Stinky AC

Stinky AC

gonzamol | 12. august 2019

Has anyone had any luck getting rid of the stick from the A/C? I’ve had my car 14 months and have 10k miles on it. Started smelling bad after 2 months of purchase and went away, but now it’s back with a vengeance. Seems to act up in hotter temps and only lasts a few minutes, but it’s torture! Service Center sent an estimate of $189. Shouldn’t this be covered under the warranty?

Hp.1193 | 12. august 2019

Plenty of threads. Search or google.

Magic 8 Ball | 12. august 2019

This topic has been covered several times to have the thread digress quickly, maybe this one will work? Do you notice puddles under your car which is normal. Some do not see puddles under the car which would be a symptom of A/C condensate drain being clogged. Smell can be anything but the most common cause of the "stink" is mildew/mold growing on the A/C evaporator. The mildew must be killed and cleaned. Some do it themselves otherwise it is a service call. A/C smells are not unique to Tesla and it is an age old issue with many cars used under certain conditions.

People report different smell types which appear to have different root causes. Search youtube for various videos that show how to get to the air filter and how to spray in mildew killer if that is the root cause of your issue.

calvin940 | 12. august 2019

Flagging thread because there was no content or context provided with the thread. just 2 words.

Hp.1193 | 12. august 2019

I think the flagging system has been up’d. Been hard to flag posts to the point where they disappear now.

gonzamol | 12. august 2019

I’m new to this forum so thanks for the tips, especially Magic 8 Ball!

Frank99 | 12. august 2019

One possible cause is, as M8B notes, a possibility of the condensate drain being plugged. Simple fix, but probably requires a technician.
My car was stinky, and I resolved it by pulling the cabin air filters, and spraying Air Conditioner Coil Cleaner over the evaporator coils (visible if you look in the slot where the cabin air filters were). This is what the SC will do for $190, or what you can do in about 15 minutes. 100% solved my problem. If it recurs in the future, it's a simple fix.

gmr6415 | 13. august 2019

@gonzamol, do you ever drive with recirculate turned off? If not you should periodically do so to allow some fresh ionized air to circulate through the car...Central FL here, one of the most humid areas of the country and following that practice for a year stinky AC.

gbb0131 | 13. august 2019

Getting mine serviced today.

vmulla | 13. august 2019

This is common. Previous threads and owner comments were deleted.

Magic 8 Ball | 13. august 2019

How common? Where is the actual data beside internet anecdotes? I can easily say it is rare since there are almost half million units out there and only a few anecdotes on the web to be found.

Hp.1193 | 13. august 2019
Magic 8 Ball | 13. august 2019

@Hp.1193 Those threads have red herring information and dead links.

Thrillion | 13. august 2019

Ok so simple fix but may not be permanent.
Backstory: Had Tesla do a cleaning on my M3 (did not change the filters) under warranty.
It was clean and good until about a week later, we had some rain and smell came back.
I live in Texas and, for those of you in drier areas, when it rains here its a monsoon.
My theory is the little tiny drain in the outside air intake is toooo small to drain all that water and I get rain water in the HVAC.
Ok so the fix, once it dries out, I sprayed a fair amount of scented Lysol into the outside air intake.
I ran the A/C intermittently for a few hours with the windows up and the vented the vapors before I drove it.
So far I have not had the smell back.
Level of expertise is about as low as you can get.
I plan on experimenting with the garden hose to see if my theory is right about the drain.
When I have anything to report I will.
P.S. I looked it up, Lysol is safe for HVAC systems and not as toxic as other chemicals.

Hp.1193 | 13. august 2019


alisse | 13. august 2019

I'm considering having mine services. I have not noticed the drainage lately, whereas I used to some months ago. Can a mobile tech handle this?

Magic 8 Ball | 13. august 2019

@alisse A mobile tech should be able to handle it but you will have to contact Tesla since they are the only ones who can give you the answer if they will handle it.

