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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi,

I'm new to this group but I just recently purchased a 2012 Ford Escape Limited with 157,000kms on it that seems to be fully loaded. Never knew this car can parallel park it self. Its a neat little SUV. I bought it as a daily driver to protect my 1997 Mercury Cougar.

I noticed that lately when I turn on the vents or front defogger they smell REALLY bad. Almost like a burning/musty/zoo type of smell. I've read that it could be a dirty Evaporator Core? Has anyone here replaced that part or know of any solutions on how to get rid of this smell. I can't stand it anymore! It's worth noting that it looks like there was never a cabin air filter on this car. I looked more into it and found out that when they were being built it was skipped, not sure how true this is though.

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Hi,
I'm new to this group but I just recently purchased a 2012 Ford Escape Limited with 157,000kms on it that seems to be fully loaded. Never knew this car can parallel park it self. Its a neat little SUV. I bought it as a daily driver to protect my 1997 Mercury Cougar.

I noticed that lately when I turn on the vents or front defogger they smell REALLY bad. Almost like a burning/musty/zoo type of smell. I've read that it could be a dirty Evaporator Core? Has anyone here replaced that part or know of any solutions on how to get rid of this smell. I can't stand it anymore! It's worth noting that it looks like there was never a cabin air filter on this car. I looked more into it and found out that when they were being built it was skipped, not sure how true this is though.
Welcome to the City, Shadow.
My 2009 has a cabin air filter… I've never heard that before, that they skipped some years. What is more likely, someone tore it out trying to figure out where The stench was coming from, and just never replaced it.

I have heard of this issue when a car has survived a flood, or a fire.(which legally must be disclosed)
I have seen one time where a rodent got down inside of the heater core box… died and stank bad

One odd thing, with the vehicle on recirculate cabin air, I have seen children stuffed things inside the reciculation intake… Like an old sandwich, I found one stuffed with Legos one time…

last thing I would try, switch your system to Dash vent only, close all the vents but one, then you could reverse shop vac- blow air through the system backwards… watching the cabin air intake area to see if anything flies out.

likely going to require tearing apart your dash. I would try cramming a bunch of air freshener trees inside the filter box to see if it helps at all, at least make it tolerable until you figure it out
 

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Definitely can be a dirty/moldy evaporator, very common. There are evaporator sprays with long soft plastic tubes you feed through the vents and spray and can clean them. Having worked at an AC shop and having examples of this frequently (easier to see when the heater box is removed and the evaporator is visible).

BTW nice MN12 Cougar. I have wrecked all my MN12s and and FN10s and miss them.
 

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There are evaporator sprays with long soft plastic tubes you feed through the vents and spray and can clean them.
That's cool.
I guess shadow maybe should turn on his AC first, and make sure that water is dripping out the drain hole before fluid goes in ( :
If the drain is not functional, that could be 100% of the problem

Shoot, maybe stick a catch pan underneath there when you do your cleaning, just so you can see what drains out, and if that is the source of your odor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Welcome to the City, Shadow.
My 2009 has a cabin air filter… I've never heard that before, that they skipped some years. What is more likely, someone tore it out trying to figure out where The stench was coming from, and just never replaced it.

I have heard of this issue when a car has survived a flood, or a fire.(which legally must be disclosed)
I have seen one time where a rodent got down inside of the heater core box… died and stank bad

One odd thing, with the vehicle on recirculate cabin air, I have seen children stuffed things inside the reciculation intake… Like an old sandwich, I found one stuffed with Legos one time…

last thing I would try, switch your system to Dash vent only, close all the vents but one, then you could reverse shop vac- blow air through the system backwards… watching the cabin air intake area to see if anything flies out.

likely going to require tearing apart your dash. I would try cramming a bunch of air freshener trees inside the filter box to see if it helps at all, at least make it tolerable until you figure it out
Welcome to the City, Shadow.
My 2009 has a cabin air filter… I've never heard that before, that they skipped some years. What is more likely, someone tore it out trying to figure out where The stench was coming from, and just never replaced it.

