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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #26  
Old 05-20-2009, 10:11 AM
edjack edjack is offline
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There are actually two drain hoses: one on each side of the trans.

I guess I'm the Lucky One here. We have very low-humidity summers here, so I get very little condensate dripping out. When I do smell something, I pull the cabin filters, and, with the blower on low, not recirc, I hose down the intake ducts from under the hood with Lysol spray, and let it set overnight.

I suspect the real problem is that the mould grows on the evap, which is moist from the A/C operation. That's why the foam stuff does the job, since it is able to penetrate the fins.
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  #27  
Old 05-20-2009, 10:50 AM
03bmw525i 03bmw525i is offline
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No A/C stink anymore! Change the cabin air filters and make sure they are not the cheapies, but the charcoal activated kind. I have has the car 3 years, and have changed the cabin air filters 4 or 5 times, because initially it smelled. No smell now at all, so I will just get on a yearly routine with those. I do sprinkle in a little baking soda as well on to the filters. Another thing, make sure that your cabin air filters are dry. If they are not installed correctly and the covers not attached, rain water can seep in and make them damp. As they say, "ask me how I know......" Keep the small rubber drain hoses clear of leaves and debris --these are located to the bottom of each plastic filter housing. I use a plastic straw to clean them out. It's flexible and something I had around the house. Run the A/C in the winter to keep it lubed up . I use it not only for cooling, but to get rid of moisture even in cold weather. I do let fan run after I turn A/C off--but not for 10 minutes, and not every time. I dunno, maybe because I use the heat during the winter, that somehow dries out whatever causes the damp smell? All I know is that the CC in this car is fantastic for the most part. I really like the fact that I can fine tune the dash vents using the center dial--seems like a small feature until you freeze/bake your face off in another car! Oh yeah, I also replaced FSU/FSR last Spring. Best of luck resolving this stinky problem.
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  #28  
Old 06-07-2009, 09:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 03bmw525i View Post
No A/C stink anymore! Change the cabin air filters
Can you show me in a picture WHERE these "cabin air filters" are?

The only filters I know of are the two that are in the engine compartment along the bottom two corners of the windshield. Are you talking about those filters? (They don't seem to have carbon in them???)

Quote:
Keep the small rubber drain hoses clear of leaves and debris --these are located to the bottom of each plastic filter housing.
Again, can you show me what you mean by these drain hoses?

Do you mean the drain hoses that people say come out of the BOTTOM of the car (meaning we have to lift the car to see them)?
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  #29  
Old 06-07-2009, 09:49 AM
TheStig TheStig is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post

The only filters I know of are the two that are in the engine compartment along the bottom two corners of the windshield. Are you talking about those filters? Yes, you can either buy regular filters or carbon activated filters.


Again, can you show me what you mean by these drain hoses?
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  #30  
Old 06-08-2009, 08:48 AM
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Oh my!

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  #31  
Old 07-15-2009, 02:55 PM
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With the summer in full swing, the AC stink problem arises again.

With another year under our belts, is this the recommended set of ac-stink problem statements and recommended solutions?

STINKY AC PROBLEM:
- It's first, and foremost, a BMW A/C downsize design problem (too cramped for proper ventilation of evaporator coils)
- The design problem allows food (dust), water (evaporator coils & ducts) and microbes (stinky poo) to coexist
- Resolution entails design, maintenance, & behavioral modifications (reduce the water, food, and stinky microbes)

DESIGN MODIFICATIONS: (Note: These are draconian)
- Cut hole in driver right-foot panel so you can spray germicide directly on evaporator coils (kill the stinky microbes)
- Drill a larger hole &
clean the evaporator fins with a toothbrush (less food for the stinky microbes)
-
Unkink the E39 evaporator duct (behind dash) by wiring the damper (less water for the stinky microbes)

