This is an advisory post, if you don't like it, do not take it :)
The info I share is based on MY understanding of the 3, and forum engagement. I've had my 3 since January 2018, and now have 42K miles, so I have a fair bit of experience with the car. I am NOT anyone with automotive or refrigeration background. I am definitely not a Tesla devotee/fanboi/investor, nor am I someone who wishes ill upon Tesla - I think of myself as a Tesla customer first, and a definite admirer of most things Tesla.
So, if you're looking for expert advice, seek elsewhere. This post is for simple folks who just want this stink gone.
What I experienced:
I experienced the vinegar smell/stink very early in my car ownership, then it just went away. There was a definite flurry of complaints from early owners, talk of a fix, and then the smell just went away for me.
The smell is back after approximately 15 months and it’s strong now.
Between the two occurrences, I have noticed changed HVAC behavior.
If you have strong stink:
I advise you to clean the AC system. Because, If the stink is strong there is no quick fix that any software can help you with. Let your nose decide if it requires cleaning.
There are excellent accounts on how to do it by @frank99, and @pmagid. I’ll provide the link below. Their method basically asks you to spray a cleaning agent into the innards of the AC system - this is normal AC cleaning stuff nothing fancy, or hazardous.
Inspect the filters, most likely they should be fine because these are newish cars. If they’re OK dry them out in the sun. That should kill most of whatever might be growing there. If you’re like me, you may want to spray some household disinfectant on it and then dry them in the sun. Since I pulled them out anyway, I vacuumed and ‘refreshed’ them, because - why not?
If you have a weakish odor:
This is probably a situation where you can avoid cleaning the system by drying it out. No big science here, just dry the system out and make sure the conditions for stinky stuff is eliminated. You can do this by running the fan a little while to dry the system out, I do this at the end of each drive. Others are running the heater on, some others or running the AC with recirculation on - they’re all basically trying to dry the system out. The most popular advise based on forum posts is to run the fan only for a few minutes after each drive with the AC OFF - simple, effective. This should get rid of the smell a little bit without opening anything on your car
If you have no odor and would like to avoid the problem:
I advise you to do the same things as above ^^
About the software fix for this problem:
I believe the forum members and Tesla technicians who indicated that there is a software fix for this problem. Why? That’s because of the following reasons:
- Multiple owners have no reason to lie
- Multiple Service Technicians have no reason to lie
- Tesla would be embarrassed if this isn’t a software fix. Because a hardware fix would suggest a poorly engineered AC system
- Because I noticed how the stink went away after my first encounter with the stink early into my ownership. The only thing that changed in my car since then was software
My advice is to manage the stink by cleaning/drying the system out, and then wait for the software update to fix it.
The link to help you cleanse the system:
Please give the credit to @Frank99 and @pmagid - Their advice caught my eye, there may be others who did just as much, thanks all.
Info from folks who went to the service center (if you care to believe service center info as relayed by owners)