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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 2008 X3 with 55K miles. For the last six months I've noticed a stale odor (like stinky socks) in the interior when I get in the car after its been sitting for a day or so. I tried 3 cans of HVAC duct cleaner, replaced the cabin filter, cleaned the carpets and seats, etc.

Finally tracked it down as being related to the AC being on. If I dont run the AC for several days in a row the smell doesnt come back (until the AC is used again). So I think I must have some mold or bacteria on the evaporator or evap tray or something along that lines. Does anyone have any experience getting this cleared up?

I am 5K out of warranty, so I am looking for some real experience before putting it in the dealers hands. Great vehicle otherwise.
 

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Bleed blue and white
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I wish I could help you. I have the same problem, but I am still in warranty. It's on my list for the next time it goes in. Will update then.
 

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I use something called Comma Air Conditioner Cleaner in the UK (dunno if it's available in the US) ... it's an aerosol 'bomb' that you set off inside the car. Basically, you run engine with the air con on full cold/recirc, place the can behind the rear seat and set it off. It fogs the car, and the mist then condenses on the condenser coil in the air box. The fog carries an anti-bacterial agent, and as it condenses, it kills off the mould on the evap coil that makes the stale smell. The remnant drains out of the condensate drain under the car.

I use one can every 12 months and it keeps my aircon nice and fresh. Spraying in from the outside will do little, and you need to get an anti-bacterial right on the coils, and this seems to do the job 100%

Do a google search for Comma Air Conditioning Cleaner and see if you can buy it mail order in the US.
 

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Seek to understand,^Value
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For the record, over on the E39 side of the house, we've spent a LOT of engineering effort on figuring out and resolving the stinky gym sock AC smell.

It's all listed in the VERY best of E39 Links under "air conditioning".

Here is just a short list summary:

How to learn about (1) and set up your air conditioning (1) (2) & how to replace the activated charcoal cabin air filter (1) (2) & what cabin filter to buy (1) (2) & cn90's inexpensive cabin filter retrofit (1) (2) (3) & cabin air filter implications for stinky gym sock AC odors (1) (2) (3) (4) & how to refill your A/C system for $20 (1) (2) (3) (4) & where to find your low pressure aircon recharge port (1) & what refrigerant PAG oil to use (1) (1) & R134a conversion information (1) (2) how to measure A C temperature (1) & how to diagnose A / C compressor knocking sounds (1) & air conditioner compressor replacement DIYs (1) or compressor rebuilds (1) or ac hose rebuilding services (1) & how to remove the IHKA air conditioning control panel to clean the circuit board (1) (2) (3) (4) with removal of MID, HVAC/IHKA, Business CD player (1), & dashboard trim (1) & how to remove the trim and bracket holding the MID & HVAC/IHKA panels (1) (2) or to replace the IHKA button (1) & how to check the IHKA sampling fan (1) & how to change OBC MID IHKA KTMP temperature from degrees Celcius to Fahrenheit (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) & how to diagnose lack of HVAC/IHKA heater core heat with cooling system (auxiliary pump) at idle (1) & what is this thing (HVAC/IHKA solar sensor) in the middle of my dashboard by the windshield (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6).
 

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bluebee, if all those links work you summed up a semester of learning ac and basic troubleshooting at one of the best 4 year bs in automotive technology schools in the states. I like your style. You bmw folk sure got your ducks in a row. Make the nissan, and toyota forums i was on before look like a joke for how much info you guys have and share. I'm using my car for a work trip and would like to change my ps fluid, got a link..? lol, i'm searching, but i remember my e30 325is took auto trans fluid... i have to look
 

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Seek to understand,^Value
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would like to change my ps fluid, got a link..
Over in the E39 side of the house, we created a single-page printout for all the dozen fluids.

And, we have at least one thread and one DIY for each of those fluids.

Dunno how much of that applies to the X3 though ... but it's good reading!

