it usually requires replacement at intervals between 25,000 & 50,000 kilometers.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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