Car Air Conditioner Smells Like Pee – What Could Be Wrong?

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Having the air inside your car smell unpleasant can be a real downer. Does the air conditioner inside your vehicle smell like pee whenever it's on and you have no idea what could be causing this? Well, we've done plenty of research and have the answer waiting here for you. Let's check it out.

Your car air conditioner probably smells like pee because mold is present inside of your system. Typically, mold and mildew will have a pee-like smell when they grow inside of a car's AC and indicate there may be moisture built-up in your air conditioner's evaporator. A strong pee smell could also mean that bacteria is growing inside your vehicle's AC, so try to have your car inspected as soon as possible.

As we begin, we will cover all things car air conditioners and discuss what might be causing your system to smell unusual. Whether this happens regularly or you haven't had a pee smell before, we're here to offer some help. With that said, let's jump right into this topic!

Car panel (interior view). Hazard warning lights button, a/c (air conditioner) vent and lock button, Car Air Conditioner Smells Like Pee - What Could Be Wrong?

How Do You Get Urine Smell Out Of Car Vents?

car air condition system

If your car vents smell like urine and you want to fix it ASAP, there are some steps you can take. First, you'll want to mix 3/4 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide with one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle.

Next, spray your mix down each affected air vent until around half the bottle is empty. Finally, let your mixture sit in each vent for 2-3 hours, and then wipe them down with a damp cloth when you're done.

That said, you can also try using an aerosol disinfectant to get rid of any bad smells inside the AC, so you don't have to go the DIY route if you don't want to.

Is It Safe To Spray Lysol In Car Vents?

Yes, as long as you don't use too much, it should be fine to spray Lysol into your car vents. Besides being anti-bacterial, Lysol will also work to remove the pee smell from your AC system, so doing this is a great way to get rid of any unpleasant scents.

To use your Lysol, we recommend finding the air intake vents (usually outside of your vehicle at the bottom of the windshield) and spraying the Lysol into those. During this process, you should also have your car's AC on full blast, as this will help distribute the cleaner throughout your entire vehicle.

How Long Does Urine Smell Last In Car Air Conditioner?

Depending on how much mold, mildew, or bacteria has been able to grow inside, your AC could smell like urine for a while. Usually, the more excess moisture trapped inside your air conditioning system, the more pungent the urine smell will be, so this can be different for everyone.

As mentioned, when a car's evaporator becomes filled with water, this can create a breeding ground for mold, mildew, bacteria, and other microorganisms, resulting in a pee smell and unsafe breathing conditions.

Is It Safe To Breathe In Car Air That Smells Like Pee?

In general, breathing in air that smells like urine isn't safe. Especially in a car, having the air filled with potential mold, mildew, and bacteria can lead to more severe breathing issues developing over time, which nobody wants to deal with.

That said, if the pee smell recently started and you have an appointment at the dealership scheduled a few days or so away, you shouldn't experience any major health problems by continuing to drive the vehicle until then.

Of course, everyone will react differently to unclean air conditioning, so you may be more sensitive than your passengers or vice versa.

How Do I Disinfect My Car AC?

Driver hand tuning air ventilation grille, fresh air is coming out

For those wanting to give their AC a deeper clean, disinfecting it is easy. As we discussed, Lysol is a great way to kill bacteria in your air conditioning system, so that's one option to consider.

With that said, any enzymatic cleaner/aerosol spray will work well to disinfect a car's AC and get rid of the urine smell, so you don't have to stick with just Lysol.

Do I Need To Disinfect My Car Air Conditioner?

If you don't want the air in your car to smell like urine or be unsafe to breathe in, disinfecting the AC system is a good idea. Although you don't need to do this often, spraying a bit of cleaner into your air vents every few months can help keep your vehicle mold, mildew, and bacteria free, so we recommend it.

Again, you don't have to go crazy with the Lysol/cleaner, as a little will go a long way. Considering that disinfecting products can be potent, it's better to keep your usage low to prevent skin, eye, and lung irritation.

Why Does My Car AC Smell When I First Turn It On?

Your car's AC will usually have an unusual smell when it first comes on if there is mold or mildew present. As we discussed, excess moisture in your air conditioner's evaporator will become a breeding ground for these things as well as bacteria, hence the funky smell.

Luckily, a good cleaning should be able to rid your car of any odors, although if your AC system has a leak or issues persist, you might want to have a professional inspect it.

Why Does My AC Smell Like Body Odor?

If your car's air conditioning smells more like body odor than pee, this could mean a fungus is growing inside your system. Typically, mildew and fungi will have a sweaty gym sock scent over one more similar to urine, so that's a good way to tell the difference.

Again, you might have a few different microorganisms growing and spreading within your air conditioner, so not all odors are the same.

Should A New Car Have A Weird Smell?

Skoda Superb cars stopped on the parking during the press launch

Although it is normal for a new car to have a slightly strong aroma, it shouldn't smell musty or like pee. A new vehicle will often have more of a chemical scent over anything else, which should go away after a short while.

That said, if your new car doesn't smell like chemicals or feels musty to be in, there might be something growing inside its air conditioning system, so we recommend having your dealer take a deeper look at it.

How Long Should A New Car Smell Last?

In general, a new car smell shouldn't last more than a few weeks. Of course, this may be slightly different depending on the manufacturer's process, so you could be stuck smelling chemicals for up to a few months.

Again, this scent shouldn't be harmful to your health, but that's not to say you won't develop some irritation if your skin/eyes/lungs are more sensitive.

How Do I Know If My Car Air Conditioner Has Mold?

mold in system air conditioner, Not cleaned, cause of allergy, virus concept

One of the easier ways to tell if a car's air conditioner has mold is to take a good sniff while it's on. Mold will usually have a strong, damp odor that you won't be able to ignore inside your vehicle.

Many people compare the smell of mold to a damp basement, so if your car's AC has a similar scent, there's a good chance that mold is present. Again, this could be mildew forming inside your air vents, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

What Are The Symptoms Of Mold Exposure?

If you think that you might have been exposed to mold inside your car, there are a few symptoms to keep track of. These will typically include:

  • Coughing/throat irritation
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy eyes
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Nasal congestion

You could also see asthma or other respiratory issues worsen if your vehicle has mold inside the AC, becoming a dangerous situation for more vulnerable individuals. However, a deep clean using Lysol should kill any bacteria/mold inside your air conditioner, although this isn't always 100% effective.

To Wrap It All Up

Driver hand tuning air ventilation grille, fresh air is coming out

Whether you've dealt with unpleasant odors inside your car before or this is the first time, it's always good to find the root of the problem. A pee smell inside the AC could mean your system has mold, mildew, or even bacteria present, which can be harmful if left untreated.

Furthermore, your car's air conditioner might also have a fungus growing inside, so if it smells like body odor rather than pee, that could be the reason why. Again, using a disinfectant spray every few months should help eliminate any harmful microorganisms inside your AC, so we recommend regular cleaning.

Regardless, remember to take a good smell of the air inside your car, and if anything seems unusual, don't be afraid to take it to the dealership to have a professional inspect it.

Before you go, be sure to check out these helpful related AC posts down below!

Should You Remove The Drain Plug From A Window Air Conditioner?

Portable Air Conditioner Leaking Water - What Could Be Wrong?

Delonghi Air Conditioner Leaking Water - What To Do?

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