Magic 8 Ball | 13. august 2019

One important bit about puddles under the car. It also depends on how much you use fresh vs recirculate and what the ambient conditions are (outside air temp and humidity) whether or not puddles happen or how big they may be. No puddle is not alway an indicator of clogged drain but if your neighbors are getting puddles and you are not then I would be more suspect of clogged drain.

cnistal1 | 13. august 2019

Had my M3 serviced yesterday for the "stinky a/c". Dropped it off in the morning, picked it up in the evening. They replaced the filters and "performed an evaporated cleanse". Odor now seems to be gone.

pmagid | 13. august 2019

@cristal1 How much did you pay for the service?

gmr6415 | 13. august 2019

@Magic 8 Ball, Puddle? Here in Central FL I get small ponds. They always say if there's a cup of water ponding in FL there'll be a gator in it. I must have gators under my car...but the titanium underbody plate will protect my battery. :-()

rxlawdude | 13. august 2019

How many of you with the stink issue see water underneath your 3 after running the A/C?

geedub1023 | 13. august 2019

@rxlawdude I do. Odor is definitely there when I get in the car even though I see quite a bit of water under my car after driving it with the AC on. It's actually a little better since I changed the AC settings a few weeks ago to allow outside air to enter the cabin instead of recirculating the cabin air only.

Bated Breath | 13. august 2019

I made an appointment for Monday regarding the vinegar smell that sometimes comes out of the A/C after a short rest. Here is the text I just received from the Service Center.

"Hi, this is Tesla, we are reviewing your upcoming appointment. If we need additional information, we will reach out to ensure we are fully prepared for your visit. Reply 'STOP' to stop updates. Msg & Data rates may apply

This HVAC odor issue is due to environment variables associated with any automotive HVAC system. We recommend to perform a cleaning of the HVAC evaporator and replace the cabin air filters at this time.

The cost of the procedure is about $145.00."

rxlawdude | 13. august 2019

Its $230 in Costa Mesa. They will assume ZERO responsibility, even if the drain is plugged, causing the issue. $175 labor.

This is not the same company that sold us two cars.

rpc_in_va | 13. august 2019

@rxlawdude, I see puddles under my car after running the A/C and I have the smell. It’s pretty humid in these parts. It’s on my list to remove the cabin air filters and spray a cleaner in there.

donharvey2323 | 13. august 2019

I fixed my stinky AC. The problem is the cabin overheat with AC running all day in hot weather. The evaporator does not dry out. I changed it to fan only. Now the fan drys out the evap when it is parked. Smell is gone. Yes, I get puddles under the car when it is sitting with the ac running.

rxlawdude | 13. august 2019

The line I got was "if the drain is plugged your carpet will be wet."
Bigger question is the wide variation in price for filter and deodorizing, and why this does not happen in MS and MX?

Magic 8 Ball | 13. august 2019

I wonder how they know the carpet would be wet; seems like they would have to have run across a clogged drain to know that. I have seen cars with clogged drains, not Tesla, where water would poor out the vents when you stepped on the gas. Also carpet would not necessarily get wet if just enough moisture built up and then evaporated between uses or when in use. I would take the wet carpet comment with a grain of salt.

fuentejose | 13. august 2019

Same smell issue, SC cleaned for free the ac evaporator coil, couldn't get the air filter replaced(at my cost) due to there being a "nationwide shortage"( their words not mine), overall noticeable improvement, waiting on callback once the filters are back in stock.

cmichael | 13. august 2019

I get to be part of this distinguished club on my wife's 6 month 7,000 mile 3 which suffers in Chicagoland weather. Started 45 days ago and after a rain last night, wow, pungent.

For the DIY inclined. Over on a TMC forum about the same there is a nice thread where a procedure is outlined. They even link to the Tesla provided video for install/uninstall. ref: and ref:

I have a call into Tesla Westmont parts department trying to order the new filters; will find out more when parts gives me call back.


vmulla | 13. august 2019

Tesla Service at Tyson's Corner VA is out of filters :(

rxlawdude | 13. august 2019

Funny when I scheduled, initially was going to be with a mobile tech. Then a text a day later saying that the filters are out of stock.

