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08 Sport Owner
2008 Highlander
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79 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been dealing with the foul smell for a while (going on 9 months no change). I was looking at other options and then noticed today that the A/C doesn't seem to drain. I ran the A/C for about 20 minutes in multiple configurations (max/fresh, very cold, mild cold, etc.) and never got one drop of condensation hitting the ground. I am sure that when Toyota ran the frigifresh, they checked the drain and such, but who knows.
I think I am looking in the right spot (right/middle behind front wheels), but if I am right it should be plainly obvious. All of my other cars seemed to start draining about 5 mintues of running the A/C.
Can you tell me where to look, how to make sure it is not clogged or any other thoughts that can help me.:headbang:
 

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08 Highlander
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52 Posts
kdjinn - I am going to second your funky AC smell. I just now have turned on the AC for the first couple of times since I purchased the vehicle back in November of '08. As I live in Minnesota none of the outside temps up until this past week have merited AC. I have noticed the smell both times I ran the AC and would equate it to funky wet dirty laundry. The first time I just shrugged it off as being an outside smell but I then noticed it the second time as well. I have not taken it to the dealer at all for this issue. Anyone else notice this?
 

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08 Sport Owner
2008 Highlander
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79 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
homeskillet: The smell is a regular thing you can find on many posts. It seems to be a common problem that no one has found a solid answer. I have been to the dealer multiple times and it took 3 visits to get them to treat it with the frigifresh internal. It helped for about a week. They will blame it on keeping the AC on all the time and tell you to turn it off or keep it off recirculate. Do a search and you will find many threads for this. I am rambling.....sorry.
I am not happy, but now am looking for how to check the drain hose....I just can't seem to find it or see any drainage at all.
thoughts anyone?
 

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Premium Member
2008 Highlander Base
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35,702 Posts
I'd help you out, but I rarely use my air conditioner and when I do it's so dry out here that there's often little to no condensation from the A/C. Like kdjinn said, the dirty sock smell is pretty universal with A/Cs and there's tons of threads about it. Best defense is to shut off the A/C five to ten minutes before arriving at your destination, and allowing the A/C to dry out.
 

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Premium Member
2007 Camry XLE
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1,643 Posts
The smell is usually caused my mold/mildew.

Your dealer has a chemical spay that will kill it.

If the AC system in not draining, it can overflow onto the rugs and again cause a mold situation.

Get it checked out by your dealer.
 

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Two developments over the past ~20 years have resulted in a pretty severe and widespread issue of mold and mildew formation within our cars.

Due to the need to provide more space behind the dash, air bags, microprocessor controllers, CD players, etc, the overall size of the A/C system had to be shrunk. So the A/C cooling evaporator got smaller. At the same time for FE considerations the A/C needed to be made more efficient. So nowadays we have a small "tightly-woven" A/C cooling evaporator that has approximately 10,000 square inches of cooling vane surface area, in short, THINK SPONGE.

So modern day A/C cooling evaporators have an unusual propensity for retaining moisture, a very thin film of moisture. But 10,000 square inches of "storage" area adds up to a LOT of condensate. A second issue concerning the A/C also involved FE. Basically once you "condition" the cabin air the longer you retain the conditioned air within the cabin the better. So the cabin air exhauster port was downsized so as to restrict the outflow of conditioned, cooled, cabin air.

Virtually since A/C become of use in automobiles it has been used as an aid to/for defogging the windshield. In the beginning, up about the mid-eighties, the A/C was used ONLY in conjunction with HEATED airflow to the windshield to accomplish this task. Heating the airflow toward the interior surface of the windshield not only served to lower the Rh, Relative Humidity, of the air flowing over the windshield thereby dramatically raising the evaporation rate of the condensation on the windshield, but also raising the temperature of the interior windshield surface which helped to prevent re-occurrences of windshield fogging.

Then some bright young fellow, engineer, probably working for NipponDenso in Japan, decided that the heated airflow being "reflected" from the windshield and then striking the front seat passengers face and upper body was somewhat DISCOMFORTING.

So it was decided that most of these discomforting airflow instances could be avoided, especially for upscale vehicles, if the A/C were to be used throughout the year in order to keep the cabin atmosphere's RH below a level that might result in windshield or window fogging. And furthermore why not use ONLY the A/C for defogging the windshield when fogging instances occur...??

So NipponDenso made it so.

