Model 3

Stinky car



  • I first had the AC stink in July of 2019 when my 3 was 1 year old and now it’s back a year later. It really is unpleasant and makes passengers uncomfortable thinking someone in the car has very stinky feet or let one loose. Fortunately, I thought of the fart noise quickly enough to get a joke out of it.
    It looks like this will be an annual hassle. I noticed that Tesla posted a how to video for changing the filters. Doesn’t look difficult but clearly they could have made it much easier. I ordered the filters and the coil cleaner mentioned above. If it goes well, I’ll keep a set of filters and coil cleaner on hand. Not so happy but I guess we have live with the design flaw.
  • Simple solution: remove the cabin filters and throw them in the trash. Clean the coils while you have it opened up. Do not replace the filters. Put the aftermarket filter in the frunk air intake. Stink is gone and the frunk filter is very easy to replace when needed.
  • Stingray.don: is this an idea or have you actually done it and placed the air filter in the frunk? Did the filter fit without modification?
    That would be an easy fix.
    The filter housing wasn’t designed for frequent and quick filter replacement. Look at the Tesla service how to video. Remove two panels, disconnect two speakers and detach a wire harness to open the filter access door. A little crazy.
  • Yes, I have done this and the stink is gone. There are aftermarket filters that are designed to fit the frunk air inlet without modification.
  • I'm skeptical that the filters have anything to do with the smell.

    I did the filters and coil cleaning on mine this morning because the start-up smell was getting out of control. I ran the A/C for a couple of hours before hand (left the A/C on with the car parked in the sun here in Phoenix), just to check if the filters were getting damp. When I pulled them (perhaps 20 minutes after shutting down the A/C), they were bone dry. I stuck my nose into both, and there wasn't even a hint of smell. Thus my skepticism that the smell has anything to do with the filters.

    Sprayed in the Klimit cleaner through the filter opening (make sure to shake the can while you're spraying, otherwise it won't foam up), let it sit for half an hour and drain out, put in new filters, run the fan for a bit to dry the cleaner and clear out the fumes, and it should all be good. Mine smells; well, like California wildfires at the moment, but that's to be expected - everything here smells like that.
  • I was skeptical too, then I swapped the filters and the smell went away.
  • > @lbowroom said:
    > I was skeptical too, then I swapped the filters and the smell went away.

    Were your filters damp/smelly when you changed them?
  • > @"stingray.don_98527447" said:
    > Yes, I have done this and the stink is gone. There are aftermarket filters that are designed to fit the frunk air inlet without modification.

    What filters are these? Can you please share the shopping link? Thanks
  • “ Were your filters damp/smelly when you changed them?”

    Actually no, they didn’t appear to be
  • > @lbowroom said:
    > "Were your filters damp/smelly when you changed them?"
    > Actually no, they didn't appear to be

    That's odd. Just another follow-up question, was there condensate under the car when you swapped the filter out?

    Is it possible the activated carbon on the new filters was doing an excellent job of absorbing the smells from elsewhere?
  • Frunk air filter:
  • Hey stingray, a couple thoughts about that filter. I know you’re using it instead of the internal cabin filters but:
    1) wont that filter get soaking wet with rain and car washing? And won’t that then create potential for moldy smell too? Or does it dry out better because of its location?
    2) wont that filter create an undo strain on air intake and as one user review said, it cut the blow force of the fan by what feels like 1/2? Or is that a moot point when using it without additional cabin filters?
  • 3) Since it’s designed to be used with the internal filters, is it of a high enough filtration quality for finer particles?
  • I’m sure the frunk filter is less effective. It has less surface area and will only filter outside air coming into the cabin (not recirculating). I’m not sure if it will get wet, but I will report back if that happens. I would think water would be channeled away from that area.
  • Our cars went for years without cabin filters so I would think the intake filter would work well enough as long as it doesn't get wet. If it does, that will put a strain on the system while it remains damp. Additionally, the water drain will be behind the filter so there will be unfiltered air coming in from there.

    I just replaced mine again after 10 months of no smell. I too ran my AC for 30 minutes before to see if they were getting damp. I had plenty of condensation coming out the bottom of my car, but the filters themselves were bone dry.

    My filters did have a lot of stuff trapped in them. My assumption is that eventually that stuff starts to decay and the smell returns.

    To that end, I did the coil clean, replaced the filters and then used some leftover screen door material to fashion a filter at the intake to keep some of the material from making it's way to the filter.
  • Yep, seems like an 12 month service item for the M3. Definitely bad engineering on the AC design. Sure the Y is much better. I’ve given in that it is $250 per year for cleaning and new filters. :neutral:
  • Ok. I am finally experienced locker room smell today bc it has been raining for few days now and car set outside. Let's see now if it's going to stay or go away once the rain goes away.
  • @mcmoyer - Your thought of crap decaying in the filter syncs with my thinking. To that end, I put a frunk filter in to stop as much as possible from getting to the cabin filters. Given that I had the stink treatment done to my M3 after only two months of ownership, I'm assuming that, if it's going to return, it would do so soon. Now that I have an initial filter, I hoping it does the trick.
  • @stingray.don_98527447 - After researching frunk filters, I bought this:

    I watched a YouTube video where the guy tested the airflow of a few brands. The test was not scientific: it was strips of tissue taped to the vent. When he tested other filters, you could see a marked reduction in flow vs. the Farmongo I installed. FWIW, I perceive no attenuation of airflow.
  • For those that have done the treatment themselves, what did you use to catch the cleaning fluid draining out the bottom? Is it a single drain point or does the stuff go everywhere?
  • The stuff drips out everywhere. It evaporates quickly, so I just didn’t worry about it.
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