Kia Soul Forums :: Kia Soul Owners banner

1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
583 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Before I forget, wanted to share this....

So, the only real complaint I've had about the Soul is that the cabin air intake system defaults to outside air and won't retain it's setting if changed over to recirculate. This quirk is really bad for hot, humid climates since the outside air setting works the A/C harder and drags in all kinds of pollutants (including mold spores). So I always try to make a point to use mostly the recirculated air setting. However, when the car is turned back on it defaults to outside air again. Anyway, as some of you may know, it is good practice to turn the A/C OFF a few minutes prior to destination to help get some of the moisture off the evaporator coil and to warm it enough so it won't sit there and collect more condensation while the car is parked. (This is how mold can build up on the coils). Anyway, on to the point: So two years in and I've had no problems with any kind of musty odor. Up until last month when my car ended up parked in my garage for 2-3 weeks (couldn't drive it due to broken outside driver door handle). When I finally got it back on the road, all of a sudden I had this musty smell blowing out of the vents. Something that is often reported here on the forum. Now, looking back on things, here is what may be a telling hint as to cause: The air intake setting behavior. The unique type of road-grime-must smell coming out of my vents was EXACTLY that of a musty towel that I use to wipe down my other sports car after rains as was the case repeatedly over that period during which my Soul sat in the garage, the often wet towel hanging right next to the Soul. I now am wondering if the default air intake setting while parked is for outside air, and whether or not it defaults that way regardless of how it was last set when the car was last running. Because if it always defaults to outside air during parking THAT would explain how a paper filter absorbed the nasty, musty towel smell just a few feet away and why it was suddenly coming through my vents.

Where I'm going with this diatribe is that if the above theory has any merit then we need to somehow find out how that air intake defaults, and if it is possible to keep it closed by last having the air intake on recirculate before turning off the car. This indeed could be the key to how odors and/or mold is getting onto the filter and causing odors. And if not corrected rather quickly (via a replaced filter), it would eventually infiltrate the entire air system.

Sonic
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
9,513 Posts
Not sure of the operation of going back to outside air, but KIA advises against using recirc a lot on all its cars because of the danger of building up mildew and mold in air system. Not sure about the towel thing but here is my take:

The towel is left damp in the area where the car is at. Whether the non operating Soul is in recirc or in outside air mode is irrelevant, the same air that is contaminating the towel will also contaminate the Soul's air system by just being there for three weeks, there is nothing to stop that air from getting into everything. It is the environment of the garage period. Anyway, that my story and I am sticking to it :)
 

·
Registered
2014 Titanium Stick Shift Pacific NW
Joined
·
7,595 Posts
You have way over used RECIRC and created a moist, spongy air vent/filter environment. Fresh air is needed to dry the system on a regular basis, even if it's not convenient. Sorry you're getting the musty smell, it can linger since it's just a nice way of saying "mold." The same thing happens in a closet that never gets fresh air & then gets any moisture.

Now combine that with a car that is sealed up and gets extremely hot with the windows up and no fresh air and boom, you have a petri dish with 4 wheels.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
811 Posts
I have lived in Fla for the past 22 years and have kept every single one of my vehicles in the garage when not in use.
Fresh air to start, switch to recirc to cool completely and back to fresh. It's going to happen. If you choose to use Recirculate most often than your depriving the system of fresh air creating a stagnant environment susceptible to mold/mildew and all sorts of bacterial growth. Combine this w/ garage kept and.....musty,stinky ac smell.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
583 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
While it is true dark, damp areas breed mold, clearly there is confusion about A/C operation. In hot humid environments the proper way, just as with a house, is to use recirculating air, NOT outside air. You want to use the indoor air, which as the A/C runs dries the air out more and more to create a minimum humidity level relative to the outdoors. Bringing in outside air only breeds more mold spores into the system from the outside and serves to strain the A/C and keeps more humidity coming in form the outside as well. Just as with a house, there will always be enough air entering the vehicle on it's own through the nooks and crannies since the car is not an entirely air-tight submarine. That said, if you introduce strong odors by eating fast food, hauling pets, etc. then of course you want to bring in outside air as appropriate. But generally speaking in hot and humid environments the air intake should be left on recirculate most of the time.