It didn't take very long for the idea to migrate throughout the market for automatic climate control systems.

Sudden instances of windshield fogging...??

Blame it on that young, bright NipponDenso engineer.

It doesn't matter that in many parts of the world in wintertime conditions the use of the A/C for dehumidification will be mostly non-functional, or even TOTALLY NON-FUNCTIONAL. There was no easy way, economically viable method, at the time to measure the RH of the incoming FRESH airflow and therefore determine if the use of the A/C was viable so it was decided to simply run it all the time unless the OAT declined so close to 32F that there was a concern of the evaporator freezing over and blocking all incoming airflow.

That's no longer true today, RH measurement would be a viable solution. But turning off the A/C, once it has been running for a period of time, due to declining dehumidification efficiency is fraught with peril.

HAZARDOUS, actually.

Windshield fogged up suddenly lately..??

When I bought my new '92 LS400 in late '91 it didn't take more than weeks to discover that the car had an unusual propensity for suddenly fogging over the interior surface of the windshield. Numerous trips to the dealer wherein they would check the A/C drain and caution me again and again NOT to use recirculate yielded no satisfactory results.

After about three instances of very hazardous driving situations due to windshield suddenly and seemingly spontaneously fogging over and almost completely, or completely, blocking my forward vision I decided to park the LS until such time as a solution was found. The following winter I discovered that if I religiously lowered the windows each and every night to allow the cabin to "dry" out the windshield fogging problem did not occur as often.

During "discovery" for the trial Lexus disclosed that the '92 LS A/C evaporator design had been changed prior to production in order to help alleviate the formation of mold and mildew. My '92 LS's evaporator had a porous nylon coating into which was embedded an anti-microbial fungicidal chemical It appeared that once the chemical leached out of those pores due to multiple "washings" the propensity of windshield fogging increased dramatically, the A/C evaporator's porous surface became, truly, a sponge.

I understand that Lexus discontinued the chemical coating practice, possibly due to the lack of filing the proper forms, MSDS(?) with the US to ascertain that the chemical used was not harmful to humans. But now I notice the practice is again being used.

The best permanent solution I have found is the EED, Electronic Evaporator Dryer, at airsept.com

I also saw something about the possibility that Lexus was using a UV light source within the A/C plenum to combat the grown of those microbes whose "leavings" result in the odor. But that would not alleviate the propensity for windshield fogging.

Windshield fogging.....?

Before, immediately before, switching the system to defrost/defog/demist turn the setpoint temperature to MAXIMUM HEATING.

NEVER allow the A/C compressor to be operational except during the times actual cooling is required.

And if the A/C compressor is not operation then NEVER allow the system to switch from heating mode, footwell or combined footwell/defrost/defog/demist air distribution mode.

Toyota and Lexus have several c-best options that can be set by the dealer to enable these safe driving "features".
 

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In all honesty your issue is quite simple...

In the AC system there is a evaporator in the engine compartment a silver looking canister, that has a drain opening on the underside that should let the water drain out when the AC or engine is running or turned off.

It is most likely clogged up with somehting and when that happens the water stays in there and can cause a moldy growth. The smell and issue is easily resolved by unclogging the drain on the evaportator and then spraying a chemical that kills the mold in the vents...

You might have to have a mechanic check it out and see if it is clogged.. I don't know where it is found on the Highlander...

Hope that helps...
 

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In all honesty your issue is quite simple...

In the AC system there is a evaporator in the engine compartment a silver looking canister, that has a drain opening on the underside that should let the water drain out when the AC or engine is running or turned off.

It is most likely clogged up with somehting and when that happens the water stays in there and can cause a moldy growth. The smell and issue is easily resolved by unclogging the drain on the evaportator and then spraying a chemical that kills the mold in the vents...

You might have to have a mechanic check it out and see if it is clogged.. I don't know where it is found on the Highlander...

Hope that helps...
If there is a silver looking canister in your HL that would be the refrigerant reservoir and best not go looking to open a drain in the bottom of that. Directly behind your dash mounted glove box you will find the system's squirrel-cage blower assembly. Directly to the left of that will be the A/C plenum area containing the A/C cooling evaporator. You won't be able to actually see it but it looks a lot like a miniature engine cooling radiator.

The condensate accumulates directly below the A/C evaporator and the drain hose will be located there. Usually easier to see it for underneath the vehicle.
 