MAINTENANCE MODIFICATIONS: (Note: These are judicious)
0. Reseat the two cabin-air micro-filters in the engine bay (BMW says stink can get in if they're not seated well)
1. Check if there is water normally draining from under the car after running your AC on a hot day
If there's no water pooling on both sides of your parking spot ... then ...
2. Clear the two undercarriage drain tubes any way you can:
- Some people suggest you snake a coat hanger past the multiple elbows to the evaporator coils to unclog
- Probably more reliable is to attach 13.5mm to 14.0mm OD plastic tube to both drain hoses & blow out obstructions
3. Unclog the drain holes & tubes in the two engine bay micro filters
- Some suggest snaking a six-inch length of coat hanger into the holes from the cabin filter downward thru the rubber drain hose
And, for more serious cases of BMW stinky AC:
4. Replace both engine-bay cabin "micro" filters (less food for the stinky microbes)
If eliminating water has been done, yet the stinky-AC microbes are still active ...
5. Spray tons of disinfectant in the air intake or directly onto the evaporator (through the drilled hole method).
- You'll need tons of germicide because it's not a direct shot to the evaporator coils from the air intakes
- Or try somehow to spray germicide upward hopefully onto evaporator coils from the undercarriage drain tubes
- While you're at it, spray ample germicide in central cabin vents (hoping some germicide lands on evaporator coils)

Note: The undercarriage drain tubes are apparently hard to remove for direct access to the evaporator coils; and, worse yet, they have a 90-degree elbow and 1-foot horizontal run, so, they're difficult to get a coat hanger into and even more difficult to get germicide up far enough to coat the evaporator coils.

BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATIONS: (Note: The fact we have to do this is ludicrous)
- Each trip, turn the AC off five miles before you arrive at your destination (less water for the stinky microbes)
- Park slightly nose upslope presumably so horizontal drain tubes drain better (less water for stinky microbes)
- Once a day, turn the heat up to 90 degrees and cook for 15 minutes (kill the stinky microbes)
- Set the AC to 72 degrees, "Auto", "Snowflake", & "
Circle without the A" (basic setup but doesn't help much)

Note: Yes, it's crazy to own a "luxury BMW" and then have to babysit the AC by turning it off or turning the heat up to 90 degrees in the hot summer so that it doesn't embarrass you with AC stink when you have a customer in the car; but, what else can you do?

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Last edited by bluebee; 07-21-2009 at 06:00 PM. Reason: I'll add suggestions for eliminating the stink as they come in (as long as this will let me edit)
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  #32  
Old 07-15-2009, 05:05 PM
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Drove my car a few weeks ago; really needs some a/c disinfectant

Thanks for the procedure, bluebee. I'm not f'ing turning off the air every time I stop the car but the other stuff will happen, if slowly….
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  #33  
Old 07-15-2009, 08:32 PM
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Great! All this talk about stinky A/C systems and now I'm starting to smell some funk in mine. Thanks guys! Got me all paranoid so I'll be doing a complete check this weekend.
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  #34  
Old 07-15-2009, 09:44 PM
TheStig TheStig is offline
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Seems like all the cars I've driven have a stink when you first turn on the A/C, but then it goes away...
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  #35  
Old 07-16-2009, 04:19 AM
bananaman bananaman is offline
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I have a smell when the car initially is started with a/c running, but it rapidly goes away, so I am not too bothered by the problem. However, it's clear that some are greatly troubled. So, I just took a look at mine, partly out of interest. Here's what I found and suggest:

1. The drain tubes run on either side of the transmission (on my auto), towards the rear of the car. They actually run approximately horizontally for about 12" before the end of the tube is gound. On my car, the tubes actually end beyond the rear of the transmission and rest on top of a cross-member of some sort. That's probably why they are difficult to spot. I tried taking pictures, but the're not good pictures.

2. At great risk to health, I decided to see if they were blocked. Rather than poke a rubber pipe with wire etc, I stuffed a plastic tube about 1 inch up the drain, so it sealed nicely. If you try this, it needs to be 13.5mm - 14.0mm OD tube. That fits OK. I then blew down the tube.

3. On the LHS, there was a bubbly gurgling sound, like air bubbling through water and the end of the drain was wet also. On the RHS, the drain appeared dry and there was no bubbling sound, just air flow. Both tubes appeared unobstructed overall. You can actually hear all this inside the car if you get a long anough tube. My doctor assures me that Legionalla clears up quickly and not to worry.

4. Observation: If, like me you park nose down on a slope in your driveway etc, then at the end of a journey, there will be water trapped at the elbow of the horizontal drain, unable to drain away. This could be one source of water accumulation and smell.

5. Suggestion: I assume these drains vent direrctly into the evaporator assembly. So, instead of drilling holes etc, why not shove the disinfectant spray directly up the drain holes from underneath the car? Once you know where they are, they are very easy to access, without lifting the car
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  #36  
Old 07-16-2009, 04:37 AM
bananaman bananaman is offline
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And another thing.....

