Q. The ventilation system on my Audi A3 smells like a musty basement when I start the car and occasionally smells when the air conditioning is on. The car is garage kept and I don't have a problem with leaves or other debris accumulating on the intake vent. The cabin filter is changed every 15,000 miles. It's dry and doesn't smell. Any suggestions?
A. The problem you are experiencing is common and can be resolved inexpensively. Generally, what happens is you get a bit of mildew built up in the heater/evaporator box under the dash. This is the area where the inside air is made hot or cold depending on the request.
The air conditioning evaporator is where a lot of moisture is created when running the A/C and is what generates the water that runs out of the car when the A/C is on.
First, make sure the water is running out of the car and not into the car. This can happen when the condensate drain becomes plugged with debris. After determining that the A/C condensate (water) is flowing out properly, you will want to buy a can of HVAC deodorizer from the auto parts store. There will be directions on the can but the idea is to spray the contents of the can into the intake for the A/C system so it can coat the evaporator and heater and kill all the mildew.
If you don't want to fool with it yourself, most shops will handle it for you and it should be between $50 and $100 for chemical and labor. There is also a machine that some shops have that generates the mildew retardant and mists the entire cabin of the car to get rid of all the mildew in the car.
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