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I have been dealing with the foul smell for a while (going on 9 months no change). I was looking at other options and then noticed today that the A/C doesn't seem to drain. I ran the A/C for about 20 minutes in multiple configurations (max/fresh, very cold, mild cold, etc.) and never got one drop of condensation hitting the ground. I am sure that when Toyota ran the frigifresh, they checked the drain and such, but who knows.
I think I am looking in the right spot (right/middle behind front wheels), but if I am right it should be plainly obvious. All of my other cars seemed to start draining about 5 mintues of running the A/C.
Can you tell me where to look, how to make sure it is not clogged or any other thoughts that can help me.:headbang:
Assuming you used the fresh air inlet mode, if the local RH, Relative Humdity happens to be fairly low when you run the A/C and test for drainage it may not drain for awhile and maybe not at all if the RH is low enough. Also, if you ran the blower at a fairly high speed the condensate may get wicked off in the "breeze".

By the way, if you should have happened to use the max cooling mode for your test then the system will automatically revert to recirculate and you will not likely be able to extract mositure from within the cabin itself.
 

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08 Sport Owner
2008 Highlander
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79 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Took it to the dealer today after putting it on a lift yesterday to see the drain. The drain tube is very close to the exhaust and has a few curses to make it difficult to get into. Very hard to see unless you are right up under it. The dealer unclogged it, told me it was just minor debris. It was warrantt work at no cost to me. Of course the smell seemed to get worse, but tapered off as I drove it. Will see how it smells in the morning and go from there, but the drain issue is closed.
Thanks.
 

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Took it to the dealer today after putting it on a lift yesterday to see the drain. The drain tube is very close to the exhaust and has a few curses to make it difficult to get into. Very hard to see unless you are right up under it. The dealer unclogged it, told me it was just minor debris. It was warrantt work at no cost to me. Of course the smell seemed to get worse, but tapered off as I drove it. Will see how it smells in the morning and go from there, but the drain issue is closed.
Thanks.
Ooops....

The dealer serviceman may have inadvertently directed his attention to the drain hose for the airflow intake "chamber" at the bottom of the windshield.

It would be unusual for "debris" to get past the pollen filter and then through the squirrel cage blower to the A/C cooling evaporator plenum area. On the other hand "debris" in the other drain hose is a fairly common occurance.

But even if the drain hose was clogged it might take weeks for he dirty gym socks odor to abate.

Were it I then I would remove the pollen filter and then spray lysol into, onto, toward the top of the squirrel cage blower as it is running at mid-speed. Sorta surprised that the serviceman didn't follow up with that procedure.
 

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2009 Highlander LTD
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Sorry to bring up this old thread, but with the cooling season approaching, I recently had an issue related to this old thread. The last couple of times I turned my AC on, for the first few minutes I get a moldy smell, which eventually goes away and then everything appears fine. I got my HL in April of 2009, and had no issues like this last summer. If it was a clogged drain, wouldn't the smell stay and not go away? If so, then what could this be?
 

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08 Sport Owner
2008 Highlander
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79 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
They finally were able to get rid of the source because there was a TSB about the condenser. Had it replaced and had only very minor issues with the smells. Seems there was an issue with the condenser not dying or draining. The new one looked the same to me but who am I to argue. Check with your dealer. I not sure if the 2009 has the same condenser but would it be surprised. Hope the helps.
 

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2009 Highlander LTD
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They finally were able to get rid of the source because there was a TSB about the condenser. Had it replaced and had only very minor issues with the smells. Seems there was an issue with the condenser not dying or draining. The new one looked the same to me but who am I to argue. Check with your dealer. I not sure if the 2009 has the same condenser but would it be surprised. Hope the helps.
Does anyone know if this was the case with the 2009 models? Anyone happen to have a copy of this TSB? Mr. Encyclopaedia Summerwind perhaps?
 

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They finally were able to get rid of the source because there was a TSB about the condenser. Had it replaced and had only very minor issues with the smells. Seems there was an issue with the condenser not dying or draining. The new one looked the same to me but who am I to argue. Check with your dealer. I not sure if the 2009 has the same condenser but would it be surprised. Hope the helps.
You had the evaporator replaced. The evaporator is behind the dash. The air conditioner condenser is in front of the radiator.

Here is the link to the evaporator issue: http://www.toyotanation.com/forum/showthread.php?t=315251
 
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