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Car smells of mould/musty

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  • [Corsa D 2006-2014] Car smells of mould/musty

    Hey folks,

    So recently my car has developed this funky smell, it smells like that disgusting smell when clothes doesn't dry properly. The smell only happens when I actually start driving the car. It doesn't seem to happen when I first start up the car and idle it - only when I start driving.

    I initially thought it was the A/C system creating this weird smell so I took it to an air-con specialist a few days ago who did a service on the air-con which included evacuate and recharge system, leak checks and anti-bacterial treatment.

    However, the A/C servicing with anti-bacterial treatment did not get rid of the smell. Today I drove the car and smelt the same smell when I started driving. I realised the smell is there - even when the A/C system is off.

    The car was serviced by a main dealer approx 4 months ago, where the cabin/pollen filter was replaced. I've read online that it could be A/C system - but I've just had that done. Other forums also suggested changing pollen filter - but that's also been done approx 4 months ago.

    The car is a fairly clean car both interior/exterior. I do not have random junk or food laying around. On brief inspection, no parts of the car seem to be wet or damp - so that I guess excludes a leak/rain getting in.

    In my 2 years of owning this car, I've never come across this smell and the smell has now been there for almost 2 weeks.

    Any help or ideas would be appreciated.


  • #2
    My first thought would have been A/C or pollen filter but you appear to have covered that. It could also be damp under the carpets but I would have thought this would smell all the time, not just when moving. Same with rotting food etc.

    The only thing I can think of is the under bonnet scuttle area may be blocked with rotting leaves .There are also rain water drain holes in this area. If these become blocked with leaves or dirt it can allow water to form pools that might get smelly.

    Its the area between the engine bay and the windscreen. It has a plastic cover with ventilation grills in it. The front edge is held in place by the soft rubber seal that crosses the car. This seal is easy to pull off and refit. A good clean up in that area, maybe probing any blocked drain holes with a bit of stiff wire and a good flush out with a garden hose or watering can might solve the problem. Worth a try anyway as it costs nothing.


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply.

      Just checked pollen filter today to see if it was actually replaced during service. It does look fairly new. Definitely no food laying around in the car, I have a strict rule about that haha.

      I've just checked the scuttle area - you're right, it is full of junk. I removed the soft rubber seal today and cleaned it with Febreze cleaner. However, there is still much more junk underneath the scuttle cover? Any ideas how I can remove it and get underneath to remove the junk and leaves? I did not find any screws to remove the plastic cover.



      • #4
        Sorry I dont know. I have only ever lifted lifted the front edge, which gave enough room to slip my hand in to do what I needed to do. To remove it completely it looks like you have to remove the wiper arms. It probably then unclips,with hidden 'poppers' but the edge where it adjoins the the windscreen glass looks quite delicate and a precision fit. It could lead to complications and no longer a simple job.

        I wouldnt want to do it myself, or recommend that you try, without some experienced advice and maybe a tutorial.

        Personally I would try to clean behind it the best i can from the front and the sides without removing it. Try using a high pressure air line to blow and a garden hose to flush away as much as possible . Or suck it out with a piece of hose thats thin and flexible enough to gain access ,gaffer taped on to a powerful vacuum cleaner. A pressure washer might be a bit too powerful unless you are very careful not to damage or dislodge anything.

        Try to get rid of any dead (or nesting) insects. I know from experience that ladybirds for instance emit a very strong smell (from their knee joints!) that smells just like musty rotting wood and leaves. I say nesting insects because only yesterday I saw a species of wasp that makes solitary nests in nooks and crannies, squeeze itself in through the drivers door jam line on my corsa
        Last edited by Bugman; 07-05-2019, 06:52 AM.


        • #5
          I had a look around on YouTube and there is literally not a single tutorial on how remove the scuttle panel on a Corsa D.

          Doing some research it does seem like, both wiper arms have to come off first and then unclip from windscreen and slowly lift away and upwards.