:)

Recommendations for the dozen fluids in your BMW E39:
- BMW E39 fluid summary printout for your glovebox (1)
- Fundamental BMW fluids decision-making religious camps (1) and algorithms specific to motor oil selection (1), coolant doctrine (1), & gasoline dogma (1)
- Manual transmission fluid (1) (2) & manual transmission fluid-change DIYs (1) (2) (3)
- Automatic transmission fluid (1) (2) (3) (4) & automatic transmission fluid & filter DIYs (1) (2) (3) (4) & torque values (1) & how to find the hidden E39 transmission fluid level dipstick (1) & why ATF gushes out of the fill hole (1) & ZF 5HP19 facts (1)
- Power steering fluid (1) (2) & power steering fluid flush DIYs (1) (2) (3) (4) & volumes (1)
- Coolant, for engine, automatic transmission, power steering, and AC evaporator cooling (1) & bleeding (1) (2) (3) or refilling DIYs (1)
- Brake & clutch hydraulic fluid (1) & brake-job fluids (1) how brake bleeding DIYs (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
- Engine lubrication, i.e., motor oil (1) (2) (3) & gravity oil change DIY (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) & vacuum extraction DIY (1) (2) (3) & drill pump DIY (1)
- Air conditioner refrigerant & PAG oil (1) & how to refill your A/C system (1) (2) (3) (4)
- Rear differential hypoid gear oil (1) & differential fluid change DIYs (1) (2) (3)
- What battery (1) & what battery maintenance (1) & battery electrolyte (1) & battery replacement DIY (1) (2) (3) & how NOT to change the battery (1) (2) (3)
- Engine fuel, i.e., gasoline & octane (1) & "The Gasoline FAQ" & top-tier gas stations (1) & Techron additives (1) & how to clean your gas gauge sending unit (1)
- Windshield washer fluid (1)
- Intensive cleaning system fluid (1)
- Tire pressure, although not technically a fluid (1)
Others:
- Recommended E39 brake job "fluids" (1)
- Best product for cleaning wheels (1)
- Window glass cleaner fluids & cloths for the inside window & windshield glass (1)
- Interior cockpit & dashboard cleaners (1)

Following is just a short sample:

Here is a summary from the BMW fluid glovebox printout:
- Brakes (9/1998 and later): "low viscosity" "high performance" DOT 4 (the Bentleys confusingly specify both "low viscosity DOT 4" on page 340-9 and "high performance DOT4" on page 020-11 and just plain old "DOT 4" on page 020-24, while never explaining what "low viscosity" or "high performance" indicates). Some recommend DOT4 ISO6 (aka Class 6, ISO 4925) low-viscosity brake fluid over just regular DOT4, especially in colder climes). While the Bentleys do not specify what viscosity they consider to be "low", further inspection reveals the "BMW QV 34 001" specification seems to support a maximum viscosity @-40°C of 700 mm²/s and a minimum viscosity @100°C of 1.5 mm²/s (both per ISO 3104); most of us agree these specifications can be considered "low viscosity". However many say any DOT 4 brake fluid can be used; and most recommend ATE Super Blue DOT 4 (which does not meet this viscosity specification) or "Original ATE SL.6" brake fluid (which does). Many recommend alternating amber and blue colors to ascertain when the flush is complete; although be advised that the DOT4 specification requires a "clear" fluid, sans die. [Volume: Most people use about 750 ml or about 3/4 quart to flush the four wheels manually and slightly more than a liter to pressure bleed, depending on technique; so buy at least a liter (or quart) to power flush your entire brake system.] Replacement Interval: Every two (2) years (Bentley page 020-9) starting from date of manufacture. Best to use the pressure method, e.g., Motive pressure bleeder; but the two-man push-and-open method still works.
- Brakes (up to 8/1998): "high performance" DOT 4 (nobody seems to know what "high performance" means in practical terms; but the Bentleys clearly specify "high performance DOT4" on page 020-11 and just plain old "DOT 4" on page 020-24 and again on page 340-9). Replacement Interval: Every two (2) years (Bentley page 020-9) starting from date of manufacture.
- Hydraulic clutch (manual transmission only): Uses the same fluid & reservoir as the brake fluid, Bentley 020-26.

