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Mold in the Air Conditioner: What You Need to Know!

car air conditioner maintenance

You turn your ignition, start your car, and turn on its air conditioner. You expect a cool, clean air blasting off from your air vents, but it’s not. The air blasting from your air vents seems to have a foul, moldy smell. When this happens to you, it is likely that you have a mold in the air conditioner of your car. This is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately since mold in the air conditioner, aside from the musty smell it gives, tends to spread fast which can leave spores and cause health problems such as throat irritation, nasal congestion, wheezing, and other respiratory problems. Mold in the air conditioner is usually caused by moisture build up. This happens when the AC condensation is not sufficiently draining from the pan or there is something wrong with your car’s AC drain tube. The moldy smell can also be caused by a dirty cabin air filter. Want to know more? Read on! We’ll tell you what you need to know!

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Mold in the Air Conditioner: Is Mold in Car AC Dangerous?



When you turn on your car air conditioner and you notice a foul, musty smell, it can be an indication that you have mold in the air conditioner. Mold is known as a type of fungus that is capable of growing anywhere and your car’s air conditioner is no exemption. In your car’s AC unit, it can grow hidden deep inside your dashboard. This makes it harder to find out that mold is starting to develop in your car. You will usually just notice it when you turn on your car’s air conditioner.


Mold in the air conditioner of your car has a very recognizable smell. Its odor is rather unpleasant and you can compare it to the smell of a dirty basement. If you ignore this problem, mold in the air conditioner will keep on growing until it reaches your air vents.  Many car owners might ask, is mold in the air conditioner dangerous? It can be dangerous since mold exposure can result in many health problems.


Since it can lead to many health problems, you should avoid exposure to mold and get rid of it immediately. One of the health problems it can cause is that it can trigger an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to mold, you might experience coughing, sore throat, congestion, itchy eyes, wheezing, and skin irritation when exposed to it.


However, mold in the air conditioner of your car does not only affect people allergic to mold. It can also affect healthy people. Exposure to mold can cause coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, irritation to eyes, and irritation in the respiratory system. Studies also say that mold exposure can result in severe lung infections in people with chronic lung conditions and immune disorders. Plus, mold exposure can trigger an asthma attack which causes wheezing, shortness of breath, and breathlessness. In some cases, healthy people or children may develop asthma due to prolonged exposure to mold.


Mold in the Air Conditioner: How Do You Know If Your Car Air Conditioner Has Mold?



Since mold in the air conditioner can cause a number of health problems and is considered dangerous, many people might ask, how do you know if your car air conditioner has mold? You will know if there is mold in the air conditioner when you notice these signs.


  • Musty smell


Like mentioned earlier, mold has a very recognizable odor. It has an unpleasant, musty smell that can cause discomfort for you and your passengers. The more mold your car air conditioner has, the worse the problem becomes.


When you smell this strong foul odor when you turn on your air conditioner, it can be an indication that there is mold in it. This can happen because the air that passes over the evaporator has mold and it reaches into your car cabin through the AC vents. This foul smell will then circulate throughout your car when the AC is turned on.


  • Air conditioner not blowing enough cold air


When you notice that your car air conditioner is not blowing enough cold air like it used to, it can be an indication that there is mold in the air conditioner. This type of fungus can block the AC vent which can affect the cooling system. The mold can also block the air filter and keep cold air from being blown out into your car’s cabin. When this happens, your car’s AC won’t be pushing enough cold air out no matter how much you try.


To prevent this from happening, it is best to have your car AC serviced for at least every five to six months. Having your car’s AC serviced can help clear the AC dust as well as clear other microorganisms like molds and bacteria, preventing them from growing on a rapid scale. This can also help extend the life of your car’s air conditioning system.


  • You or your passengers suffer allergic reactions or difficulty breathing


As discussed earlier, mold in the air conditioner can cause some health problems. If you notice that you and your passengers have allergic reactions when inside your car, having asthma attacks, or difficulty breathing, it can be an indication that there is mold growing somewhere in your car.


Bear in mind that mold in the air conditioner can lead to some respiratory issues and breathing problems, especially when you are exposed to it for so long. So if you feel that there is something in your car that is causing asthma attacks or allergic reactions, have your car or AC checked immediately.


