The narrow spaces between a car’s air conditioning vents can be difficult to clean using a cloth. However, inexpensive foam paintbrushes make the job quick and easy. Clean your A/C vents once every month or two, or more often if you notice they become dusty. If you smell a moldy odor when you turn your A/C on, clean your vent system using a disinfectant spray cleaner. To prevent mold growth, periodically dry out your vent system by blowing your fan on max with the A/C off, and be sure to clear away any debris that collects around the exterior air intakes.
Method One of Three:
Cleaning Your Vents Using a Foam Paintbrush
Purchase a set of foam paintbrushes. Foam paintbrushes are perfect for getting deep into the spaces between your air conditioner vents’ slats. They’re inexpensive and available at your nearest home improvement, craft, or dollar store. You could also purchase a set online.
Create a homemade cleaning solution. Combine equal parts of warm water and white vinegar. Try using lemon-scented cleaning vinegar if the smell bothers you. If you can’t find lemon-scented vinegar, add a teaspoon of lemon juice to your cleaning solution.
Insert the foam brush between each vent slat. Dab a foam brush in your cleaning solution and press it between your vent slats to remove dust and grime. Rinse your brush as needed to remove the debris it accumulates, or simply use another brush. Finish by wiping the vents down with a dry brush if you’ve left any excess cleaning solution.
Rinse and dry used brushes. Wash your used brushes with warm water and a dab of dish detergent. Squeeze them out and rinse well to remove excess soap. Let them dry, place them in a plastic baggie, and store them in your glove compartment for quick use.
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Cleaning Your Vents Using a Foam Paintbrush
Method Two of Three:
Cleaning the A/C Vent System
Replace your car’s cabin air filter. Most newer cars have an easily replaceable air filter that you can access from inside the cabin. You should consult your vehicle’s manual for specific instructions about how to remove and replace it.
In many newer models, including Hondas and Toyotas, you’ll start by lowering the glove compartment by unfixing the tabs that keep it in place. You might have to remove screws that hold a panel in place just below the glove compartment. On GM sedans, the filter is located in a casing beneath the dashboard on the driver’s side.
After lowering the glove compartment or removing the panel just beneath it, locate the clip that secures the air filter cover. Pinch the clip to release and remove the cover.
Pull the old filter straight out of its housing and replace it with a new one.
You should change your car’s cabin air filter once a year. Consider changing it more frequently if you live in a dense urban area or in an environment with lots of dust.
Clear off and spray the air intake vents. The air intakes are on the exterior of the car around the windshield cowling. Brush away dead leaves or any other accumulated debris using a broom or handheld dust brush. Spray inside the vents with a sanitizing enzymatic cleaner.
Enzymatic disinfectants will help kill mold or fungi growing in your vent system, while air fresheners will just act as a perfume. Go for a cleaner labeled “mold and mildew fighting,” “disinfectant” or “antibacterial,” as these sprays will contain an enzyme.
Spray all vents with disinfectant cleaner. Close your car doors and windows. Make sure the car is off and keys are out of the ignition. Spray liberally inside all of your car’s interior vents with the enzymatic cleaner.
Consult your car’s manual to make sure you’ve located all of the A/C vents.
Start the engine and set the air conditioner to max. After you’ve sprayed all of your vents, start your car’s engine. Set both the air conditioner and fan blower to max. After about ten minutes, turn your A/C off, open all the car doors, and let the fan blow for another five minutes.
Have your car serviced. If the smell persists, you might need to have your A/C serviced. For persistent moldy smell, consult your mechanic or dealership about replacing your evaporator core. Other smells, like gas or antifreeze, could indicate system leaks.
Depending on if any parts need to be flushed or replaced, the cost could be between $300 and $2000 (US).
Turn the air conditioner off before reaching your destination. Make it a habit to turn your air conditioner off while letting the fan blow a few minutes before you reach any destination. Try to do this about three to five minutes before turning off your engine. Letting the fan blow a few minutes after turning off the A/C will help dry your vent system, preventing mold growth.
Keep the air intakes clear of leaves and other debris. Never let anything collect around your A/C intakes. Brush away debris weekly, or more often if necessary. Leaves and other debris that accumulates around the windshield cowling are a leading cause of mold growth in the A/C vent system.
Run the blower without the air conditioner on periodically. Every two or three months, choose a warm, dry day to clear out your A/C vents using the fan blower. Open all the car doors, make sure the A/C is off, and turn the blower on max. Regularly drying out your vent systems using this technique will prevent future mold growth.
If your car smells bad or different lately, it may mean that it’s time to clean your air vents. Because parts of these vents aren’t easy to access, it’s easy to forget about cleaning them. To keep your vehicle smelling fresh, follow these steps.
Step 1 – Cleaning the Vent
To clean the front of the vents, use a cotton swab that’s been soaked in scent-free interior car cleaner. While you can use a cleaner that’s scented, keep in mind that you will smell the scent for a while in your car until it’s worked out of the vents. Make sure you get into all of the corners and crevices.
Don’t forget to clean your automobile’s lower air vents, too, that are used to warm or cool your legs. These are not immediately visible, and they can be found under the dash.
Step 2 – Getting Rid of the Smell
Though cleaning the outside of the vents will ease any bad car smells, you may need to go farther into the vents to fully eradicate musty and stale scents.
Change the Cabin Air Filter
To begin, change the cabin air filter in the engine. This filters performs a function similar to what a furnace air filter does. You should change the filter regularly to keep your car smelling fresh.
Its location and the type of filter you will need depends on the make and model of your vehicle. You can find this information in your car’s service manual.
Clean the Cabin Air Filter
Alternatively, you can spray the filter with disinfectant. This will kill the germs within the filter, improving the smell. However, it might make your vehicle smell like disinfectant for a while.
Step 3 – Clean the Drain
Finally, you should clean your air conditioner’s drain. In most cars, the drain can be found in the corners next to the fenders and will consist of rubber tubing that’s usually black.
Squeeze the tubing to ease out anything that’s accumulated inside. After doing this, straighten a wire hanger, and run it up the tube to remove the last of the debris.
When these steps are completed together, they will vastly improve your car’s smell coming from the air vents. If your vehicle still smells, trying getting rid of bad car smells with other methods like cleaning the carpets.