- Engine coolant: phosphate free (for Europe's high-mineral-content water), amine & nitrite/nitrate free (for USA long-life requirements), & low-silicate or silicate free (for Japan requirements) 50:50 mixture of ethylene glycol & water (the Bentleys say distilled water (Bentley 020-11), aka de-mineralized or de-ionized water, some call it purified water, and the BMW AG TIS 12.11.2007 18:56 specifies water with a pH from 6.5 to 8.0, maximum total hardness of 3.6 mmol Ca++/liter, maximum chloride content 100 mg/liter, and maximum sulphate content 100mg/liter; interestingly the BMW TIS says "potable tap water usually fulfills these requirements". Despite this, most Bimmerfest posters say never use tap water due to the ion content. BMW lists a score of coolants in their BMW AG TIS 12.11.2007 18:55 which meet the BMW N 600 69.0 standard, some of which are BMW PN:81.22.9.407.454 1.5-liter; BMW PN:88.88.6.900.316 1 gallon; Castrol Anti-Freeze NF; BASF Glysantin Protect Plus G48, & Havoline AFC (BD04); but most of which are not easily found in the USA. Many Bimmerfesters recommend BMW coolant; however other Bimmerfesters recommend Prestone Extended Life 5/150, Valvoline Zerex G-05, and Service Pro Universal Formula. [Total Volume: 1997 I6=10.5 quarts (2.6 gallons), 1997 V8=12.0 quarts (3.0 gallons), 1998-2002 I6=11.1 quarts (2.8 gallons), 1998-2002 V8=12.7 quarts (3.2 gallons), 1997-2002 V8 with latent heater=13.5 quarts (3.4 gallons)]. Prestone says the only reason for phosphate free is the extremely high mineral content of water in Europe - and that in the USA, it's not needed. Replacement Interval: Every three years (Bentley page 020-9) or every four years (aforementioned BMW AG TIS) starting from date of manufacture (except for M-Power vehicles which have 3-year intervals). Note: Mixing BMW-recommended coolant brands is permissible; but mixing types is not permissible unless it's an emergency.

Note: just as with oil, there are three schools of thought for the selection of coolants (see discussion here).

- Manual transmission (yellow sticker): BMW PN: 83.22.9.408.942 or MTF-LT-1 (manual transmission fluid, lifetime, I'm not sure what the "1" means) Bentley page 020-10 & 020-30. [Volume: See chart below.] Replacement Interval: Lifetime oil (Bentley 230-6). A user-recommended fluid is "Royal Purple Synchromax 1512 manual transmission fluid" & Redline MT-90; also recommended is Redline D4 ATF or Redline MTL or Mobil1 Synthetic; the user-recommended replacement interval is roughly 5 years or about 60K miles.
- Manual transmission (orange sticker): The Bentleys, on page 200-4, simply say "ATF" (aka ATF-Oil). Nothing more. Note: This orange sticker is not mentioned in the Bentleys page 020-10 & 020-30 but is noted on page 200-4. Replacement Interval: Lifetime oil (Bentley 230-6); but the user-recommended replacement interval is roughly 5 years or about 60K miles.
- Automatic transmission (green sticker): BMW PN: 83.22.0.024.359 or Texaco ETL 8072B or Shell LA2634 (this is extremely confusing, not only because these are cryptic "types" but also because the Bentleys list different fluids and volumes on page 020-10, 240-6, & 240-8). [Volume w/o torque converter/with torque converter, see chart below]. Replacement Interval: Lifetime oil (Bentley 240-6); but the user-recommended replacement interval for the fluid and filter is roughly 5 years or about 60K miles. Apparently Pentosin is the OEM oil but FEBI also works (ATF Auto Transmission Fluid equivalent to ESSO LT 71141). Note: Mixing ATF types will cause transmission failure (Bentley 240-6). My 2002 525i with the ZF 5HP19 (aka A5S 325Z) transmission (6.2 liters/8.9 liters or 6.6 quarts/9.4 quarts) has this green sticker.
- Automatic transmission (black sticker): Dexron III ATF (realistically Dexron VI ATF) BMW PN: 83.22.9.407.807 or Exxon LT-71141 which seems to also be called Esso LT-71141) (all this is extremely confusing, not only because these are cryptic "types", but also because the Bentleys list different fluids on page 020-10 than on page 240-6). [Volume w/o torque converter/with torque converter, see chart below]. Replacement Interval: Lifetime oil (Bentley 240-6); but the user-recommended replacement interval for the fluid and filter is roughly 5 years or about 60K miles. Note: Mixing ATF types will cause transmission failure (Bentley 240-6). Some users suggest Mobil1 Synthetic ATF.