When parked in a garage, assuming the air intake is not open by default, a car is largely insulated from the air inside the garage. My car does not smell musty or moldy at all inside, only what comes out of the vent initially now, and especially if the outside air setting is used. I'll find out soon enough when I change the filter because if this smell got into the filter it will go away immediately upon change. Otherwise it is "inside" the system and will persist. And if it does indeed go away then we can pretty much bet the filter was infested (being paper) because it was exposed for weeks directly to the damp garage air (which was also permeated by the musty road-grime towel hanging very near by).

Reading all the complaints about the musty A/C problems with the Soul always led me to believe there is a design flaw because that simply should not be happening with the frequency it apparently is. If the default state of the damper is to revert to outside air when the car is turned off, that would absolutely explain why. If people park the cars outside, or leave them in damp or contaminated environments then the filter is literally a perfect-scenario for Mold, which if not changed out will eventually get into the system itself.

I've owned numerous cars in Florida, understand HVAC design & operation, and lived in Florida for almost 40 years. And never had a car with this problem, or heard of so many other similar complaints from Soul owners. My sports car is parked right next to the Soul and regularly sits for 2-3 weeks at a time without issue. Been fine for 20+ years. So again, my inclination is a design flaw in the Soul, possibly in the area of the air damper behavior. We'll find out soon enough when I change the filter. And if it by chance things point in that direction, the key remaining question will be this: Does the damper stay closed if set at the time of turning off the car, or does it always revert back outside air thereby leaving the filter entirely exposed to the outside air. If it does retain the setting at the time of turning off the car, then we should all be making a point set the damper to recirculate before shutting off the car. Back in the day you always knew how things were set, but now with everything being computer operated I'm not sure how determine the actual underlying behavior.

Sonic
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
583 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Unfortunately, after replacing the filter today the musty smell still exists. SO...another project on the horizon, looks like I am going to have buy one of those KIA A/C flush kits.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
197 Posts
Check your carpets. My AC drain hose plugged on a trip to FL and back last year and the AC/heater system overflowed and completely soaked all the carpeting. I never use recirc. It was simply overflow from the drain pan in the system.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,631 Posts
Check your carpets. My AC drain hose plugged on a trip to FL and back last year and the AC/heater system overflowed and completely soaked all the carpeting. I never use recirc. It was simply overflow from the drain pan in the system.
That actually brings up something else to consider.

In most cars and buildings (and in infrequently-used enclosed-cabin aircraft, just as an aside), the levels of airborne environmental pollutants inside are much higher than the levels outside. This is especially true of molds. The mold spores are airborne, but the molds themselves attach to substrates to grow.

What happens in cars, homes, and airplanes is that the spores get inside, attach themselves to carpeting, upholstery, and other surfaces, and grow there. If you use the recirc setting on the HVAC, the spores will get into there, as well. Whether they'll grow or not is anyone's guess, of course; but it could happen, especially if the filter is dirty.

I have never had any problem with mold in the HVAC. But I'm also in the happen of thoroughly shampooing the upholstery and carpeting in the car two or three times a year. I even do behind the rear seat and in the trunk area. I do it on the first warm, sunny day in the spring, again on a warm, sunny day in the early fall, and sometimes an additional time during the summer. In the winter I don't do it unless I need to clean up a spill.

The shampooing is more just to keep everything clean than specifically to remove mold, but I'm sure it's helpful for the latter purpose, as well.

What I use is a carpet cleaning machine with an upholstery attachment, hot tap water, and a decent upholstery / carpet shampoo. I own the machine because I'm kind of OCD about clean carpets and upholstery in the house as well as the car. But the machines can also be rented.

You have to be careful shampooing the seat bottoms because of the ass sensors. You do NOT want to get those wet. (Don't ask me how I know.) I also remove the mats and shampoo those outside, and also shampoo the carpeting under them. Don't shampoo the headliners, though. It can loosen the glue.

You have to do the shampooing on a day that's warm, sunny, and dry enough that the solution will dry quickly, else it will create a worse problem than it solves. If I do it in the winter to clean up a spill, I actually sit an electric heater in the car to dry it.

