Are you having trouble with your car smelling like vinegar inside?
Maybe sniff yourself first to make sure it’s not you or your body odor. Sometimes, driving around in the summertime with the air conditioning (A/C) off can get you all sweaty. And sweaty bodies inside a hot and humid truck or SUV cabin can get it all smelling funky and musky.
Kidding aside, a vinegary odor in your ride can be quite unpleasant. It’s not necessarily harmful, but it’s important to understand why this happens. Fortunately, there are also some things you can try to get rid of this unwanted odor.
In this take, we’ll explain what causes vinegar smells in cars and how you can prevent them from occurring again.
What Is That Vinegar Smell in Your Car?
A vinegar smell in car can come from the air conditioner (A/C) vents. This can be noticeable when you enter the vehicle and turn the AC blower on. The smell can also emanate from your seats, mats, and carpet.
The cause of vinegar smells in cars can be varied. Sour smells are often linked to acids which can come from either organic material like mold, mildew and decaying matter or inorganic substances such as car fluids and fumes.
What Causes That Vinegar Smell?
The most common cause of the sour smell is organic matter. Mold and mildew can build up in the car AC system over time, resulting in a sour or acidic odor. This happens when your AC system is dirty, hasn’t been serviced for a long time, or doesn’t drain effectively. A car AC smell from a blockage can cause this foul odor.
Things like moldy leftover food or spilled drinks can also leave behind an unpleasant smell in your car. Organic materials such as leaves and grass that get dragged into the interior can rot on the carpet, producing acidic smells. If you often get your vehicle’s interior wet, mold and mildew can grow on the carpet and seats. Mold, mildew, and bacteria love moist or humid conditions.
As for inorganic causes, improperly maintained engines and exhaust systems can cause a buildup of acidic gasses. Leaking car batteries can also expel acid or acidic fumes which can get inside the cabin.
Is It Safe to Drive in a Car That Smells of Vinegar?
If the cause of a vinegar smell is related to a battery acid leak or your car AC smells sour like vinegar due to a blockage, then it is definitely unsafe to drive your car.
However, if the vinegar smell is caused by a clogged cabin air filter or other minor mechanical issue, then you should be fine to keep driving your vehicle until you can get it repaired. Inhaling mold and mildew is a different matter though.
In terms of health consequences, breathing in organic material or fumes may cause respiratory problems and irritation to the eyes and skin. So if you notice that the smell of vinegar is coming from your car, be sure to take precautions and seek out help right away.
Overall, while it’s not ideal to have a car that smells like vinegar, take steps to get rid of the smell and prevent other issues from occurring in the future.
How to Get Rid of That Vinegar Smell?
If the smell comes from your AC vents, you should clean your car’s AC system properly. This requires cleaning of your air vents, evaporator fins, and cabin air filters to ensure that any dirt or debris doesn’t allow unpleasant odors to accumulate over time. Check your AC drain hose if blocked.
You can purchase special sprays that go into your air vents for about $50. This DIY method should help to disinfect your car vents and interior and eliminate any lingering vinegar smells. But if you choose to have this done professionally, it can cost you anywhere from $200 to $400.
You can try cleaning your car. Try airing it out. Open the windows and doors. Pull out the mats, clean them, and dry them under the sun. Cleaning sprays and brushes can be used on fabric surfaces to disinfect them from mold and mildew.
Additionally, you can opt to have your interior detailed by a professional. This is a good option if the cause of your vinegar smell is due to poor interior maintenance or a buildup of dirt and grime. A deep cleaning can get rid of all the dirt, debris, and bacteria that may be contributing to the smell, leaving your car smelling fresh and clean once again.
Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, this service can run you anywhere from $50 to $150. So if you prefer to save some money, you may want to tackle this task on your own.
How to Prevent a Car from Smelling Like Vinegar?
Prevention is better than cure. To ensure that your car doesn’t smell like vinegar, you should focus on proper A/C maintenance and cleaning, as well as replacing your cabin filter when it’s due.
In addition, you should ensure to keep your car’s interior dry and take care to clean up spills quickly. Keep your car’s interior clean of debris. You’ll also want to make sure your floor mats and carpets are properly dried out if they get wet, as they too can leave your car smelling like vinegar.
By following these tips, you can prevent your car from developing that unpleasant vinegar smell and enjoy a fresh and odor-free driving experience.
What Other Odors Can a Car Smell Of?
Vinegar isn’t the only thing that can cause unpleasant smells inside your car. Other common bad odors include sulfur, burnt oil, gasoline or fuel, and even the smell of decay from dead vermin. Sulfur smells like rotten eggs which can signify a gas leak (and we’re not talking about farts) or problems with the exhaust system. These (car gasses and exhaust) are dangerous, so you should immediately have the issue checked out.
There are several reasons why you might be smelling these odors inside your car. It may be due to leaking oil or fuel, a dead animal that has been trapped underneath the hood, or just poor ventilation and airflow.
The best course of action for preventing vinegar smells in your vehicle is to keep it clean. Avoid bringing dirt, crumbs, and trash inside your car.
Regular maintenance is also important. Start by inspecting your car’s air filter regularly and replace it if necessary. Make sure you’re changing your oil according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. And consider cleaning out your engine compartment every few months if your car AC smells like vinegar.
It also can’t hurt to use a car air freshener if your AC smells like vinegar or your car smells for other reasons. Together, maintenance and fresheners like baking soda can go a long way in eliminating a sour smell or musty smell.