Your ride can be the best in its class with outstanding performance and fuel economy, but if it’s got a wonky HVAC system, it might as well be scrap metal. Whether it’s sweltering or freezing outside, we all need to be comfortable in order to be good, safe drivers. There are a few HVAC issues you can easily deal with yourself, saving both time and money.
With the onset of the hot muggy weather, mold and mildew are bound to show up in our air-conditioned vehicles with odours that can range from minor to gagging. In most cases it’s caused by build-up and growth on the AC system’s evaporator core hidden deep behind the dash. Accessing it for professional treatment can be an expensive repair but there are DIY alternatives.
Before tackling any process to relieve this, make sure the A/C’s condensation drain is flowing freely. This test is as simple as starting up your auto, turning the A/C on and checking for that telltale water drip in behind the right front wheel. If this drain is plugged, it will keep the drain pan wet, adding to the recipe for mold/mildew growth. Getting at the drain is usually difficult unless you have access to a vehicle hoist. In many cases it’s a simple rubber nozzle that points out and down from the back firewall of the engine bay. If you can reach it, just squeeze the end of it to open it up and get the water draining. If not, ask your service provider to check it out for you.
Before buying any spray bomb treatment to get rid of mold/mildew, try some heat; correction, try a lot of heat. For a normal commute round trip, turn the heat controls to their highest setting with the fan set at mid-speed with the windows open of course. In most cases this prolonged blast of hot dry air can kill off a lot of the growth. It may take 2 round trips to do the trick depending on your distance traveled.
A well stocked auto parts store should be able to supply an antibacterial or mildew-killing aerosol spray bomb which can be set off inside your sealed ride with the AC on and running in the MAX setting (this keeps outside air from getting in). When the spray stops, turn off the engine and open the doors to air things out. This is also a great way to eliminate other lingering odours.
While dust build-up in vehicle HVAC vents isn’t usually as bad as it can be in home units, it can happen; especially if certain mode settings are rarely used (such as mid-level dash settings). Using the open nozzle of a household vacuum cleaner to increase the air flow through these vents can easily clear things out. And those foam-tipped small cleaning wands available at most electronics stores can clean the vents louvers with just a few wipes.
Finally, don’t forget to check that often neglected cabin air filter. When it’s clogged, you won’t be getting much of the cooling effect of your AC system. If you don’t want to tackle this job yourself, just ask your oil change tech to pull and inspect it at your next service. If you want to make this easier for them, empty your glove box before taking your vehicle into the shop. For most vehicles, this compartment has to be removed or dropped out of the way to access the filter.