In the original post, I reckon part No 5 is the horizontal drain that runs under the car. part No 17 is the hidden pipe that runs vertically to connect to No 5 and this one is hidden from view, inside the car, and runs directly from the evaporator. Correct?

Also, the drain pipe under the car is cunningly bolted in place, so it cannot be easily moved.
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  #37  
Old 07-16-2009, 08:51 AM
BruceSEA993 BruceSEA993 is offline
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Quote:
BMW is too arrogant to believe their duct work is faulty.
I would believe that, my 1983 E28 533i had the same problem. It had a A/C system that was not automatic so I shut it off a mile or two before getting home. It helped. I also Lysoled the ducts but that was only temporary.

On the 2002 E39 540i, the stink is not consistant. Sometimes it does and sometimes not. I would love a solid fix for this issue. The area of the car that houses the A/C system is packed tight and wonder if the fix would be reasonable to attempt even if you could figure out that the moisture is pooling. Could it somply be hanging on the evaporator coils?

Keep us posted!
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  #38  
Old 07-16-2009, 11:53 AM
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Stinky AC DIY solutions (adding to the list)

Quote:
Originally Posted by bananaman View Post
I stuffed a plastic tube about 1 inch up the drain ... I then blew down the tube
Excellent tools/procedure to add to the stinky-AC DIY!

Quote:
On the LHS, there was a bubbly gurgling sound, like air bubbling through water and the end of the drain was wet
Interesting observation. Would be interested to see if, say, after a week after you blew the LHS drain out, if the water returned or if the stink went away.

Quote:
Legionalla clears up quickly
OMG. Legionella pneumophila lives in AC water and invades the lung! I hope you never sucked it in!

Quote:
water trapped at the elbow of the horizontal drain
Another interesting potential solution; park the E39 nose up! (I'll add this to the list of potential stinky AC DIY solutions)

Quote:
why not shove the disinfectant spray directly up the drain holes from underneath the car?
Yet another new and interesting potential stinky AC DIY solution! The whole problem with spraying the vents with germicide is that the microbes are reputed to live in the evaporator coils so very little (if any) germicide actually lands where you need it on the evaporator coils.

Access to the evaporator coils is the reason for cutting the hole but, as you note, cutting the hole is a pain so most people probably don't go to the effort.

However, if we can access the evaporator coils from the drain tube, then that might be effective. But I'm confused 'cuz you said the drain tubes had a one-foot horizontal path so I think you are suggesting temporary removal of the rubber drain tube (right?).

Is this the suggested procedure:

a) Lie down under the car and reach under to locate the 2 drain tubes
b) Remove the two drain tubes from under the car (probably by pulling off?)
c) Spray germicide directly directly up into the opening left by removal of the drain tubes (so that you can spray the evaporator coil and collection pan directly)
d) Blow throught each drain tube to ensure they are not clogged
e) Return the two drain tubes (presumably by pushing back into place)
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  #39  
Old 07-16-2009, 12:14 PM
ProRail ProRail is offline
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Would be interesting to know why some of us have this problem and others don't. For those who have the problem: Do you always have your air control on recirculate? My nephew did that and his truck always smelled like a cave. I tried to get him to put it on the fresh air setting but he was convinced that it (heating or cooling the air from outside) would hurt his gas mileage and performance
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  #40  
Old 07-16-2009, 01:16 PM
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shenecke shenecke is offline
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No stink in mine. ac vent tubes appear to be open, I see water when I back into my driveway each day which places the nose down. I also use charcoal activated cabin filters and keep the drain hoses clear in that housing. Run my ac the majority of time in re-circ, but occasionally with outside air when it is not too hot outside.
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  #41  
Old 07-16-2009, 01:37 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProRail View Post
For those who have the problem: Do you always have your air control on recirculate?
Often, seemingly always when I have a customer in my E39, embarrassingly the AC stinks like an adolescent's gym socks!

My settings are basically permanently set at:
- Driver Temperature = 72 degrees
- Passenger Temperature = 72 degrees
- Vent control = Auto
- AC setting = Snowflake (always on)
- Recirculate =
Green light on the circle without the A
- Main spin dial = 3 bars blue (but not all the way so as to prevent "burp")
- Cockpit vents = all set to 1 (full on)

As far as I know, these are the standard recommended settings that I'm using - and I still have essence of gym sock oozing out of my AC.