So... maybe OP should consider shampooing the inside of the car if that's not a regular habit. The equipment can be rented from many supermarkets or home centers if OP doesn't happen to own it. They may also have an OCD friend like me who owns a machine, and I suppose there also are outfits that will do it professionally for a fee.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
583 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Well, I confirmed my suspicion....the air flow control ALWAYS defaults/resets back to outside air when you turn the car off. THIS is a huge part of the problem, if not THE main problem, with the AC mildew fiasco that is haunting so many Soul owners in FL. In Florida, the outside air is FAR more polluted and humid than cabin air, not to mention way hotter. So people usually drive with the recirculate setting. This not only allows the car to properly cool, it also DEHUMIDIFIES the air to be significantly less humid than the outside air. In properly designed vehicles the air flow damper would remain set in the position it was selected at the time the car was shut off. However in the Soul, and in some other modern cars, it defaults to outside air. So rather than keeping the much drier air sealed inside the cabin when parking, it instead is basically exposing the evaporator chamber, filter, etc to the outside air, along with all the humidity, pollutants, mold, mildew spores, and anything else you may be parking near (or in).

This EXACTLY explains how that musty towel smell got right into my Soul's AC system while it was parked in a sealed garage that had (more than once) a wet, musty towel hanging near by and caused the whole garage to smell musty. That smell was mold/mildew spores in the air from the towel, which went right into the Soul's air system internals.

KIA's recommended paradigm of using outside air, and defaulting to an open damper, may be OK in most of the 50 states, but NOT for Florida.

No good solution for this frankly except for maybe finding a way to disable the damper door and keep it closed at all times. Something I don't plan on doing any time soon, but if this mold problem continues to persist after I clean it up, then I may have to look into this option....

Another issue could be if KIA used a high-efficiency evaporator design that has fins much closer together than older designs. These new designs breed mold because not all the water drips down and sometimes stays in the coil until it evaporates. Meanwhile it is prone to trapping mold spores and then they grow right on the evaporator. Lastly, there could also be a flaw in the pan/drain design that is encouraging some moisture to remain instead of dripping out fully. Hard to say without being able to inspect the evaporator chamber...

Sonic
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,194 Posts
Wow!
Lotsa stuff on the Soul A/C system dreaded musty smell.
I too. living in a southern state have experienced this. However,it seems to go away in a few
minutes after driving the vehicle.
Reading all the theories on the whys this is happening etc.,one factor is the type and quality
of the A/C system that is in the Soul. Keep in mind that Kia does not actually make most
of the components that go into the vehicle. Most are contracted out. You add this with
the overall selling price of a Soul, and what do you get? As with many things on the Soul,
not exactly world class or Mercedes quality. Clogged A/C drains? Odors picked up from a
outside source? Could be.
What to do?
Dunno.
I recently tried to turn on the heat at the highest setting and blast the system for a bit.
Dry out the air channels? Maybe leave the vehicle out in the sun for awhile. Not always
in a dark garage?
Has worked for me.

Don't expect super sophistication in a 20-25k (new)vehicle.

Just sayin...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
811 Posts
Wow!
Lotsa stuff on the Soul A/C system dreaded musty smell.
I too. living in a southern state have experienced this. However,it seems to go away in a few
minutes after driving the vehicle.
Reading all the theories on the whys this is happening etc.,one factor is the type and quality
of the A/C system that is in the Soul. Keep in mind that Kia does not actually make most
of the components that go into the vehicle. Most are contracted out. You add this with
the overall selling price of a Soul, and what do you get? As with many things on the Soul,
not exactly world class or Mercedes quality. Clogged A/C drains? Odors picked up from a
outside source? Could be.
What to do?
Dunno.
I recently tried to turn on the heat at the highest setting and blast the system for a bit.
Dry out the air channels? Maybe leave the vehicle out in the sun for awhile. Not always
in a dark garage?
Has worked for me.

Don't expect super sophistication in a 20-25k (new)vehicle.

Just sayin...
Why wouldn't you? With the technology, availability and competitive market you would think with the opportunity to WOW potential and repeat customers it would have some importance.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,119 Posts
I think the only thing wrong with the Soul heating system is its controls are not clear.
The warnings are clear in Handbook of recirculation dangers, but no warning is given other than a dim light you may miss when you select Max. aircon . This automatically selects recirculation.
To select aircon you must press for on. then turn to cold avoiding that last segment which takes over all of your settings.
Drying out mould spores will not kill just stop their growth temporarily.
There are posts on how to eradicate smell and mould.

Jeff
 

·
Registered
used to own a 2016 Soul SX 2.0L - Caribbean Blue
Joined
·
15,165 Posts
KIA can't design a car from one particular state. Dry the unit out with heat once in a while too, hence the reasons no one appears to have the problem that doesn't use a/c all year round.
If it defaulted to staying closed, it would create more problems than it solves, how would anything dry out? Your a/c unit for your house, even in Florida sits outside where it can get air and ventilate and drain and also draws in outside air in order to function properly.

