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So recently, every time I turn on my fans (with or without a/c or defrost or not)...it smells like vinegar for a few minutes. Either the smell goes away after a few minutes or I just get used to it. Not sure which one...but I've read that it might have something to do w/ possible dirt/mildew/dust/debris etc. in the vents.

Well, I've changed the cabin air filter, cleaned the leaf-catching cowl vents under the hood...and it STILL smells like vinegar every time I turn the fan blower on in my car. Is there something else I should be doing? It's so annoying and embarrassing!

I've heard it also might have something to do w/ standing water in certain places in the car and that I could spray some stuff somewhere to help clean the "bacteria" causing odor? I can tell you that it smells like this whether it just rained or hasn't rained in weeks. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
 

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Have you checked your condensate drain? Have you checked for leaf buildup in front of the radiator? Trying to think of something else.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Have you checked your condensate drain? Have you checked for leaf buildup in front of the radiator? Trying to think of something else.
I'm not going to lie...I'm very novice when it comes to these things. I don't know what or where those are located...?
 

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I'm not going to lie...I'm very novice when it comes to these things. I don't know what or where those are located...?
Your radiator is usually located in front of your car right behind the front bumper but before the engine. It should look something like this.

3c9adc4175714c4b9cf36872b0c7db39_490.jpg


It could also be your cabin air filter. Here's a video of where it's located and how to replace it. It's pretty easy and straight forward.

 

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2020 Escape Titanium Hybrid
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I know it’s not an Escape however, it’s the same situation. I have a Nissan Titan that I’ve experienced the exact same problem with, it seemed that usually a couple days after a hard rain it would really have an extreme vinegar odor to it, it made no sense and it would never go away it would just get subdued. Finally one day when I had a whole day that I was free, I really started to investigate the problem. Turns out that the jute underneath the carpet on the front passenger side was wet and that’s what’s causing the smell, it’s been like this for about three years now and I cannot figure out how the water is getting in.
What I do to lessen the situation is I use a wet/dry vac to suck up as much as I can and then for a few days constantly spray Febreeze all over the carpet in the truck and within a few days the smell is gone.
Luckily for me here in this part of Texas, it’s not tropical so we aren’t constantly getting rain especially hard rain.
In my opinion, you’ve got a bad seal somewhere in your cowl vent or around the door or even one of the windows, that’s the same as what I’m pretty sure I have a problem with but just haven’t found it yet.
In my experience with anything associated with a radiator system leak, I’ve always noticed a sweet smell or the distinctive Ethylene Glycol smell.

Just my two cents, hope this helps.
 

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Normally an issue when the AC system is running and the humidity is being condensed back into water. The cold and wet evaporator inside the HVAC air box under the dash eventually warms back up. Wet and warm can start to grow a mold.

Normally the condensate will drain out and you will see it as a puddle under the car after it’s been idling with the AC on for several minutes. If the condensate drain is plugged from leaves, mold, physical damage, etc... then that trapped moisture will just make the mold growth worse.

Helps to turn off the AC a few minutes before you shutoff the vehicle. Also helps to run the fan on high to help dry out the system if possible.

Yes if there is a leak in your heater core then you will experience both a smell and notice the cooling system reservoir is dropping. This is very dangerous and needs to be addressed ASAP. The motors in the escapes are also notorious for loosing coolant through a bad head gasket. If that coolant is being burned off through the exhaust you may be smelling that as well. Would show up as excessive steam from the tailpipe.
 

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2017 Escape Titanium / 2021 Ford Bronco Sport OB+
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I know that smell....
Its telling you to change the cabin air filter.

Swap that out and the sour smell will begone.
 

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@`13Escape2.0SI If you have replaced the cabin air filter and cleaned out the air ducting below the cowl, then (as others mentioned) it could be a clogged condensate drain. It is not an easy reach as it is more centrally located under your Escape...but you can find it with your fingers. If you do not see any water dripping out after running the AC or defroster, there is a clog. That clog will smell things up. Use a hanger straightened out or some solid wire and poke around in there. Pine needles and other debris could be blocking the path. Use this link for some pics and info. If I remember right from when I did it, I got in about 4" - 6" and then ran into some sort of bend and could not get farther. It did work though as a small amount of stuff came out and it started dripping afterwards. Also, if you have ever noticed that your AC goes from cold to hot, it is freezing up. If that is the case, you will need to replace the sensor by the drivers footwell. This link will give you some info. I found out the hard way that replacing it with another straight sensor doesn't work. The design is poor and prone to causing freezing of the system. Get the curved sensor! Good luck.
 

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@`13Escape2.0SI If you have replaced the cabin air filter and cleaned out the air ducting below the cowl, then (as others mentioned) it could be a clogged condensate drain. It is not an easy reach as it is more centrally located under your Escape...but you can find it with your fingers. If you do not see any water dripping out after running the AC or defroster, there is a clog. That clog will smell things up. Use a hanger straightened out or some solid wire and poke around in there. Pine needles and other debris could be blocking the path. Use this link for some pics and info. If I remember right from when I did it, I got in about 4" - 6" and then ran into some sort of bend and could not get farther. It did work though as a small amount of stuff came out and it started dripping afterwards. Also, if you have ever noticed that your AC goes from cold to hot, it is freezing up. If that is the case, you will need to replace the sensor by the drivers footwell. This link will give you some info. I found out the hard way that replacing it with another straight sensor doesn't work. The design is poor and prone to causing freezing of the system. Get the curved sensor! Good luck.
Another thing you can use is something like piano wire, it’s flexible and stiff.
 
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