Somehow, two weeks later at the SvC, not a peep about a parts shortage.

Jonu13 | 14. august 2019

Donharvey2323 is on to something. I set cabin overheat protection to fan only today and no stink. Will see how it goes for the next couple of days.

rxlawdude | 14. august 2019

Well, day 1 with new filters post sanitizing and no smell.

I've also turned off cabin overheating protection A/C.

vmulla | 14. august 2019

How much for the service?

terry.k.morrow | 14. august 2019

I have significant puddles and same smelly ac. 7,000 miles. Started about 45-60 days ago. Southwest Michigan humid summer days seemed to correlate with beginning. Pretty much smell it every day now. Gone from the vinegar smell to sour rotten milk smell. I turned my Cabin protection to fan only just few minutes ago. Need some other things looked at by service center so I’ll probably have this addressed then. I’ll be bummed if it’s an annual issue.

rxlawdude | 14. august 2019

$233. But they told me the tech witnessed condensate drainage.

Odd, 45 mile, 1 hour drive at >85 with AC running, zero condensate. Nada.

So where is it going????

gonzamol | 15. august 2019

Took my car into the SC today, and was quoted $189 (Santa Clara, CA). I got the pitty look and was told, "We know this is a problem, and we feel for you, but this isn't covered under the warranty" SERIOUSLY? I've driven at least 6 other cars in my lifetime and have never had this issue. I'm on a Tesla Model 3 Facebook group and this is a regular topic. Tesla, this is not cool.

CharleyBC | 15. august 2019

Two things got mentioned a lot in this thread, and I'm not clear exactly where they are.

1) Where is the condensate drain? (I used to fix this regularly on a former Chevy years ago.)

2) Where is the cabin air filter? (I gather this is also the answer to "where is the evaporator?" since that's revealed by the filter, right?)


Magic 8 Ball | 15. august 2019

Check the links in the post by @cmichael for a description of where things are.

CharleyBC | 15. august 2019

Thanks, @M8B! That's what I get for not following the links on my initial browse. That does a great job of answering my 2) above. Still wondering where the condensate drain emerges...

Magic 8 Ball | 15. august 2019

The condensate drain seems to emerge just before the front passenger footwell. From description it may be routed different on early models since there is one report of no puddles but drain is fine and I think that is on an early build car. My guess would be the drain on that car directs water to the inside of the belly "fabric" and it pools up there and the owner does not notice it drain away when they drive the car. I thought some of the pics in the link show the frunk liner removed and where the drain comes out of the evaporator box? Drain should be not hard to locate as it is dripping water from the end.

vmulla | 15. august 2019

This problem doesn't do any favors for Tesla's claim to be low maintenance.

lilbean | 15. august 2019

The condensate drains into the water-cooling system for the battery. As it cools the battery, the water evaporates and the water level gets replenished with more condensate drainage.
(I just made that up.)

Magic 8 Ball | 15. august 2019

Not all experience this issue. A few anecdotes on the internet out of almost a half million users does not make it systemic. High prolonged use of A/C, without fresh air in to dry out the evaporator, is a user education issue for now.

Best advice IMO, for now, is to run the system with fan only after prolonged A/C use to dry out the evaporator.

vmulla | 15. august 2019

Absolutely, it's just a tiny fraction of the owners who are experiencing this, and even smaller fraction of those who are coming to the forums to discuss it.

Even those few comments from owners were deleted, making it seem an even smaller issue.

Totally anecdotal observation, it's the most common non-maintenance expense reported on the forum - or is it a maintenance thing?

Magic 8 Ball | 15. august 2019

Posts were scrubbed because of nonsense, it should be obvious by now. The back and forths do not help anyone get better understanding and this should not have to be repeated over and over again. It is not a maintenance thing if you follow the guideline to dry out the evaporator with fresh air after use as has been said many times now.

vmulla | 15. august 2019

What's nonsense is threads started by only one individual were 'scrubbed', the other threads are still around - these other threads have even more colorful exchanges in them.

As far as the thread started is concerned, I deleted it.