I have heard of this issue when a car has survived a flood, or a fire.(which legally must be disclosed)
I have seen one time where a rodent got down inside of the heater core box… died and stank bad

One odd thing, with the vehicle on recirculate cabin air, I have seen children stuffed things inside the reciculation intake… Like an old sandwich, I found one stuffed with Legos one time…

last thing I would try, switch your system to Dash vent only, close all the vents but one, then you could reverse shop vac- blow air through the system backwards… watching the cabin air intake area to see if anything flies out.

likely going to require tearing apart your dash. I would try cramming a bunch of air freshener trees inside the filter box to see if it helps at all, at least make it tolerable until you figure it out
I might go the route of removing the dash. The smell is horrible man. Can't stand it anymore.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Definitely can be a dirty/moldy evaporator, very common. There are evaporator sprays with long soft plastic tubes you feed through the vents and spray and can clean them. Having worked at an AC shop and having examples of this frequently (easier to see when the heater box is removed and the evaporator is visible).

BTW nice MN12 Cougar. I have wrecked all my MN12s and and FN10s and miss them.
Haha thanks man. Had that cougar forever. Never gave me any issues except the front suspension needing a rebuild every other year. Is there any instructions on how to remove the dash?
 

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Before removing the dash, remove the blower motor. Way easier. With the blower out, you'll have a good view of the heart core and A/C evaporator. If the stink is so bad you are willing to remove the dash, then something died in there. Most likely a field mouse.

Tip, remove all the vent grills. Remove blower motor. Bring small rags. Go to your local self serve car wash. Plug all vents with rags, except one. Use their vacuum cleaner to suck the vent clean while spraying A/C evaporator cleaner into the blower motor opening under the dash. Do each vent the same way. Maybe you will suck the critter out.

I own a repair shop. We use an O3 oxygen generator to get the stink out
 

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We use an O3 oxygen generator to get the stink out
I work for a limo company, these units will allow commercial use after someone wretches, in like 2-3 days.

they are funky on their own, they smell up the whole garage ( :
 

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If you want to install a cabin air filter, they mount in the cowl area. To install, you open hood, and remove the plastic mesh/grate on the passenger side, and mush them into place there.
While open you may be able to peer down into the plenum and find the debris/remains that are causing the odor. The cabin air filter will help exclude some of the deterrable critters that are seeking shelter or FOOD. Someone may have left behind some peanut butter crackers or half a Snickers bar and enticed a wild thing to move in. They may have gotten carsick and expired.
Any way, the filter is mounted externally, not through the glove box, and you will have some access to the plenum and possibly the heater core and the evaporator. Likely you will want to have a vacuum cleaner with narrow attachment to suction out 'stuff'. You may want to open the bleed on the vacuum to lower the suction so it is more controllable inside the small area.
tom

added: You can also flush the plenum to prove that the evaporator drain works. There should be an outlet for condensed water to drain from the plenum. If clogged, it can cause/allow mold or mildew to grow in the nice warm moist area. Spraying inside the plenum, with the drain un-clogged, with a water:bleach mix can reduce or eliminate the mold/mildew problem. There are special foam mixtures HVAC professionals use to clean evaporators in home and auto. The foam is sprayed on, allowed to soak, and then washed off down the open drain, or in the air handler, and out the condensate drain. FWIW.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Before removing the dash, remove the blower motor. Way easier. With the blower out, you'll have a good view of the heart core and A/C evaporator. If the stink is so bad you are willing to remove the dash, then something died in there. Most likely a field mouse.

Tip, remove all the vent grills. Remove blower motor. Bring small rags. Go to your local self serve car wash. Plug all vents with rags, except one. Use their vacuum cleaner to suck the vent clean while spraying A/C evaporator cleaner into the blower motor opening under the dash. Do each vent the same way. Maybe you will suck the critter out.

I own a repair shop. We use an O3 oxygen generator to get the stink out
Im hoping that nothing died in there. I have the carfax and there was nothing suspicious reported but you never know what isn't reported on those reports. The metal mesh is in tact where the cabin filter is supposed to go so im guessing nothing made its way in through that area.

