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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've read over countless "AC/HVAC funk" threads to the point that my eyes are glazing over, and this doesn't smell like the typical AC stink. I've had older cars with the funky stuff on the coils, and that was a definite musty, week old gym clothes, kind of smell that went away after running the AC for a bit. The smell I'm getting in the Volt is much more like mouse pee..the same acrid smell of when the garage mice start nesting in random boxes in the garage, and it sticks around completely for at least the hour it takes me to drive to/from work. It also started mid day about a week ago, in the middle of running some errands. I just figured I drove through/over something funky, and it would clear out eventually. It hasn't, and I've got to "enjoy" it every day since.

But the really odd part that I just noticed yesterday - it only smells when the outside air is cool...like 70*F and below. If the car has been baking in the sun all day in 90*F+ heat, I don't notice it at all. Even when I manually turn the fan speed up to max, and stick my nose right in the air stream. So that when I leave work in the mid afternoon to go to lunch, no smell. When I go home at 9pm, or leave the house in the morning and it's 65 or 70-something outside, within a couple seconds of turning the car on, I get blasted with the pee smell, and get it for the hour plus ride home.

It happens whether the car is in recirc or outside air mode, and regardless of whether the AC is on or it's on fan only mode.

I've shot AC cleaner that I got at Napa through the air intake below the wiper on the driver's side, and it did absolutely nothing. I pulled the cowling off, and emptied most of a can of Lysol directly into the intake vent, and sprayed a good amount into the intake vent behind the glovebox (both with the cabin filter removed) and it seemed to help take the edge off the smell a bit, but it's still pretty noticeable.

I've also taken some good inhales right off the filter itself, and don't notice the smell on the filter at all. The filter has been installed since at least when I bought the car 3 weeks ago from the dealer. I did notice the car seemed to have a bit of a hospital odor when I first got it, and figured it was just some detailer spray used in the car that would go away after a bit, and it seems to have done that. I also don't notice any odd odors in the car now when it's sitting, only when the AC/fan is on.

Do I try the HVAC deodorizing stuff from the dealer, or drop it off at the dealer and let them deal with it? I did get the 12/12,000 certified used car warranty on it, but I don't know if this would be considered a covered item.
 

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Since I was wondering how you knew what mouse pee smelled like, I'm glad you explained.

I think the dealer who sold you the car should take care of it. Sounds horrible.
 

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I did notice the car seemed to have a bit of a hospital odor when I first got it, and figured it was just some detailer spray used in the car that would go away after a bit, and it seems to have done that.
I'm almost wondering if the dealership knew about the odor previously and used something to try to mask or eliminate the smell which left the hospital odor and now the original smell is back. Since you only recently got the car and have the coverage, I would definitely bring it to their attention. I know many have commented that the Volt tends to be a rodent attractant. Perhaps the PO had a rodent problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'm almost wondering if the dealership knew about the odor previously and used something to try to mask or eliminate the smell which left the hospital odor and now the original smell is back. Since you only recently got the car and have the coverage, I would definitely bring it to their attention. I know many have commented that the Volt tends to be a rodent attractant. Perhaps the PO had a rodent problem.
That thought actually crossed my mind a couple days after I got the car as well....my first thought was kind of "old lady or grandma" smell. Not to be offensive, rather that it vaguely reminded me of what my grand parents car and house smelled like. Not exactly a bad smell, but somewhat like a stale air smell. After a couple of days, it seemed to morph into a hospital smell, and I just assumed it was me, not being used to what a "clean" car smelled like. To be perfectly honest, given that I live out in the sticks, and my prior truck was already pretty beat up, I didn't feel the overwhelming need to clean it all that often, lol. It hadn't seen soap in several years, and the only water it saw was what fell out of the sky, or splashed up from puddles. I think I might have vacuumed it once in the past 2 years, and once immediately before trading it in.

After a bit over a week, the grandma and hospital smell went away (or I just got used to it), and all seemed well for about a week after that. I still need to get back to the dealer to cancel the GMPP and tire/wheel coverage they sold me on, and didn't want to take it in for any kind of warranty service until that gets taken care of to ensure they don't try to put a claim through on either of those two and screw with my ability to cancel it for full refund. I plan to get that taken care of Monday, and then once I get verification that it is cancelled, I'll make a service appointment for the funky smell.
 

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My guess is that there's something nasty sticking to the condenser. Something that only emits an odor when cool. I'm pretty sure that the airflow still goes through that regardless of whether or not the AC is on. The Volt's don't ship with cabin filters, so there's definitely a chance that something got through before the filter was installed by the dealer. Small animals have been known to nest in spots under the hood, especially in air intakes.
 

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I don't believe a claim on GMPP will prevent you from cancelling for a prorated refund. I believe however that the GMPP is more like a supplemental plan that covers anything not covered by your existing warranty, in this case with a CPO, you have the B2B for 12/12 which should cover everything and GMPP shouldn't even be involved in the claim.
 

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One day when you are at home, you could try plugging the car in, power the car up, and set the AC to front window vent only and a high heat setting.

Crack open the windows an inch. Lock the car up. Leave it for 8 hours.

You'll waste 10kWh or so (more if it is cold or hot, obviously), but it will give the HVAC a constant and long run, and any volatiles in the HVAC should blow away. If it comes back, then it is biological in nature and something's rotting in there.
 

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My guess is that there's something nasty sticking to the condenser. Something that only emits an odor when cool.
I can't go quite so far as to say such a thing doesn't exist, that would be smellier cold than warm. But I've never heard of a thing like that. I would be FAR more likely that the way cooling and warming airs are ducted would affects such a thing.
 

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Since I was wondering how you knew what mouse pee smelled like, I'm glad you explained.

I think the dealer who sold you the car should take care of it. Sounds horrible.
Agreed. The car may need an AC service where the coils, ductwork and fan are cleaned and sanitized. They may also want to install a new filter.
 

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I don’t know what is causing your issue, but I would get it in under that warranty ASAP. As the weather warms up, it will be harder to duplicate, and the clock is ticking on the warranty. A problem like that is very easy for the service department to say they couldn’t smell anything or it is normal, etc. so multiple visits will probably be necessary.

I have a 2013 with what I consider the normal musty air conditioner smell. With mine, it smells fine when the A/C is off, but when I run the A/C, the musty smell is noticeable. It is not severe and most cars with any age on them in my area (humid climate) have it. In my case, I guess you would say that the warmer the weather, the more likely I am to notice it, which is opposite of your case.

I can’t think of any reason a cooler temperature would make a smell worse. Is it possible that something else is a factor, like more moisture from humidity, car washing or rain, etc.? Or maybe it only happens after your car is parked in a particular location?
 
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