  • Mold in your car’s air vents


Mold can grow practically anywhere and it can continue to grow at a rapid scale when left unnoticed. If it has grown somewhere in your car’s air conditioning system, it will eventually reach your car’s air vents. When it does, you may see a black, brown, or olive green substance with a bit of patchy appearance. If you notice this in your AC vents, then it means that you really have a mold in the air conditioner and it is growing really fast.


Mold in the Air Conditioner: How Do You Get Rid of Mold in the Car Air Conditioner?



As soon as you notice that there is mold in the air conditioner, you need to act fast and get rid of it immediately since it can grow rapidly. Plus, prolonged exposure to molds and its musty smell can also cause some health issues. But, how do you get rid of mold in the car air conditioner?


  • To get rid of the moldy smell.


One thing you can do is to check your AC drain. You need to make sure that it is not clogged. A clogged drain tube of your AC system can cause mold in the air conditioner. This can happen since when the tube is clogged, water may back up, find the way of least resistance, and may come out in your car’s dashboard. This can attract mold which can lead to a musty smell.


When you turn on your car and your car’s air conditioner, in about twenty minutes or more after you turn it on, the condensation water should drain from under the engine. Depending on what car you own, you may be able to see if the water is draining. If there is none and you think that it is clogged, you better have your air conditioning system serviced.


You can also try to correct the problem yourself. You just need to locate your car’s air conditioner drain tube and disconnect it. You may use a metal wire or any object that you can insert inside to push the gunk that’s causing the tube to become clogged. When you have successfully freed the gunk away, you can then reattach the tube. Inspect the surrounding area and look for any signs of water gathering up inside your car. If there is any, wipe it and make sure that you disinfect it to get rid of the viruses and bacteria.


If you see that your car’s AC system is draining and not clogged but there is still a moldy smell when you turn on your air conditioner, you can try to turn off your AC before you turn off your car. Let your car’s fan run so it can blow moist air from the ventilation system. This way, you will force the water to evaporate from the air fan. You can do this process whenever you turn off your engine to get rid of the musty smell.


  • To get rid of the mold in the air conditioner


To get rid or remove the growth of mold in  the air conditioner, you need to know where they’ve grown. When the mold has grown in the coils and drain pan, you do some indirect cleaning since these surfaces are quite hard to access. You can apply an antibacterial product to the coils and drain pan to get rid of the mold and the smell.


Make sure you choose a product that is known to be effective without damaging or corroding the car’s components. Experts are recommending a non scented product to make sure that it won’t cause any allergic reactions to you and your passengers. If you choose a scented product, make sure that you test it first before you apply it in your car. This is done since you won’t be able to remove it from your ventilation system after you have applied it.


To start, you need to prepare at least a pint of your chosen antibacterial liquid and put it in a spray bottle. Then turn your key in your ignition, turn the engine on, and put your car’s AC fan on high. Choose the “outside air” option instead of “recirculate”. Then make sure that the air output is run to the dashboard vents instead of toward the floor. You need to open your car windows when doing this process.


For the next step, you need to find your air intake. You will usually find it near the top of your car’s hood near the windshield’s bottom, toward the center across the car. Then spray about half cup of the liquid and move the air exhaust from the vent to the floor and spray another half cup of the liquid.


Since the AC cold is placed deep inside the car, most of the liquid you sprayed won’t make it to the AC unit. It will just collect on and drip off the grill and the ducting sides and on other areas. However, when the spray bottle has almost emptied, there will be enough liquid sprayed to it and it will reach the interior of the AC unit to finish the job.


To check whether you have made a difference or not, put your windows up again, turn on your car and smell the air coming out of your air vents. If there is still a moldy smell, you can repeat the process.


Another thing that you should check is your cabin air filters. It is possible for molds to develop in your air filters when it is dirty, clogged, or damp. You should clean or replace your air filters regularly to get rid of the mold in the air conditioner of your car.


However, if your air conditioning really has some issues that are causing build-ups of moisture, the mold problem will likely happen again even if you have done your best to get rid of the moldy smell and the molds themselves. The best thing you can do is to take your car to an auto service shop and have it inspected and repaired. The mechanics can find out what causes the moisture build-up. They will be able to locate the source and repair it. This way, the growth of mold in the air conditioner of your car will be prevented.


Mold in the air conditioner is serious. It can cause a number of health issues. It is for this reason why you need to get rid of it immediately. However, if you have done all you can and you still have mold problems in your car, you might have to consider investing in a new car and have a fresh start. You can opt to sell your car and dispose of it properly.

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