The O3 generator is a good idea! I have one as well. Any tips on how long I should have it running in the car for or what settings to have the car on while i'm doing it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If you want to install a cabin air filter, they mount in the cowl area. To install, you open hood, and remove the plastic mesh/grate on the passenger side, and mush them into place there.
While open you may be able to peer down into the plenum and find the debris/remains that are causing the odor. The cabin air filter will help exclude some of the deterrable critters that are seeking shelter or FOOD. Someone may have left behind some peanut butter crackers or half a Snickers bar and enticed a wild thing to move in. They may have gotten carsick and expired.
Any way, the filter is mounted externally, not through the glove box, and you will have some access to the plenum and possibly the heater core and the evaporator. Likely you will want to have a vacuum cleaner with narrow attachment to suction out 'stuff'. You may want to open the bleed on the vacuum to lower the suction so it is more controllable inside the small area.
tom

added: You can also flush the plenum to prove that the evaporator drain works. There should be an outlet for condensed water to drain from the plenum. If clogged, it can cause/allow mold or mildew to grow in the nice warm moist area. Spraying inside the plenum, with the drain un-clogged, with a water:bleach mix can reduce or eliminate the mold/mildew problem. There are special foam mixtures HVAC professionals use to clean evaporators in home and auto. The foam is sprayed on, allowed to soak, and then washed off down the open drain, or in the air handler, and out the condensate drain. FWIW.
I changed all the filters and fluids when I bought the car. That was the only odd one because there was no cabin air filter.

Where is the evap drain? is it on the firewall somewhere? Im wondering if that is clogged, whoever had the car before went to town on it with undercoating. I don't recall ever seeing water coming out the underneath of the car. I use the front defoggers a lot in the Winter.

I got my hands on the BMW service center evap core cleaner. it foams up really fast but they recommend i drill a small hole in the evap case to get the nozzle in there easier. Im not sure if i feel comfortable doing that. I would have to make sure its 100% sealed after.

If i remove the blower motor will I be able to see more clearly in there?
 

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The O3 generator is a good idea! I have one as well. Any tips on how long I should have it running in the car for or what settings to have the car on while i'm doing it?
We run it for minimum two days with the car closed up, then starts and runs the HVAC system on defrost/recirculate for about an hour

depending on how bad the stench
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
We run it for minimum two days with the car closed up, then starts and runs the HVAC system on defrost/recirculate for about an hour

depending on how bad the stench
Wicked,

Just the first 5 mins of the vents being on I can't stand it. Scents really bother me a lot so it might not be as bad as others may think.

Does anyone know where I can locate the evap drain? I cant find it, i ran the AC for 5 mins on full blast but didn't see any water come out of the underside of the car. Could it be clogged or is it because i am parked on an incline? The outside temp is 11 degrees celsius.
 

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Wicked,

Just the first 5 mins of the vents being on I can't stand it. Scents really bother me a lot so it might not be as bad as others may think.

Does anyone know where I can locate the evap drain? I cant find it, i ran the AC for 5 mins on full blast but didn't see any water come out of the underside of the car. Could it be clogged or is it because i am parked on an incline? The outside temp is 11 degrees celsius.
I think you have located your problem! It is usually near the firewall, Passenger side. You might be able to dig up a schematic… you may see the rubber hose coming out of the firewall, and going down into your mess of under coating.
I will suggest calling a dedicated AC/radiator place if you can't find it, I don't know if the previous owner undercoated the firewall.

when you find the outlet, be prepared for it to leak out some nasty stuff(wear eye pro if nothing else)… You might even have to push a coat hanger up in there, till you get fluid movement, or cut the end of the hose off…

Don't jam it all the way up in there, and hit something that is not broke yet ( :
Push until you get the smallest fluid movement, then work it a little bit without going deeper
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Update:

The smell wasn't fully gone but very faint. I decided to run an Ozone generator in the car but found out I ran it wrong. I had the whole machine in the car with recirculate on. Its supposed to be outside the car with a tube venting inside the car on recirculate. I would have to redo that in the near future. The result of this was the smell was very noticable so I used a Wurth AC Spray bomb and the smell is very faint again. I can confirm that the ac drain is working properly.

I think i will try to reozone the car and see what happens.
 
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