See this thread for complete details on fluids, torques, volumes, locations, etc and to find which transmission is in your model E39:

- Power steering: Dexron III ATF (realistically, Dexron VI ATF because Dexron III certification is no longer available from GM) Bentley page 020-20. [Volume: It has been said to be just under 2 quarts; I used about a quart to flush twice just my power steering reservoir using a turkey baster to remove fluids out the top.] Note: I6=rack and pinion attached to an aluminum subframe, V8=recirculating ball and nut attached to a steel subframe. Replacement Interval: Bentley says it's "permanently filled"; but most of us would suction out and refill the reservoir with about a quart of fluid every few years because it's a hygroscopic fluid and the permanent filter on the bottom of the reservoir doesn't prevent the fluid from becoming dirty. Some even replace the reservoir in order to have a new filter. Most also replace or cut off the tip of the bottom hoses whose clamp often allows leaks.

- Windshield & headlight washer system: surprisingly, I can't find a specification in the Bentley; it should be in book II section 611, Wipers & Washers; but it's not; the Owners Manual, page 150 (Washer Fluid), it says to use "water" and "screenwash when required" (whatever "screenwash" is). [Volume: 3.7 quarts (0.9 gallons, 3.5 liters) or 6.3 quarts (1.6 gallons, 6.0 liters) with headlamp washer system]. Replacement Interval: When needed.
- Intensive cleaning system: The Owners Manual (page 150, Washer Fluid), says to use "BMW intensive cleaning agent", BMW P/N: 83.12.0.410.745 (500ml bottle). [Volume: 1.1 quarts (1.0 liters)]. Replacement Interval: When needed.

- Engine oil (E39 1999 & later): 15W40 LL-01 mineral oil BMW PN: 07.51.0.017.868 (amazingly, only one SAE weight is specified! Don't be confused because Bentley page 020-11 lists only SAE 15W40 while page 020-9 confusingly lists only SAE 5W30 & SAE 15W40 but page 020-11 appears to be the specific listing to follow). Various dogmatic camps differ on 'opinions' (1) but there is only one BMW-approved list (1). [Volume: I6=6.9 quarts, V8=7.9 quarts]. Replacement Interval: The instrument cluster Service Interval Indicator (SII) will determine when necessary by lighting the yellow light and indicating "OIL SERVICE". On average, most seem to change oil & filter (Mann, Hengst, or Mahle only!) & 36mm 6-point socket oil-filter cap o-ring (91x4mm) & copper crush washer roughly thrice a year at about 4,500 miles; most replace the smaller lower oil-filter-post o-rings every five years or so (7x2.5mm). Keep a spare 17 mm drain bolt handy on the I6 as it's hollow and can break from over tightening (M12x1.5x18mm). Torque filter cap to 18 ft-lb, drain bolt to 21 ft-lb. Note: Mixing oil types (mineral vs synthetic) is permissible; but bear in mind "synthetic" is an advertising term and quite a few oils labeled as such are not PAOs or diesters (1). Best to use either the oil-pan gravity-drain method or the MityVac vacuum-extraction method (don't use the Motive vacuum extractor). Most replace the oil filter & oil-filter-cap o-ring on every oil change and the lower small o-rings on every other change. Keep a spare oil drain plug handy, especially in the I6 as the bolt is hollow and prone to breaking when over torqued.
- Engine oil (gas, E39 1997 & 1998): Synthetic 5W-30 LL-01 (aka long-life 2001) BMW PN: 07.51.0.017.866 (amazingly, only one SAE weight is specified! This is confusing because Bentley page 020-11 lists only SAE 5W30 while page 020-9 confusingly lists only SAE 5W30 & SAE 15W40 but the 020-11 appears to be the specific listing). Replacement Interval: The instrument cluster Service Interval Indicator (SII) will determine when necessary. Note: Mixing oil types (mineral vs synthetic) is permissible. On average, most seem to change oil & filter roughly thrice a year at about 4,500 miles.
- Engine oil (diesel): I can't find anything in the Bentleys; but the euro owners manual lists on page 152 "ACEA: A3/B3 or ACEA: A3/B4" specifications which all long-life-01 oils meet (according to that owners manual). Most people here say to use LL-04 approved oils (1). Replacement Interval: The instrument cluster Service Interval Indicator (SII) will determine when necessary.

- Air conditioner: Refrigerant 134a (aka R-134a) with poly alkylene glycol oil, sometimes referred to as poly alkaline glycol oil (aka PAG refrigerant oil). Bentley book II, 640-2 & 640-3 & 640-23. The PAG oil is known by other names such as ND8, PAG46, and BMW PN: 82.11.1.468.042 and travels with the refrigerant as a mist. Best to empty and then refill refrigerant by total weight; second best is the evaporator temperature method (i.e., in the shade, ambient temperature less than about 75°F and relative humidity below about 60% - then add R-134a until the evaporator exit air temperature with A/C set on max at 60°F is 4°C/39°F or colder - the best you can do without MoDIS is probably the center-dash vent at something like 10°C/50°F); third best is the pressure method (i.e., add refrigerant until the low-pressure side is 25 psi to 45 psi ... aim for around 32 psi (assuming shade, ambient, & humidity listed prior); worst is by can weight (e.g., adding a 12oz by weight can or a 16oz can by weight but the AC is a critical-charge system that won't tolerate refrigerant quantities much outside + or - .05 kg). [Volume: E39's built up to 12/97 contain 1,225 grams +/- 25 grams (2.70 lbs +/- 0.05 lbs) of R-134a; E39s built after 12/97 contain 750 grams +/- 10 grams (1.65 lb +/- 0.03lb) of R-134a. The amount of PAG oil misted in the system is said to be about 1 ounce by volume.] Replacement Interval: Lifetime charge.

- Differential (conventional, i.e., non-limited-slip E39s): The Bentleys specify "BMW SAF-XO synthetic final drive gear oil" which doesn't exist (it's Castrol). The Bentleys don't specify the weight (it's SAE 75W-90); and the Bentleys don't specify the quality (it's API GL-5 hypoid gear oil). Given that, suitable replacements are Amsoil Synthetic Manual Transmission Fluid (MTF) API 75W90,Mobil1, Royal Purple Max-Gear, & Redline SAE 75W90 API GL-5 synthetic gear oils. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell which of the three (3) different differentials you have w/o looking at the numbers molded into the metal. Bentley page 020-11 & 020-26 & 331-6. [Volume: Type G=1.7 quarts, Type 188 Compact=1.1 quarts, Type 220/215 Compact=1.5 quarts.] Replacement Interval: Lifetime fluid (but most recommend replacing differential fluid at the same time you replace transmission fluid, which is about 5 years or roughly 60K miles).
- Differential (limited-slip E39s, such as the M5): BMW SAF-XJ API GL-5 SAE 75W-140 synthetic hypoid final-drive gear oil (aka Castrol SAF-XJ). This requirement is not listed in the Bentley manual; it is gleaned from the Castrol literature and from what is stated about the M5 in this thread below (please correct if necessary). Replacement Interval: Lifetime fluid (but most recommend replacing differential fluid at the same time you replace transmission fluid, which is about 5 years or roughly 60K miles).

- Battery: A charged battery is 33.5% (volume/volume%) sulfuric acid (4.2 Molar H2SO4, ) & distilled water (Bentley 020-23) with positive plates containing lead dioxide (PbO2) and negative plates of lead (Pb), both mixed with calcium (Ca) to minimize gassing (i.e., loss of water) and other elements (such as tin, antimony, & selenium to harden the plates and simplify manufacturing) in a polypropylene case. In the discharged state, both plates turn to lead sulfate (PbSO4) as the electrolyte loses its dissolved sulfuric acid and becomes primarily water (which can freeze in cold temperatures and the lead sulfate may form insoluble crystals which, over time, reduce the capacity of the battery if it is not recharged immediately after discharge). [Total Volume: unknown but users have reported adding about 20 ml per cell after two years of use]. Replacement Interval: Lifetime fluid (top off only if needed, after removing steel strap, two stickers and then unscrewing the six cell caps, and filling to the fill line which is 1/4 inch or 5mm above the top of the plates at the very bottom of the internal black plastic depth indicator). The OEM battery has built-in hydrometer where green indicates a charged battery and black indicates a discharged battery, and yellow indicates a defective battery. Better to test at 27°C/80°F by loading battery with 15 amperes for 1 minute (or just turn headlights on w/o engine running) and then perform a 1.265 specific-gravity hydrometer test of each of the six cells (add or subtract 0.004 to the hydrometer reading for every 10°F/6°C above or below 27°C/80°F respectively); and a 12.6 volt open-circuit voltage test across the battery terminals (Bentley 121-5, 121-6). OEM specs are BMW 61.21.8.381.762, USA 729905-10, EN 12V 90Ah 720A, SAE 160 RC 720 CCA. Aftermarket batteries are Duralast 49-DL, Duralast 94-R, NAPA #7549, Deka 649MF, Interstate MTP-93; must have side vent and a stamped date code within the last couple of months.

- Engine fuel (gas): The sticker on the inside of the fuel filler specifies the octane rating to use; most E39s in the USA specify unleaded 91 AKI (the AKI is the average of the RON & the MON). Lower octane ratings can be used as the two piezoelectric knock sensors will retard timing if they sense detonation vibrations which may adversely affect performance but which won't damage the car under normal circumstances. [Volume: 70 liters (18.5 gallons) with a reserve capacity of 8 liters (2 gallons) in the 525i & 530i and a reserve of 10 liters (2.5 gallons) for the 540i]. We're not sure the algorithm for the small round yellow fuel-warning light, but most people say it goes on approximately at 40 miles remaining fuel; chime sounds at approximately half that (need more data). Replacement Interval: Monthly, as fuel reputedly goes "stale" after 30 days; also it's reputed you should fill by the 1/4 to 1/8 mark in order to better cool the fuel pump. Fuel can't be siphoned out due to siphon restrictions 4 inches in but can be bled using other methods.
- Engine fuel (diesel): On page 23 of the Owners Manual, it lists "Diesel oil DIN EN 590", whatever that is. It specifically says not to use rapeseed oil methyl ester (aka RME), or bio diesel oil. Replacement Interval: As needed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I ordered this product on ebay and will give it a try. Thanks.

I use something called Comma Air Conditioner Cleaner in the UK (dunno if it's available in the US) ... it's an aerosol 'bomb' that you set off inside the car. Basically, you run engine with the air con on full cold/recirc, place the can behind the rear seat and set it off. It fogs the car, and the mist then condenses on the condenser coil in the air box. The fog carries an anti-bacterial agent, and as it condenses, it kills off the mould on the evap coil that makes the stale smell. The remnant drains out of the condensate drain under the car.

I use one can every 12 months and it keeps my aircon nice and fresh. Spraying in from the outside will do little, and you need to get an anti-bacterial right on the coils, and this seems to do the job 100%

Do a google search for Comma Air Conditioning Cleaner and see if you can buy it mail order in the US.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yikes, that is a lot of information. Thank you for sharing. I will work my way through it and report back here my results.

For the record, over on the E39 side of the house, we've spent a LOT of engineering effort on figuring out and resolving the stinky gym sock AC smell.

It's all listed in the VERY best of E39 Links under "air conditioning".

Here is just a short list summary:

How to learn about (1) and set up your air conditioning (1) (2) & how to replace the activated charcoal cabin air filter (1) (2) & what cabin filter to buy (1) (2) & cn90's inexpensive cabin filter retrofit (1) (2) (3) & cabin air filter implications for stinky gym sock AC odors (1) (2) (3) (4) & how to refill your A/C system for $20 (1) (2) (3) (4) & where to find your low pressure aircon recharge port (1) & what refrigerant PAG oil to use (1) (1) & R134a conversion information (1) (2) how to measure A C temperature (1) & how to diagnose A / C compressor knocking sounds (1) & air conditioner compressor replacement DIYs (1) or compressor rebuilds (1) or ac hose rebuilding services (1) & how to remove the IHKA air conditioning control panel to clean the circuit board (1) (2) (3) (4) with removal of MID, HVAC/IHKA, Business CD player (1), & dashboard trim (1) & how to remove the trim and bracket holding the MID & HVAC/IHKA panels (1) (2) or to replace the IHKA button (1) & how to check the IHKA sampling fan (1) & how to change OBC MID IHKA KTMP temperature from degrees Celcius to Fahrenheit (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) & how to diagnose lack of HVAC/IHKA heater core heat with cooling system (auxiliary pump) at idle (1) & what is this thing (HVAC/IHKA solar sensor) in the middle of my dashboard by the windshield (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6).
 

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I have a 2008 X3 with 55K miles. For the last six months I've noticed a stale odor (like stinky socks) in the interior when I get in the car after its been sitting for a day or so. I tried 3 cans of HVAC duct cleaner, replaced the cabin filter, cleaned the carpets and seats, etc.

Finally tracked it down as being related to the AC being on. If I dont run the AC for several days in a row the smell doesnt come back (until the AC is used again). So I think I must have some mold or bacteria on the evaporator or evap tray or something along that lines. Does anyone have any experience getting this cleared up?

I am 5K out of warranty, so I am looking for some real experience before putting it in the dealers hands. Great vehicle otherwise.
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First time I had this problem was when the car was 2 months old. I happened to be at the Dinan shop and the owner said - no problem, we have a spray for the evaporator. He sprayed it in (I didn't watch where) and the problem went away - for a year.

A year later the smell was back and I mentioned this my BMW center and they offered to "recondition" the system (probably putting in the same spray) for $125! I complained that a $60K car under factory warranty/maintenance should not stink - but they refused to do it.:mad:

Based on feedback from this site, I just purchased Klima-Cleaner made by Einzett at AutoGeek.com for ~$25 (with shipping) which is a spray designed to eliminate these odors. You spray it directly into the center AC vent. We'll see how it works...

IMHO - Setting off a "bomb" in the trunk seems kinda scary "..place the can behind the rear seat and set it off. It fogs the car, and the mist then condenses on the condenser coil in the air box. ":eek: Hmmm - should you leave the car when this is happening? He didn't leave complete instructions. :rofl:
 

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Seek to understand,^Value
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no problem, we have a spray for the evaporator
There are many who say spraying the evaporator coils work. In the E39, those people drill a half-inch diameter hole in the drivers right foot kick panel to access the evaporator coils.

