If your Tesla starts to stink like old sweat socks, you can fix that problem yourself, but it’s a little bit of a daunting process.
My Tesla Model 3 has ponged of what I’d describe as a combo of feet and stinky cheese for a few months. I procrastinated dealing with it, but when it became unbearable, I eventually figured out, after talking to my colleague Jameson Dow, that it’s because of an infamous, ongoing air filter problem in Teslas. (Just for the record, I’ve never had this putrid air filter experience in any other car, EV or otherwise, that I’ve owned.)
Tesla’s air filters are responsible for purifying the air inside the car’s cabin. Over time, the filters get clogged with dust, debris, and pollutants, and that leads to less effective air purification and, you guessed it, bad smells. It got even worse when it rained. And while Tesla recommends that air filters be changed every two years, the stink actually arrived months before the two-year mark.
While the problem isn’t unique to Tesla, its decision to put the onus of replacing the air filters on owners sets it apart from other automakers. This DIY approach can be daunting for some owners who prefer a more hands-off relationship with their EVs, or lack the technical know-how to carry out the task themselves.
My husband and I watched a couple of YouTube videos about changing Tesla air filters. Tesla offers written instructions and a video on its Do It Yourself pages for all four models, but we found the YouTube videos to be more helpful.
You have to lie in an awkward position on the passenger seat floor to get the job done, and one person has to hold the flashlight. It’s not easy to get light under the dash.
Despite not being comfortable at all with dismantling the interior of our car, we did successfully manage to complete the job. Here’s how the air-filter change process is supposed to work (and by the way, we didn’t have those tools shown below, apart from our own screwdriver):
You also have to order and pay for the air filters. While they aren’t expensive at $17 a pop, Tesla really ought to make them complimentary as a good customer service gesture to Tesla customers.
You can take your car to a Tesla Service Center or call Tesla Mobile Service to avoid attempting to change the air filter yourself, but they don’t do it for free. They should.
In the meantime, changing our air filters finally eliminated the funky stink.
And perhaps, in the near future, Tesla could come up with a more permanent solution to this DIY air filter change requirement, because it’s not as simple as the automaker tries to make it out to be.
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The author of the article discusses a problem with the air filters in Tesla cars that can cause a foul smell in the cabin. The filters, responsible for purifying the air, can become clogged with debris and pollutants over time, leading to ineffective air purification and bad odors. The author found the problem to be particularly noticeable in their Tesla Model 3. While Tesla recommends changing the air filters every two years, the smell appeared before the two-year mark. Unlike other automakers, Tesla puts the responsibility of replacing the air filters on the owners, which can be daunting for those who prefer a more hands-off approach or lack technical knowledge. The author and their husband watched YouTube videos to learn how to change the filters themselves, and despite the discomfort and difficulty, they were successful. However, they believe Tesla should provide complimentary filters and offer the service for free. Changing the air filters eliminated the smell in their car, but the author suggests that Tesla should find a more permanent solution to this DIY requirement.