Nail polish smell coming from a/c

Joined
Sep 27, 2015
Messages
838
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Alabama
2013 Honda Civic LX 1.8L 207k

So my wife just text me at work and said when she turned the A/C on in her car there was a faint hint of nail polish smell steadily coming out of the vents and it never stopped until she got to her moms with the baby about seven miles down the road and shut it off.

I’m at work right now and it’ll be dark when I get home and I have no clue what that smell could be. My first thought was anti freeze but she said it wasn’t a sweet smell it was nearly 100% identical to nail polish. She doesn’t carry nail polish in her purse or the car.

What do you guys think?

Edit: No other issues with car at this time that I know of that may have contributed.
 
Joined
Nov 23, 2020
Messages
242
Possible the Evap sprung a leak or the heater core or possibly even a blower motor resistor

Don't turn on A/C until it's figured......if it's a heater core you will soon see a drip out of the condensate drain or get some steam out the vents
If it is the evap you will soon have no A/C as the drop in gas will cut the compressor off
 

NavyVet88

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Sep 27, 2015
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Alabama
Just spoke to my wife and again and she confirmed that it’s a definite nail polish smell. I told her to just ride with the windows down and not use the ac until I get home today and can swap the baby seat out with my truck. I’ll keep y’all posted with what I find out at the mechanic once I drop it off Tuesday. Thank y’all!
 

JHZR2

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Dec 14, 2002
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New Jersey
My bmw has some scent from the AC, but it’s from whatever mildew lives in there. I’ve never added refrigerant in 12 years, and it blows cold, but it can have a bad smell. The smell of oil leaking is similar to some moldy-type smells, though I wouldn’t characterize it like nail polish.
 
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Antifreeze smell has been compared to toasted marshmallows or maple syrup if hitting something (hot like exhaust or engine?) and burning off. If it is a leaking heater core, as mentioned, there will soon be puddles, possible sound of coolant sloshing in dash as flow is interrupted, since eventually you will have a low coolant level and discover that when either looking for the external leak or checking coolant level, one of the two.

For leaks from AC, your unit will eventually stop getting cold. Sometimes it leaves buildup where the leak is.
 

NavyVet88

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Update:

Took the car to the mechanic early this morning and around noon he called me back and said he found a really nasty cabin air filter which he changed. He checked the refrigerant and said I was about an ounce low so he pulled a vaccum and the refilled the system.

Truth be told I never thought to check the cabin air filter because my wife said it was a definite acetone smell. If anything changes I’ll keep y’all posted.
 
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Mar 24, 2011
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I had a problem with my '03 Acura TL-S. When cabin filter got slightly dirty I'd smell something foul. The setup is fully automatic climate control and a transistor heat sink sat in the airstream and slowly baked/outgassed at low fan. After I burned out one transistor pack I kept my nose alert up. First sense of a foul smell from the vents and I'd manually crank the fan speed up to at least 1/3 until I could get another filter changed. I changed filters about 1/yr, and they never were very dirty. Always used OEM Honda.

It wasn't what I'd call acetone smell. More like outgassing of hot ABS plastic. Kind of like that sickly smell when you're cutting it with a sawzall.
 
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