          I do not have the wrenches or torx bits to remove the wiper arms so will not be attempting haha, seems quite fiddly and do not want to risk cracking the windscreen. I will try my best to clean it without removing it, appreciate the advice.

          I say nesting insects because only yesterday I saw a species of wasp that makes solitary nests in nooks and crannies, squeeze itself in through the drivers door jam line on my corsa


          • #6
            Its probably best not to remove it. Imagine the frustration of running into problems only to find it didnt cure the problem anyway

            Both my cars sometimes sit unused for weeks. They are hosts to all kinds of creatures. Spiders in the door mirrors, and those little wasps sometimes do make a small nest out of wood pulp in the door jambs .Normally only one or two grubs. I am very tolerant of stuff like that ,live and let live.

            I've just thought of another very long shot.. I once had a 5 litre bottle of screen wash I had diluted some months previously that smelled less pleasant than normal. Any possible connection?

            As an anecdote. When I bought my corsa the previous owner had been topping up the screen wash with plain water. It had started growing algae and looked like thick chicken soup. Always use a screen wash additive, even in summer.


            • #7
              I've checked the screen-wash already haha, it's definitely not that.

              I drove my car again today - it is 100% the air-con/vents. I'm sure of it. Whatever the smell - it comes out of the air-con vents - even when the air-con is off. I believe when driving, air naturally still passes through the air-con vents and into the cabin. I'm surprised as I thought the air-con service and anti-bacterial treatment would really sort this out. Any ideas where to go from here?



              • #8
                I'd have thought the anti bacterial treatment would have sorted the A/C -assuming they did it properly. Mustiness from A/C can present a very slight risk of legionnaires disease , where bacteria can cause lung infections for those at high risk (the elderly and smokers etc. ). If you have any doubts that cannot be resolved with whoever did the job you can buy spray cans of A/C treatment.

                A/C condensers usually have a drain pipe that discharges quite a lot of water depending on the ambient air humidity. This normally drips onto the road under the car. I'm not sure where this is located but if this has come adrift or blocked the A/C may be discharging stale water where it shouldn't aughter. .

                As you say some air does flow naturally through the air vents without fan assistance.This air may be taken up from various sources. The mustiness may be damp from carpets , or a sponge,cloth etc that may not have fully dried after being used to clear condensation etc.

                I can only suggest crawling around in the footwells, and as far as possible under the dashboard looking for any air vent pipes that may have come adrift , and sniffing for odour , maybe through a short length of pipe to concentrate the 'sampling' to particular inaccessible locations . Also feel with dry finger tips for the slightest signs of damp. A bit of talcum powder on your finger tips may help.

                If you are 100% sure the vents are not picking up engine exhaust fumes you could try using one or more car interior deodorisers of the type that clip on the air vent, for a while. With the warmer weather the source of the smell might cure itself .

                Sorry if these are just vague ideas, I dont know of a sure fire source or cure. Someone else might. (I am assuming you are not parking near a building air vent , or recently fallen out with someone who may have deliberately planted something noxious. )


                • #9
                  Just used a spray can of AC treatment today on the vents. It was a foam based solution, instructions said to spray into vents, close windows, leave the car and run the air conditioning on full for 10 minutes. Will wait a few days to see how it goes.

                  Also, I just realised today that both my scuttle drains, under the bonnet on either side were blocked so I unblocked them today.

                  I'm 90% sure that the carpets or the footwells are not damp, will double check and confirm that tomorrow.

                  What I plan on doing when my second can of AC treatment arrives is taking the pollen filter out and spraying some treatment inside the slot where the pollen filter would normally go (because apparently the evaporator is there), running the AC without the pollen filter so the treatment can spread properly (watched a youtube vid haha).


                  • #10
                    Update: I believe the smell issue has been fixed. Definitely an A/C problem, bacteria problem seemed really bad. I think what solved it for me was the A/C cleaner spray into the vents.