But I too would like to know the answer to this question posed today by bananaman:
Quote:
In the original post, I reckon part No 5 is the horizontal drain that runs under the car. part No 17 is the hidden pipe that runs vertically to connect to No 5 and this one is hidden from view, inside the car, and runs directly from the evaporator. Correct?



Last edited by bluebee; 07-17-2009 at 10:56 AM.
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  #42  
Old 07-16-2009, 02:26 PM
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I run those little plug in air cleaners...the negative ion ones and it does well. Not a fix but it helps. You can also buy a commercial grade ozone generator for a few hundred bux. Plug er in and start the AC. Let the car run for 20 minutes to circulate the ozone and it should kill the smell. Air it out good and repeat as needed.
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  #43  
Old 07-16-2009, 04:00 PM
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bmw_n00b13 bmw_n00b13 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProRail View Post
Would be interesting to know why some of us have this problem and others don't. For those who have the problem: Do you always have your air control on recirculate? My nephew did that and his truck always smelled like a cave. I tried to get him to put it on the fresh air setting but he was convinced that it (heating or cooling the air from outside) would hurt his gas mileage and performance
I have it on Auto recirc. It kicks in….never . Always on full venting to the outdoors. Your nephew is on crack; there's no way it'll hurt the gas mileage. However, it will affect the performance *of the HVAC system*. So, when you get in your car, drive with the windows down for a mile then roll them up and recirculate until the car's cooled down. In some vehicles it can be a problem if you leave it on because it won't vent outdoors thus leading to a buildup of CO2 in the car, which is toxic in large quantities.

Edit: Bluebee, I bet 80% of your smell problem is the recirculate problem. You're not in a desert so the full recirc is not required; set it to the circle with the A instead of the circle without the A! Recirculating the air causes the A/C to work not only as a A/C but also as a dehumidifier for the air in the car!
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  #44  
Old 07-17-2009, 01:35 AM
bananaman bananaman is offline
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Bluebee,

I think the plastic tube trick is definitely the best way of ensuring the drains are clear. However, it should come with a serious health warning. Joking aside, the risk of infection from any system that has stale/stagnant water in it must be very real and I would caution anybody about this risk. Maybe a gentle blow with a low pressure air source would be better? Either way, I think the very first thing to do when diagnosing a smell problem should be to check the drains somehow - after all, if they are blocked then no amount of disinfectant is going to work. Poking around with wire etc probably won't do it, partly because of the right angle turn in the drain tube (see below).

I'm going to investigate further and see if water continues to accumulate in the drain tubes when on a slope.

I suggest somehow putting the disinfectant up the drain simply because it is a more direct path to the evaporator than spraying into the air intake. Drilling the hole is even better, but not a nice solution.

I would NOT recommend trying to remove the drain tubes, unless you are sure of what you are doing. They are difficult to access and I am not sure precisely how they are connected - there is a real possibility of not easily getting them back in place. The horizontal tube (Part No 5) has a short right angle feature at the end and this somehow connects to the right angle feature of Part No 17, the vertical tube. It is only the right angle section of the vertical tube that protrudes out of the bodywork, under the car. The rest of it is inside the car. I don't know what sort of connection it is - threaded or push fit etc. You can see these feature on the realoem picture. Also visible is the fixing tab to connect the horizontal tube to the body underneath. So, even if you did remove the horizontal tube, you would still be faced with a right angle bend on the vertical tube, which cannot be removed from under the car

What is really baffling is that there is no picture of the evaporator tray that is assumed to exist. I agree with you that this is a really important piece of information. Without a clear picture and assembly drawing for the drain arrangement, it is impossible to determine how/if stale water may get trapped in the evaporator enclosure. I don't have a Bentley manual - maybe there is a picture in there?

So, I guess what I am suggesting as a process is:

a) If you have a smelly a/c, first check if there is water normally draining from under the car. Don't try this while you're driving folks!
b) Before ripping anything apart, check that the drain tubes are clear, by using a plastic tube and a gentle air source - accessed from under the car. Health warning and no need to remove the drain tubes.
c) If all of that has been done, proceed to more conventional cures such as disinfectant in the air intake or directly onto the evaporator (through the drilled hole method).

I wouldn't actually recommend squirting anything up the drains at this stage, until somebody has tried it! I am going to try it myself, so I'm happy to post the results as soon as I've given it a go and investigated further.

