Why Does My Car AC Smell Like Vinegar? How To Get Rid Of It?

Why Does My Car AC Smell Like Vinegar

Why Does My Car AC Smell Like Vinegar

Does it happen that you get in your car for a drive and turn on the AC and suddenly you start smelling a weird and obnoxious smell and you ask this question to yourself why does my car AC smell like vinegar? If yes then this post will answer all your questions like why your car AC is smelling like vinegar and how you can prevent the car AC from smelling. So let’s start!  

If you are experiencing an unpleasant and sour, vinegar like smell in your car then the first thing you need to check is if the smell particularly occurs when you turn the air conditioner of your car on. If yes then it indicates that the problem is in the car air conditioning system.

There can be a lot of different reasons why your car ac is smelling sour like vinegar smell that makes the whole atmosphere of the car irritating and annoying. However, the most common reason why the car AC is smelling so bad is likely due to some kind of organic material buildup in the air conditioning system or vents.

As the organic material starts to decay due to fermentation after some time it turns into alcohol which smells sour, just like the smell of vinegar.

Why Does My Car Air Conditioner Smell So Bad?



You should know that your car’s air conditioning system does not produce cold air itself rather it takes moisture and heat from the air outside the car which is cooler than the air around you. The coils in the air conditioner condense the moisture in the atmosphere to take out all the humidity before releasing the cool air into the car.

Due to the reason that coils in the air conditioning system are colder than the air around, the air coming into the air conditioning system produces moisture pockets in the condensing unit of the car AC that gets drained outside the car through the drain line. If somehow the moisture doesn’t get a way out, it stuck inside the AC unit causing a nasty smell to come out of it after a few days.     


If the drain line of your car AC is damaged or broken and the air conditioning system is used frequently then there are chances that the unit will become a breeding ground for mold and other forms of bacteria. Due to this, the air that will pass through the unit where mold build-up to carry the stinky smell inside the car through the dash vents.    

In most cases, mold is the reason behind why you experience vinegar like smell coming out of your car’s air conditioning system. As the car gets older, the micro-organisms such as bacteria and mold start to grow in the car’s air conditioning area since it’s the ideal place for them to grow as it is always moist and dark there.

How To Get Rid Of Vinegar Smell In Car AC?

How To Get Rid Of Vinegar Smell In Car AC?

If you want to prevent the musty, vinegar-like smell that is coming from the AC of your car then the first thing you need to do is to check the drain tube in your car. Once you locate the drain tube, make sure that it is functioning perfectly fine. To get things done professionally, take the car to a trusted car repair shop to get the damaged drain tube repaired.

In case, if the drain tube is undamaged and is in perfect working condition then you need to think about how to kill and remove mold from the car’s air conditioning system. Moreover, you need to take measures to prevent mold from forming ever again in the future.     

Here below are mentioned some of the ways that you can try to get rid of the vinegar smell in car AC.

  1. Try to turn off the car AC a few moments before you shut off the car, however, don’t turn off the AC fan and leave it open. This will help in drying the AC unit completely, leaving no moisture for mold to prosper.
  2. Clean your AC filters after every some time and even replace them if there is a need for the replacement. When the air filters get old and dirty they cause the airflow of the AC to get reduced which ultimately helps moisture to remain inside, causing the odor. So make sure to either clean or replace the air filters as recommended by the car manufacturers.
  3. Try spraying antiseptic into the air vents of the car AC from outside but first make sure that the AC is set to pulling air in from outside. This will help the spray to get pulled into the AC ventilation system so that all the bacteria and mold can be killed more effectively for better results.

What Products To Use To Prevent AC Smell In Car?

There are a number of products that you can use to prevent AC smell in the car to make the car atmosphere pleasant for driving. Some of the top picks are mentioned below for your easiness.




Arotags Wooden Car Diffuser Air Freshener

Little Trees Air Freshener

Treefrog Wakaba Young Leaf Black Squash Air Freshener

Car Essential Oil Diffuser by Anzazo

Naturally Activated Bamboo Charcoal Air Freshener

Febreze Car Vent Clips Air Freshener

Ozium Smoke & Odor Eliminator Car & Home Air Sanitizer

Pet Car Air Freshener by One Fur All

Air Spencer CS-X3 Car Air Freshener (Squash)

PURGGO Car Air Freshener

Read out the complete best air fresheners for car review to explore more products.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I get the vinegar smell out of my car AC?

There are various ways through which you can get the vinegar smell out of your car AC. One of them is to purchase the air conditioner air cleaner that contains enzymes that significantly eliminates the obnoxious odor. You can also try installing a quality air freshener in your car to make your car interior smell good while the AC is on.

Why does my car AC smell sour?

A sour smell from the car AC is usually caused by the bacteria. An unclean car AC becomes home to mold, bacteria, fungi, and many other kinds of micro-organisms to grow, which causes an unpleasant smell to come out of the car’s air conditioning system.   

How do I get the sour smell out of my car AC?

Well, the first thing you will need to do to get the sour smell out of your car AC is to clean your car air conditioning system. Then you need to get an air conditioner air cleaner for the car for getting rid of the obnoxious sour odor completely.  

Why does my AC smell weird?

One big reason why your car AC might be smelling weird is due to the accumulation of water in the drip lines or ducts. After a few time, fungus and mold started to grow in the accumulated water that produces a stale odor that you smell from your car’s AC.    

Why does my ac smell musty?

If your car is smelling musty every time when you turn on the AC then it is most likely due to mold in the air conditioning system and that will be bad for your health especially when you have been suffering from allergies.

Leave a Comment: