how to clean car ac system
car with sunset in background

How do you clean your car AC system without having to remove parts? If you have an unpleasant smell coming from your car's air conditioning system – you can do a quick fix yourself without having to take the car to a garage. Here's how to clean your car's air conditioning system without removing any parts.


Do you want to know how to clean your car's air con system at home? We have put together a simple seven-step guide you can follow to give your AC system a thorough clean without shelling out hundreds of pounds at your local garage. If you want to have your car smelling fresh and clean, take a look below.



clean air conditioning on in car

First up, is to clean the interior vents inside the car. These are the air vents on your car dashboard that you use to direct the airflow from the AC system. The vents can be a little tricky to clean. You'll need to use a foam sponge that gets in between the slits and wipe clean all the surface areas.

The area between the slits can be very narrow, so just take your time and apply some patience. We recommend using some form of gentle cleaning solution with some warm water. Washing up liquid works well. Just make sure you're not using anything corrosive that could damage the vents.


Next up, it's the cabin air filter. You'll need to consult your car manual to find out where it's located and how to access it. However, most interior filters are located behind the glove box. To access it you'll have to carefully remove the glove box unit. This involves removing screws and listing the unit away from the dashboard.

Once you've accessed the cabin filter, take it out and get to work cleaning it. Try and remove as much dust and debris as you can. If you have an air compressor tyre inflator you can use this to blow clean air at it and shift any dirt. When done, spray it with a car deodorizer and some disinfectant before replacing it.


If you don't want to clean your existing cabin filter you can purchase a new one. Most manufacturers recommend that the filter be replaced every 10,000 miles or every 12 months. Ordering a brand new spanking filter is a great way to freshen up your car AC but it comes at a small cost – typically £10 - £15.


car with air conditioning system

Now it's time to turn your attention to the outside of the car – the intake vents. This is where the air enters the car AC system and the first point at which it can become contaminated and foul smelling. The location of the vents varies from one car model to the next but you will find them somewhere on the front of the car.

Take a look at the top of the bonnet, just below the windscreen. Do you see a long black narrow intake vent? Other cars position them on the very front of the car between the headlights. They are generally black and contain a row of slatted vents to capture air as it passes over.

Firstly, remove any debris from the vents such as leaves or insects. Then wipe them clean with the sponge and cleaning solution – just like you did for the interior vents. Then, dig out an enzymatic disinfectant spray to kill any microbes that might be lurking inside.


Next up in our 'How to Clean Car AC System' guide is the AC condenser fan. It's time to open up the bonnet and take a look inside at the engine. Make sure the car engine is switched off and allow time for the engine and surrounding parts to cool down before you tackle this step.

The position of the fan changes from one car to the next but it will be positioned right next to the AC system. If you are having difficulty locating it consult your car user manual or perform a quick google search for your car model. Flick over to google images and you should be able to see its location.

Again, make sure the car engine is off and you've allowed the engine time to cool down. Carefully wipe the fan down and make sure the blades are clean. Remove any debris that may have accumulated around the fan itself.


Cleaning the condenser can be a little tricky. So, if you're not familiar with your car's engine bay you can skip this bit. It's just one step extra you can take if you really want to get to rid of a bad smell and cover all the steps in how to clean car ac system at home.

Your car's condenser is located at the very front of the engine bay. It will be covered by a mesh-type protective cover and often sits right behind the bumper. To get access to it you may have to remove your bumper and the mesh shield. As we said, you can skip this step if you'd rather not take things apart.

Once you have access to the condenser carefully remove any dirt and debris that has accumulated. There'll be plenty of dead insects and maybe even some old leaves. Then spray or rinse with water for a pristine finish.

Note, when spraying water on the condenser you must be careful not to wet any wires or other electrical components – this could cause a short circuit. When you're done put everything back together as it was before you got started.


car with clean ac system

The final step in our 'how to clean AC system in car' guide involves airing out the system once you're finished. Once you've ticked off all these steps and have everything spick and span again you'll need to air out the AC system before you get back in and start driving.

The best way to do this is to wind down all the windows, start the engine, and fire the air conditioning up to its highest setting. Then, exit the car and allow the AC to run for 10 minutes. I know, you were always told to close the windows when the AC was on – but this is just to prepare the system post deep clean before you use it again for real.

After 10 minutes, get back inside. Turn off the AC, put the windows back up, and knock off the engine. You now have a freshly, deep-cleaned car air conditioning system. And you didn't spend a penny. In fact, you saved a couple of hundred quid by not taking it to the garage to get a professional to do it. Happy days!

Check Out the Best Value in the UK on...


If you have worked your way through all the steps in this guide and your AC is still smelling pretty bad then you should take it into the garage for a professional cleaning. This guide works through all the steps that can be reasonably performed by an amateur – but a professional will take it to a whole new level.

A professional will dismantle the AC system and remove it from the car. This includes removing the ducts and accumulator for close inspection and to flush them out. The accumulator filters air entering the AC system and can gather dirt and debris over time. If it cannot be cleaned thoroughly a mechanic will simply replace it with a new one.


And that's it. Now you know 'how to clean car ac system' why not give it a go at home? If you work through this simple guide there's a good chance you'll eliminate the problem and freshen up your AC system without having to take your car to the garage. And, you'll save yourself a ball of cash in the process.


Air conditioningCar acCar air conditioningCleaningValet

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published