Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: Sour, stale smell coming from air vents

asked by on

Sudden onset of of sour, stale smell coming from air vents. Car has always been in garage but stayed outside for 10days. Now has odor coming from air vents. Almost smells like cat urine when car first gets going then turns into a really stale mothball smell. Any product I can use to elongate this smell

My car has 99000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

This is most likely a cabin filter that needs to be changed. Your car is equipped with an air filtration system that works similarly to your engine’s air filter in that it filters the outside air as it flows into the cabin of the car when you have the vents open. Over time this filter will get dirty just as your engine air filter does and, in some cases as you describe, it will emit an odor or smell that is filtered into the cabin when you turn on the vent air.

I would recommend having an expert mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, come to your location to replace the cabin air filter for you.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Whole radio stops and shuts off at random

Hello! Thank you for writing in with this question. Many Toyota vehicles have been affected with similar issues. Oftentimes, this problem is caused by a ground issue in the faceplate of the radio. Toyota offers an updated factory radio. You...

Q: Car dies and restarts by itself

Hello, thank you for writing in. The main component that is in charge of turning off and on the vehicle is the ignition switch. You will likely want to start by inspecting and potentially replacing this switch. To truthfully know...

Q: How to use the auto feature?

Your truck comes with a special feature built into your climate control system. This feature is called the Auto feature. The Auto feature will automatically decide the best air flow direction for your vehicle in the current circumstances. To use...

Related articles

P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the...
Rules of the Road For Iowa Drivers
Driving on the roads requires knowledge of the rules, many of which are based on common sense and courtesy. However, even though you know the rules in...
P2103 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle Actuator Control Motor Circuit High
P2103 means there is a fault with the throttle actuator control motor circuit, likely due to a defective electrical component or part.