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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-20-2007, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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Default Smelly Air Conditioning?

Over the summer months - especially on hot days after it had been in baking in the sun - my Prius has been producing a not very pleasant smell when I start it up and it starts circulating air inside the cabin. The phenomenon is very short lived - perhaps a few minutes. Is this something to worry about? I would much appreciate any advice - I am due to take my car in for a service soon and I would like to be forearmed before I ask any questions there.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-20-2007, 08:15 PM
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Check your cabin air filter behind the lower glove box. It may be dirty or moldy. How long has it been since it was replaced?
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-21-2007, 12:33 AM
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Default Smelly Air Conditioning

Assuming you are running the air conditioner with "recirculation" turned on, it's the condensation from your breath on the evaporator coil. (Kind of disgusting, huh?)

When you turn your car off, the frost melts, and the moisture is trapped inside the air conditioner housing. When you start your car, the moisure evaporates and is blown into the passenger compartment, which causes the stale, musty odor.

You can reduce this by turning "recirculation" off for a few seconds before shutting down. This will run warmer outside air over the evaporator coil, evaporating the condensation before shutdown. Waiting to turn "recirculation" back on when restarting will also help "dilute" the smell (with outside air), and it will also help exhaust the super-heated air inside your car.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-21-2007, 03:04 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the replies!

I rarely use recirculation - mostly drive in the countryside - so it must be the cabin air filter. It has never been changed since I bought the car just over a year ago. Is this something I can do myself using a generic filter or do I have to go and pay Toyota prices?
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-21-2007, 07:58 AM
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Easy enough to do, but I don't think you'll find a "generic" filter out there at this time - you'll have to get one at the dealer. It takes at most five minutes or less to change this filter out. You'll be surprised at what you may find trapped in there...

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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-21-2007, 09:20 AM
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Most auto parts stores have "generic" filters available. I got mine at Central Auto Parts for $15.95. They are also available at my local Goodyear Tire dealer.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-23-2007, 08:56 PM
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The glue used to assemble the ductwork is designed to be very adhesive and to prevent the pieces and parts of the dash ductwork from coming undone after years of driving, bouncing and jarring. This glue has remained essentially unchanged in the industry for many years because it is effective at keeping the various parts together. This glue tends to emit an odor when it undergoes a distinct temperature change, from hot to cold, or from cold to hot.

In the case of summer driving, the whole vehicle is hot. The refrigerated air from the A/C system is very cold. That kind of temperature differential tends to cause this smell to appear, but go away once the parts and pieces of the ductwork attain the operating temperature of the A/C system.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-24-2007, 10:05 AM
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jeromep, if the glue was the cause, there would be a lot more complaints about the smell. I'm still betting on the cabin air filter.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-25-2007, 02:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by firepa63
jeromep, if the glue was the cause, there would be a lot more complaints about the smell. I'm still betting on the cabin air filter.
Actually, I've smelled something occasionally in my car too. I know the odor is not "stale air conditioner," a smell I'm very familiar with having been driving air conditioned cars for many years. The smell in my Prius reminds me of a horse stable.

Recently, I left my car at the airport in the long term parking lots outside for four days. Also recently, NH has had some very warm days and the usual cool nights. When I opened up the hatch to throw in my suitcase, that horse stable smell jumped out at me. And as usual, once I started up the car and brought in some fresh air, the smell went away.

Perhaps jeromep hit the nail on the head?

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-25-2007, 04:24 PM
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It can also be out-gassing from the foam used in the seats...
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