There was a member on here, can't remember the name who was a a/c expert as he did it for a living and I think he provided a good explanation with regards this problem and why things operate the way they do.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
583 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
KIA can't design a car from one particular state. Dry the unit out with heat once in a while too, hence the reasons no one appears to have the problem that doesn't use a/c all year round.
If it defaulted to staying closed, it would create more problems than it solves, how would anything dry out? Your a/c unit for your house, even in Florida sits outside where it can get air and ventilate and drain and also draws in outside air in order to function properly.

There was a member on here, can't remember the name who was a a/c expert as he did it for a living and I think he provided a good explanation with regards this problem and why things operate the way they do.
Uh...not quite.

To provide a bit more insight: In Florida homes use split system designs, just like with a car. The inside air handler (blower & evaporator) are separate from the outside condenser unit. A car, Soul included, is fine to remain "sealed" because the slight bit of moisture that doesn't drip out the drain line and instead is reabsorbed into the cabin air is a MUCH better trade-off than having the air system exposed to outside air, which is almost always FAR more humid and infested with pollutants than the cabin air.

The proper behavior would be for KIA to alter the firmware to leave the air flow intake setting to persist when turning the car off. Having the damper always default to outside air is likely a major cause, if not THE root cause, of the mold smell eventually plaguing most Soul owners in FL. That is, unless there is a drain/pan design issue as well that is not allowing all the water in the pan to properly drain out.

<UPDATE> It just occurred to me that in order for KIA to allow the state of the damper to persist across starts would require potentially energizing the damper while parked (depending on which position was selected). This would tax the battery after a while. So this probably explains things to an extent as to why the design is like it is. Very unfortunate, this is the price we pay for "fancy computer controlled cars" that try to be smarter than we are.

In light of this, the only way to mitigate, or delay, the issue from surfacing is to replace the cabin filter regularly and try and get any moisture out the evaporator chamber by running the fan with the AC off for a few minutes prior to arrival & parking. That has been said before, but now it is more clear WHY there is such a degree of importance WRT moisture in the evap chamber: Because upon parking the car it defaults to opening & exposing the air system to the outside air, which directly exposes the intake duct & filter to any mold and outdoor pollutants. Which will then eventually find it's way into the evap chamber.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,194 Posts
Why wouldn't you? With the technology, availability and competitive market you would think with the opportunity to WOW potential and repeat customers it would have some importance.
I agree with you.
However,unfortunately its economics 101.
The need to make a profit.

I've read time&time again posts about,"it needs this-wish it had...".
I too have asked these questions. These extras and refinements cost money.
As I have posted before,I live near a Kia assembly plant. I've had the opportunity
to tour this location. It is very efficient and automated. Also,there is a feeling of
most things being prefabed. Nothing is done with extreme care.
Get the vehicle built at the lowest cost.
Of course,the Soul is built in Korea. I understand there is a critical matter of the value
of the currency. Vendors that supply parts are paid with this currency. The company
is always looking for ways to buy components at a lower cost.

Yes,it is wise to be competitive in the market.
But,at what cost makes sense?
 

·
Registered
2014 Titanium Stick Shift Pacific NW
Joined
·
7,595 Posts
I agree with chef, why wouldn't you expect world class quality from a Kia? Kia ranks #2 behind only Porsche in initial quality. Do you really think any car maker manufactures their own brand of air conditioner? And the air that goes in a Mercedes is the same as a Kia. I have a friend with a ML320 & she always leaves recirculation on. The car wreaks of moisture & the windows always film up fast. Same with a friend who has a Civic. Cars, closets, tents, trailers, cabins etc require fresh air, more of it than less.

If Mercedes built a vehicle identical to the Soul, the price for the circular badge would add $15,000, who would be the fool then?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
301 Posts
Several of my G M cars had stinky a/c when first turned on. The last G M I owned was a 2007 Chev Cobalt. The a/c STUNK for 1-2 minutes in that one as early as 20,000 miles.

My 2012 Soul+ just started emitting a little funk this week @ about 196,500 miles. The mold/muck can be reduced as stated here,but some times you can't dry out the system and some humidity conditions are tough to outdo.
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
Top