Model 3

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Stinky Feet Smell [SOLVED]

edited August 2019 in Model 3
Problem Description: After the car has been heat soaked in a parking lot, and you go out to it the HVAC will be running full bore with recirculate on and there will be a "dirty-feet", vinegar or generally stale smell. It lasts about thirty seconds to one minute and then it is gone. This issue is described all over the different forums for Model 3s and apparently there have been (a) firmware fixe(s) that have been pushed out to deal with it. If you do not see water collecting under your car you may have a condensate drain blockage causing your problem and you will probably need Tesla Service's help getting that fixed. But, if you do have water collecting under the car that is good and this write up may address your issue. I tried using the Mothers car deodorizers and that just masked the smell (a little) and did not solve the problem. Usually i1Teslas videos are super helpful but this one did not solve my problem: If your issue is general pet smell and maybe a little different than mine that video may help you so I have included it.

Difficulty: If you can change the oil in a car without making a total mess of it you should be able to do this.

1) nextzett 96110515 Klima-Cleaner Air Conditioner Cleaner - 10 fl oz
2) a T20 torx bit and a way to rotate it in a confined space (a screwdriver will probably be too big and will not work)
My tools:
3) Paper towels to clean up the cleaner that will ultimately be dumped on the floor of your garage or wherever you are doing this.

(In the steps below I refer to the part that needs cleaning as the condenser @vlinev pointed out that this is more correctly referred to as the evaporator. Apologies to all those who are HVAC engineers. In case it aint obvious I just play one here on this forum ;) )

1) Remove and clean both your air filters. These are my air filters, note the 2017 date of manufacture: This will not solve your issue in any way but now that you have them out you will be able to inspect and clean them, which is a good thing. Follow this official howto from Tesla and/or this video on youtube to get the filters out. You need to take them out to get to the condenser to spray it with the Klima cleaner.
2) Once you have everything out, the condenser looks like this:
3) Replace the Klima cleaner nozzle with the long nozzle provided with the purchased Klima cleaner. At this point I put down a trash bag to generally cover the footwell area in case there was overspray. But I did not have any.


  • edited August 2019
    4) Use the long nozzle to spray the ingredients of the whole can all over the condenser. After spraying mine looked like this:
    5) Leave it to sit for 20 minutes.
    6) Most (if not all) the cleaner should drain out the bottom of the car. You may want to have some rags or paper towels handy to clean the mess on the floor since this is not just condensate.
    7) Once you are sure the condenser is dry or at least mostly dry to the touch you can reverse the steps in step 1 to put your filters back and seal everything up correctly.
    8) Run the HVAC for 10 minutes at full bore to make sure it is dry.
    9) You are done... Hopefully your smell is gone like mine.
  • edited November -1
    Soapbox Rant:
    My car is 9 months old (new) and is stored in a garage most of the time in Los Angeles (a relatively dry climate). Apparently a lot of early deliveries had this issue. Probably becuase they got their cars before Summer and noticed the issue in the first Summer's heat. My car on the other hand was delivered at the tail end of Summer and the issue was not apparent during Winter. As soon as the second Summer of Model 3 availability rolled around there it was... This should not be happening this soon. Further proof is the alleged firmware fixes that have been pushed to address this. I presented my car to Tesla Service with this issue and they quoted me the $239 to address it. I get it, the warranty does not cover washing the car and nor does it cover this. Also, they told me they would not goodwill it either. When I went in my expectation was not that this would be taken care of in perpetuity every time the smell came back but that this first time would be goodwilled (because there is an issue) and the firmware fixes would make this a manageable issue and I would deal with it in the distant future on my own. I was told this is normal for all cars by the service manager. (Toyotas get it Hondas get it) This is utter rubbish and not a good position for Tesla Service to take. I have owned quite a number of vehicles in the LA and San Francisco Bay areas and not one has developed this issue this quickly. Sure other cars get it but after several years. Given that this is a widespread "thing" with Model 3s, I don't think my expectation that they would fix it this time was unreasonable. Instead I was left with the impression that Tesla is cheap. The exact thought I had was are they going to start programming the purchase web site with a dialog box that says "oh and let me go check with my manager over this deal".... Once the premium value perception is destroyed. Its gone..... I am not spending $239 to do something I can do for $15. I am not going to buy my tires at a premium from Tesla instead of America's Tire. Whereas before I was left with this cheap impression I would without a doubt have justified to myself and my CFO spending the money at Tesla because the service is premium for a premium car. This whole thing is penny wise and pound foolish on teslas part.
  • edited August 2019
    Thanks so much!
  • edited August 2019
    pmagid | August 16, 2019
    Soapbox Rant:
    My car is 9 months old (new) and is stored in a garage most of the time in Los Angeles (a relatively dry climate). Apparently a lot of early deliveries had this issue. Probably becuase they got their cars before Summer and noticed the issue in the first Summer's heat. My car on the other hand was delivered at the tail end of Summer and the issue was not apparent during Winter. As soon as the second Summer of Model 3 availability rolled around there it was... This should not be happening this soon. Further proof is the alleged firmware fixes that have been pushed to address this.