Others modify their habits, by essentially doing things that 'dry' out the evaporator coils five or ten minutes prior to shutdown (e.g., they actually turn on the HEAT five minutes before arriving home).

Still others unclog the two undercarriage drain hoses; and others unclog the underside of the two cabin-air filters. Most replace their cabin air filters and clean out the grime below them. This seems to work the best (although modifying habits also works).

Some even resort to modifying the vents; but we can't find anyone who can provide a reliable DIY so consider that a purely anecdotal solution.

It's all in this one very pictorial thread (almost all of my threads are chock full of data, research, and pictures), if you need a single point of reference:
- What can we modify on the E39 to drain dank AC evaporator pan pooled water?

 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Here is a brief update. I ordered two products mentioned here, and then tried the one that arrived first, 1Z einszett Klima-Cleaner. i sprayed this into the center vent using the long tube and allowed it to foam for 30 minutes. Then I ran the heater to dry it out. I noticed that a lot of the foam managed to drip out the evaporator drains (which appear to be on either side of the transmission housing) onto the garage floor. This was good, as its an indication that it really got to the evaporator.

Its been a week and the smell has not returned. I'll need to give it a few more weeks to decide if this really was effective. But so far I am hopeful. Thanks for all the input.
 

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Thanks venture996 for the information. I have been trying to resolve the same problem with my 2004 X3 for about a year. It seems that 1Z einszett Klima-Cleaner may be the answer.

A couple of questions: I assume that by the centre vents you mean the two at the top of the dash with the 'temperature dial' in between. If so, does the setting on the dial affect accessibilty to the evaporator? Should it be set to maximum blue to ensure the tube reaches the evaporator and not the heater core? or is its position irrelevant? I don't know the relative positions of the evaporator and the heater core, if the evaporator is above the heater core, then I suppose it makes no difference.

Did you just push the tube as far as it will go and then release the foam?

Where did you purchase the Klima-Cleaner?

Thanks for you help.
 

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Just to reiterate what 'appears' to be the 'real' (permanent) solution from the E39 forums...

It appears to be as simple as cleaning out the two cabin air filter drain hoses, cleaning the cabin air filter inside (under the filter) housing, and replacing the cabin air filters.

We also check the two undercarriage drain hoses but those are rarely clogged.

Other than that, most of us didn't need anything else to eliminate the gym sock smell of the BMW air conditioning system.
 

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Bluebee, I am happy to hear that those steps resolved the problem for you but, I've been there and done that! Now what? I have read on several forums, BMW and others, of 1Z einszett Klima-Cleaner being quite effective. Do you have additional info that might be helpful?

Venture996: I hope you will see my previous post and have a chance to reply.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Etubom, I ordered the 1Z einszett Klima-Cleaner online from AutoGeeks. To apply I used the two center vents with the temp dial in between. You apply this with the car off and the fans off. I left the temp setting in the middle. And I inserted the tubing into the center vents as far as it would go (I got it in 3/4 of its length) and then let rip. It takes maybe 4 minutes or so to empty the can (I was shocked how long that took, so prepared to be patient). I tried to split the can between the two center vents (not sure if ithat really matters). 30 minutes later I ran the fan for a few minutes to dry things out. All per the instructions on the can.

Bluebee, I had long since replaced the cabin filter (you are referring to the single filter in the engine compartment at the base of the windshield, right?), and cleaned out the filter cavity (which had leaves clogging the drainage holes a bit). Recently I even tried running some diluted bleach through the drain holes to kill and bacteria that might be down there. If you think I missed anything, please let me know.

Good luck to all.
 

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Get used to it!!!

.....................
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
2 months and still no stink!

Its been 2 months since I applied the 1Z einszett Klima-Cleaner treatment. Plenty of AC use since then and the stink has not returned. I'm expecting that it will be back one day, but so far so good. Anyone else who is experiencing this, the 1Z product seems to work.
 
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