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car heater stinks

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car heater stinks

Postby John » 31 May 2012, 20:06

My car's heater stinks (a nasty 'spicy' stench).

I took it to the mechanic and he told me if it was from the A/C he could clean that up, but if it was from the heater he could not (I thought the heater and AC were the same unit?).

Anyway, the AC has been serviced and cleaned, but my heater still stinks

Is there anyway that can be cleaned
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby sulavaca » 31 May 2012, 20:17

Yes, you can, but it's often tougher to get to than the A.C..
If you keep dogs or cats in the car, then that thing gets clogged up very badly, and dog scent gets stuck to all the surfaces, which makes it extremely difficult to clean.
The cleaning job you had done to the A.C. needs to be done to the separate heater element.
Once, it's doen, then try to keep any dogs in the back at all times. This helps reduce the number of animal hairs which are sucked up, into the heating/cooling system.
Also, when not using the air-conditioning, switch the recirculation flap to the outside air in position.
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby John » 31 May 2012, 20:55

Thanks :bow:

The dog only gets in the car about 6 times per year, so it is not that.

The only way I can describes the stink is as 'spicy.'

Anyway, right now my mechanic is saying that he cannot solve the stink caused by the heater.

Must be another Taiwanese mechanic's piece of BS, maybe it is just too much effort to get to that heater element.

What is the Chinese for 'heater element?'
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby sulavaca » 31 May 2012, 21:45

Most local mechanics don't understand foreigner's demands. They would typically see you in your March and think "He drives a cheap car. He won't want to spend any money on repairs, so I will tell him not to fix it."
What a more professional mechanic should do is to explain the difficulty level of the repair, and then offer you a quotation. You might think it's expensive, but he has already explained why.

The Chinese [which they should understand] for heater element is 熱水風箱

If you don't have any luck, then give me a shout.

My question, before you go ahead and have this work done is, is the smell more or less predominant when you are using cold air, hot air, or does it make no difference?

The reasoning behind this question is that the answer will likely let me know where the smell is emanating from.

Cold smells more than hot: clean the air-con section.
The other way around: clean the heater element.
Neither way around makes any difference: Then check the air vents, piping, but also inside the outside air induct, as leaves, animals and all sorts can crawl or fall in there and create an issue sometimes.

These types of issues will always be more apparent, or common when:
1) Commonly parking in humid areas. (switch to the fresh-air position when parking up for the night.)
2) Transporting animals. (offer them up for adoption to your local Korean restaurant)
3) Always running the heater/cooler systems with the "recycle" position selected, and rarely changing to "fresh-air" position. (see solution 1)
4) The vehicle's floor gets wet from water leaks, or rain brought into the car. (Fix water leaks. Dry it with a wet-vac, leave the windows open slightly, and try to leave it in sunlight [which kills many types of common bacteria] more often. Take out any floor mats over night)
5) Parking under trees, or in areas with animals/insects. (Check the air-intakes to the car for debris. These are often located on the exterior, beneath the grill section where the wiper arms are located. Mechanic often required)
6) Internal air filter hasn't been changed for a while (Don't be concerned with this John as the March doesn't have one).

Combinations of some of the above solutions can often rectify foul smells without having to visit a workshop, so I suggest trying one or two, especially the opening of the fresh-air vents, and leaving the windows open a touch, with the car in direct sunlight. We often use this simple method, which works the vast majority of the time.
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby John » 31 May 2012, 22:12

Thank you again, Jamie!

My question, before you go ahead and have this work done is, is the smell more or less predominant when you are using cold air, hot air, or does it make no difference?


The problem ONLY occurs when the heater is on.

Most local mechanics don't understand foreigner's demands. They would typically see you in your March and think "He drives a cheap car. He won't want to spend any money on repairs, so I will tell him not to fix it."


Not just mechanics, I had similar problems with the builders and interior decorators with our house.

It is like, they hear what I am saying, but they do not agree with my thinking so they just do their own thing (and then start their belligerent whinging about how 'honest' they are, when I get pissed off and refuse to pay until the job is done the way I instructed them).

I mean, I had the guy in my car, turned on the engine, turned on the heater, let him smell the stink, and told him to fix that stink! :fume:

These types of issues will always be more apparent, or common when:
1) Commonly parking in humid areas. (switch to the fresh-air position when parking up for the night.)
3) Always running the heater/cooler systems with the "recycle" position selected, and rarely changing to "fresh-air" position. (see solution 1)


Keelung (Jilong) is VERY humid and I've NEVER changed to the "fresh-air' position!


so I suggest trying one or two, especially the opening of the fresh-air vents, and leaving the windows open a touch, with the car in direct sunlight.


Will do!
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby Ducked » 01 Jun 2012, 00:12

John wrote:Thank you again, Jamie!

My question, before you go ahead and have this work done is, is the smell more or less predominant when you are using cold air, hot air, or does it make no difference?


The problem ONLY occurs when the heater is on.


My question is, what the hell are you using THE HEATER for?

I don't even know if I've got one.

However, since you apparently are, (perhaps you were brought up in a steel mill in Death Valley?) I'd point out that coolant can have a sickly, sweetish, burnt toast sort of smell which might be described as "spicy" if you'd never had a good curry.

perhaps your heater core is leaking?
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby sulavaca » 01 Jun 2012, 00:43

Good point. When the heater element/radiator typically leaks though, it usually leaks from the valve area, not the fin area, although it isn't impossible.
I've so far never come across a March/Sentra heater element which has suffered from this issue due to leakage.

You can simply check this by checking the radiator coolant level under the bonnet/hood.
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby John » 01 Jun 2012, 02:52

Do you mean I need to check the plastic overflow bottle that is attached to the radiator, or is this something else?
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby Super Hans » 01 Jun 2012, 03:49

When my heating radiator leaked, it smelled funny. However, it was more of a smell like mild perfume and liquorice.
If your windows are steaming up, requiring the need for the heating vents to get rid of the steam, then you probably have a fin or valve leak. This would make sense - windows steam up due to steam from radiator seeping out through the vents. Turn heater on to get rid of steam. Car stinks. That was my scenario anyway.

Last year my car stank and I thought it was a problem with the heater. Turned out it was a dead frog under the drive's side floor mat. Disgusting, and had me running around in circles for 3 or 4 weeks.
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Re: car heater stinks

Postby sulavaca » 01 Jun 2012, 07:44

John wrote:Do you mean I need to check the plastic overflow bottle that is attached to the radiator, or is this something else?


With the engine cold, check the fluid level in the radiator, by carefully removing the metal cap. You can also inspect that overflow bottle.
It likely isn't this problem, as I said, but then it won't hurt to check the level anyway.
The sweet smell of anti-freeze is most apparent when actually being superheated, such as when it hits the exhaust, or a pipe bursts in the engine bay.
A very small leak in the passenger compartment, likely won't be apparent, unless the water is causing mould, or something.
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