    You don't say??

    Sorry @pmagid, that wasn't for you.

    My car was delivered Jan 2018 and I've seen this come and go.
  • edited November -1
    Let. It. Go.
  • edited August 2019
    Exactly, apparently someone does not know the meaning of alleged and the OP's post confirms a physical cleaning is needed since software is not taking care of it and any alleged attempt to address with software was a fail not a fix. Taking every opportunity to come back with a smug remark concerning this is something that just can't be let go apparently.
  • edited August 2019
    Why @lilbean? Let people see the nonsense that goes on in the name of defending Tesla.

    Yesterday you took issue with something I said, I apologized even for the unintentional negativity.
    And time and again I'm attacked for providing the best info I have - info that's being repeatedly corroborated.

    No it's not right. Letting it go lets self appointed defenders of Tesla emboldened to forum trample upon others.
  • edited August 2019
    @vmulla I had no intention of entering this thread until you came in with a snarky baiting remark that was obviously directed at me.
  • edited November -1
    Let us see how many other stinky car threads talk about OTA fixes. Smug or not that's what's being corroborated.

    Don't want to believe? Here's info from all the others:
  • edited August 2019
    Want to the see ugliness directed at people who share info with the best of intentions?


    This is worth getting suspended out of the forum for
  • edited August 2019
    Incredible! Talk does not mean anything. Physical action has to be taken to address the situation not waiting around for an OTA. Poisoning every thread like this starts with the same person with chip on shoulder who over and over is as condescending as it gets.
  • edited November -1
    Why? Because many are sick and tired of this back and forth crap on so many threads.
  • edited August 2019
    Thank you @pmagid. I'm copying the recipe that you provided to clean up the A/C system before the thread get's killed because of bad actors.
  • edited November -1
    Point taken.

    I'm not the one who is deleting posts by owners and making this problem look smaller than it is.
  • edited August 2019
    A question about the procedure. Is the condenser located right inside the panel where you remove the filters? Does the excess cleaner run out under the car?
  • edited November -1
    @wildcardb Check this thread out and seek the post by cmichael who has more links. The link from TMC is particularly helpful, IMO.
  • edited August 2019
    @pmagid, thanks for the detailed write up! It's very helpful. It is annoying to have this smell happen so soon. While I do know this eventually happens to all cars, my 2010 TL with 92k daily driven miles doesn't have the stench...yet. I do notice the Model 3 seems to drain much more water than any other car I've owned though.

    Regardless, the fix seems to be relatively easy, and it is a small price to pay for the daily joy I get out of my Model 3!
  • edited August 2019
    @wildcardb Yes the condenser is right up against the filters.... Once you take them out you have access to the condenser. I would say all or nearly all the cleaner runs out the bottom of the car through the condensate drain. I read the instructions alluded to by @Magic 8 Ball and in general the upshot is the same in that basically spray the condenser with a condenser cleaner. The key difference is the other procedure requires the fashioning of a baffle to get the cleaner into the condenser because of fear the gap is too wide. I did not do this and it appeared to be unnecessary as I was able to get good coverage on the condenser anyway.
  • edited August 2019
    @pmagid Thanks for the writeup. A few questions and maybe discussion on preventing this.

    Are you using A/C auto or a different setting like ON or Recirc?
    My wife uses auto exclusively and claims it brings in fresh air from the outside and does not recirc. (maybe why we have not been hit yet?). I am advising her to turn off AC about 5 minutes before trip end, if possible, or run fan only for about 5 minutes after using AC. I just advised her to start doing this but doubt she has actually done it. Thoughts?
  • edited August 2019
    I suggest washing your feet with soap. If it's too strong, perhaps powder with baking soda.
  • edited August 2019
    Just a little correction of naming of parts- it is an EVAPORATOR, not a condenser.Please, no bad feeling.
  • edited August 2019
    @vlinev, thanks for the correction. Evaporator it is. Maybe that explains no condensate under my car after all - it all evaporated! j/k
  • edited August 2019
    @Magic 8 Ball To answer your question re usage patterns: since receiving the car I left it on auto the whole time and did not dicker with settings other than temp. Since the issue popped up I have been turning recirc off since I read / heard somewhere this dries out the condenser better (It could have been the service manager who mentioned this)... I dont know about the efficacy of turning off the AC 5 minutes before the trip end etc.... I would be curious to find out why that would help and more specifically how effective it is....
  • edited August 2019
    @vlinev, thanks for the correction. I put a note correcting the error in the original post.
  • edited August 2019
    Great writeup, pmagid.
    I did this about a month ago, and have had absolutely no smells from my A/C since then.

    I have a theory that we'll have to evaluate in the future: The manufacturing of the evaporator leaves a film of <something> on the metal surfaces that supports microbial growth (mildew, bacteria, fungus, whatever). Thus, the evaporator is very susceptible to growth of microorganisms that stink. I'm hoping that evaporator cleaner (I used the same Klima can that you used) not only removes the microorganisms, but also strips whatever film is left from manufacturing so that this problem doesn't recur. Let's see if this works out.
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