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Toyota‘s cars are among the most dependable names in the small and midsize sedan segment. Still, like any vehicle, it isn’t without its issues. However, one issue might have owners scratching their heads or at least plugging their noses. That’s right; some Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid models’  air conditioning (AC) systems might smell so badly they caused a lawsuit. 

What is the cause of the Toyota Camry’s bad smell?

Many owners have complained about foul smells in their Toyota Camry’s interiors. Specifically, the smells originate from the Toyota model’s AC unit. Moreover, many drivers complained that the odors were musty or moldy in nature. 

A red 2014 Toyota Camry poses against a dark backdrop.
2014 Toyota Camry | Toyota

In fact, so many owners complained about the AC smell in their Camry models that they started a class action lawsuit to hold the automaker accountable for the smelly situation. 

The Toyota Camry air conditioner smell led to a lawsuit

The class action lawsuit, which participants filed around five years ago, refers to millions of defective Toyota Camry and Hybrid models. Moreover, the lawsuit asserts that Toyota knew about AC issues and may have “concealed the problems,” However, the automaker is adamant that it “didn’t mislead customers or anyone else.” 

According to Car Complaints, Javier Cardenas, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said his 2014 Toyota Camry would emit a “funky, horrid, old smell” during AC operation. Cardenas isn’t alone; owners have complained about mold issues and foul odors for many of the Camry’s past model years

A Toyota Camry's interior shows off its infotainment screen, AC vents, and space for a smell-mitigating freshener.
A 2012 model’s interior | Toyota

Why does a Toyota AC smell?

Per the Camry lawsuit, susceptible cars pump refrigerant through the AC evaporator, producing moisture as part of normal operation. However, that moisture may fail to drain as the automaker intended, leading to odiferous and potentially harmful mold.  

What model years of Toyota Camry have the AC smell issue?

The original AC smell lawsuit named millions of Toyota Camry and its Hybrid models between the 2012 and 2017 model years. However, Car Complaints says the class action suit was reduced to Florida customers who bought gas-powered 2012 to 2014 models from the automaker’s dealerships. 

A blue 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid shows off its bright color.
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid | Toyota

How can you get rid of the smell in a car’s AC?

With a simple filter replacement, most cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans will lose a foul smell in their AC unit. However, in some cases, a replacement filter won’t remedy odor. In addition to a new filter, Consumer Reports recommends a mild household or AC disinfectant for the vehicle’s plenum.


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