By the way, I mentioned that my a/c system is only occassionally smelly. I am really surprised that this problem is so variable. Suspect that it really could be climate related and also dependent upon the way people use the system. I never use recirculation. Temperature is usually set to around 67F. A/C is always on. I don't bother with the rest. It stays like that most of the time on auto.
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  #45  
Old 07-17-2009, 11:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bananaman View Post
the risk of infection from any system that has stale/stagnant water in it must be very real
I agree. It would seem that BMW is aiding and abetting Legionella pneumophila bacteria and possibly causing diseases and respiratory symptoms.

Quote:
Poking around with wire etc probably won't do it, partly because of the right angle turn in the drain tube
Very good point for the stinky-AC DIY! I updated it just now with that in mind.

Quote:
I would NOT recommend trying to remove the drain tubes
OK. Understood. I updated the stinky-AC DIY in editable post number 31 above by deleting the suggestion to remove the drain tubes before spraying germicide.


Quote:
It is only the right angle section of the vertical tube that protrudes out of the bodywork, under the car.
This is GREAT information! I'll bet lotsa folks (like me) don't know this. That kink makes the coat-hanger trick tougher to pull off and also the germicide up the bottom trick harder to get to the evaporator coils.

Quote:
even if you did remove the horizontal tube, you would still be faced with a right angle bend on the vertical tube, which cannot be removed from under the car
Drat.

Quote:
What is really baffling is that there is no picture of the evaporator tray that is assumed to exist.
Good point! I just "assumed" there was an evaporator tray. Googling for "BMW E39 evaporator tray", all I can find is this not-good-enough photobucket picture.


Quote:
I don't have a Bentley manual - maybe there is a picture in there?
I have a Bentley so I'll look but I doubt much is there as I find the thing almost useless most of the time for this kind of fix-BMW-flaws kind of stuff.

Quote:
I guess what I am suggesting as a process is ...
Excellent! I'm adding it right now to the stinky-AC DIY so that we all benefit from the compendium!

Keep us informed as you've progressed us tremendously already!
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  #46  
Old 07-18-2009, 07:27 AM
bananaman bananaman is offline
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Evaporator tray

Bluebee,

Regarding the evaporator tray - I think I figured it out. It doesn't exist.

Looking at my manual, the evaporator is removed FROM the Heater Housing. The realoem picture for the empty heater housing shows the evaporator cover attaches to the heater housing. This implies that the evaporator fits directly into the housing. The further implication is that the drain tubes fit directly into the base of the heater housing and it is there that water is pooling (if it is pooling at all). Picture from realoem attached. The evap cover is part No 6.
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  #47  
Old 07-20-2009, 07:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bananaman View Post
Regarding the evaporator tray - I think I figured it out. It doesn't exist. The evaporator is removed from the housing
Oh my!

Quote:
the drain tubes fit directly into the base of the heater housing and it is there that water is pooling (if it is pooling at all)
Makes sense.

The goal then, would be to prevent water from pooling in the "base of the heater housing".

Can someone show on this diagram where we think the water is pooling?
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  #48  
Old 07-21-2009, 01:38 AM
bananaman bananaman is offline
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Posts: 58
Mein Auto: '98 528iT
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Oh my!



Makes sense.

The goal then, would be to prevent water from pooling in the "base of the heater housing".

Can someone show on this diagram where we think the water is pooling?
Dunno, but maybe the picture on this page might give you a clue.
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  #49  
Old 07-21-2009, 12:00 PM
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chiefwej chiefwej is offline
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Location: Tucson, AZ
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 2,300
Mein Auto: 2003 540i/6 //m-tech
I don't think water is pooling anywhere. I think it is just the lint, dust, and general gunk on the evaporator coils holding moisture. My understanding is that all the dampers close when the system shuts down, trapping the moisture in. That's why you get a blast of stinky air on start-up. There is supposed to be a damper somewhere that you can wire so that it won't fully close, that will solve the problem. I haven't researched it further, I cut the hole and just keep spraying down my evap coils every couple months.
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  #50  
Old 07-21-2009, 01:22 PM
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bluebee bluebee is offline
Seek to understand,^Value
Location: San Jose, California
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 21,576
Mein Auto: 02 BMW 525i M54 auto 130K
Quote:
Originally Posted by bananaman View Post
Dunno, but maybe the picture on this page might give you a clue.
Hi Bananaman,
Yet again, you've found something that nobody else has reported (to my knowledge)!

Apparently, odors can get into the cabin if the engine-bay micro filters don't seal well!

I'll add checking the microfilter seals to the anti-stink DIY as yet another step in eliminating the stinky-poo AC!
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