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Cruze Cabin Odors, Sources, and Resolution Summary

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Cabin odors in the Cruze have been the hardest to solve and longest running problems with our cars. Thanks in a large part to commutertg, (Banks Chevrolet, Concord, NH) and BigSkyMontana (City Motor Company, Great Falls, Montana), we have a series of solutions.

1) Coolant odor in the engine bay and outside the car. This odor may be pulled into the cabin through the cabin air intakes. There are a lot of possible sources for these odors ranging from leaky water pumps and hoses to a bad seal between the surge tank and surge cap to too much coolant in the system. If you have this issue, you will smell coolant odors in the engine bay and outside the car any time the engine has warmed to operating temperatures. If the engine cowl isn’t properly sealed, you may also smell coolant inside the car, regardless of heater setting.

a) PI-0762: Coolant Leak at Water Pump – (Jul 11, 2012) addresses leaks at the engine water pump and the mounting bolts. Update: http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-s...62d-coolant-leak-water-pump-aug-1-2013-a.html

b) PI-0740 addresses most other sources of coolant odors in the engine bay, but it doesn’t provide a real solution unless it gets your service department to find and replace a leak in the engine bay. Part of this PI is to put a hose on the coolant surge tank that “reroutes” coolant vapors from the top to the bottom the engine. This reroute has yet to help anyone and although it doesn’t appear to compromise the integrity of the coolant system, it’s ugly and useless.

BigSkyMontana discovered that the engine cowling that is designed to block engine odors from reaching the cabin air intakes can be very difficult to completely seal. He used a light source to help his service department identify and seal leaks in this cowl.

Text Diagram Line Parallel Design


One part that no PI addresses in the engine bay is the coolant surge tank itself and its interface with the 20 PSI pressure cap. If the pressure cap doesn’t properly seal to the surge tank, you will get coolant odors anytime the engine heats up because the system pressure cannot be maintained and the coolant will boil at a lower temperature with the vapors leaking out through this faulty seal. Replacing the cap and/or the surge tank is the solution for this problem. In addition, dealerships apparently have no way to test this seal – they can test the cap by itself and pressure test the coolant system with the cap off, but are unable to test the integrity of the cap/tank seal integrity. You need to do a close visual and touch inspection of the surge tank’s upper lip and a visual inspection of the O-ring in the cap to determine if you have a problem at this interface. For more information on fixing this situation, see Blue Angel's http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-s...fix-coolant-odors-coolant-loss-reservoir.html thread.

Product Auto part Wheel


Finally, do NOT fill your coolant above the top of the arrow on the side of the surge tank. The top of the arrow is the “cold full” line for the engine coolant. Overfilling your coolant system is a guaranteed method for having major coolant odors in the engine bay and outside your car. Likewise and despite some members reporting the need to "under-fill" their coolant surge tanks to lower the pressure in the tank, I and the rest of the CruzeTalk Staff and Gearheads do not recommend doing this either because this will also lower the boiling point of the coolant mixture, with unknown impact on your engine's longevity.

Line art Diagram Drawing


2) "Coolant” odor inside the cabin, but not outside the car. There are two known sources for this problem.

a) The first is a leaky cabin heater core and appears to be predominately a 2011 model year problem. Replacing the cabin heater core and the floor mats and sound insulation will fix this problem. You must replace the floor mats and sound insulation to insure you don’t have left over odors after the repair is completed.

b) The second and more pervasive issue is the glycol based lubricant on the HVAC duct gearing and air redirection shutters. This issue occurs anytime you run the heater and may or may not occur through all the vent options. Because this lubricant and the DexCool engine anti-freeze are both glycol based the two odors are very, very similar, which is why many people smelling this odor think the problem is with anti-freeze fumes coming from the engine bay into the cabin. The key to identifying the HVAC box as the source is that you do NOT smell coolant odors outside the car.

PI-0935: Odor from HVAC system with Temperature Control Set on High Heat is the corrective action for HVAC sourced “coolant” odor. This is a 4.7 hour major surgery on your Cruze, so it correctly directs your dealership’s service department to PI-0740 to try do eliminate engine bay based odors and their ability to enter the cabin via the cabin air intake.

3) Other odors ranging from dirty socks to other earthy smells inside the car indicate the presence of mold and/or mildew in the HVAC system. This smell can appear anytime you run the blowers or even during forced air induction into the cabin while moving. It does NOT depend on engine temperature or cabin temperature settings. I am including this issue because it can mask and confuse the odors from the first two problems, making them that much harder to identify and resolve.

The resolution for this is to clean out the HVAC system using the GM mold/mildew kit, ensure the HVAC condensation drain is clear and draining, and turn on the HVAC after-blow to dry the system after you use it.

When correcting cabin odors, replace your cabin air filter at the same time. It will catch and hold glycol, mold, mildew, potentially causing a lingering smell that makes it appear the problem hasn't been corrected, only lessoned. Also, there will be some chemical smell after these fixes are done. This smell is distinct from any other smells and will dissipate over two weeks to a month.

Additional threads, in no particular order, about these issues (I have "unstuck" and closed these threads):
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-s...62-coolant-leak-water-pump-jul-11-2012-a.html
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/11407-coolant-smell-resolution.html
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-s...temperature-control-set-high-heat-engine.html
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/11235-antifreeze-smell-thread-v-2-a.html
http://www.cruzetalk.com/forum/25-service-issues/5843-antifreeze-smell-thread.html

In addition to BigSkyMontana, commutertg and their dealerships, I’d also like to thank Blue Angel, robby and other CruzeTalk members for their efforts in both resolving these problems and in educating me on how the Cruze’s coolant system operates. I’d also like to thank my service advisor, Jeff and his boss Jeremy at Ed Bozarth Chevrolet Park Meadows, Lone Tree, Colorado for listening to the symptoms as I reported to them about the cabin smells in my ECO MT and getting them fixed without trying to second guess my observations. Having a service department that listens to the driver’s observations is critical to correctly identifying and fixing problems with any car.

All pictures are courtesy Blue Angel.
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Another source of odor in the winter is the coolant tank cap. O-rings are notoriously bad at sealing when temperatures drop - just ask NASA. My 2012 ECO MT doesn't loose any coolant during the summer but it definitely seeps around the o-ring in the tank cap in the winter. The main cabin air intake is about a foot directly behind this cap.
Which means the first step is to sniff for coolant smells on the outside and fix that first. If you can smell it outside, it will get inside. Even in recirculate mode, it won't cut off all outside air.
 

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Discussion Starter · #422 ·
Which means the first step is to sniff for coolant smells on the outside and fix that first. If you can smell it outside, it will get inside. Even in recirculate mode, it won't cut off all outside air.
I've actually gotten whifs of coolant inside but it wasn't until I opened the hood that I could smell it in the engine bay, so definitely open the hood to check for coolant odors in the engine.
 

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First,let me start by sending out a big THANK YOU to everyone here on the site who has shared information about this issue:goodjob:

I'm one of many who has had the misfortune of being affected by many of the coolant odor problems from the first year that I bought my new vehicle in 2011.Several attempts were made to fix the issue (new seals,moving hoses,replacing water pump) which did lessen the odor but never quite cured it.Since it was a documented issue I was told that should it get worse they would look into it under warranty.....so just kept it in mind that it would be taken care of if it got too bad.By the way I had extended warranty 100 000 km, powertrain 160 000 km.

So when the weather started getting cooler this year and I began using the heat I noticed the odor getting stronger,within a few weeks it got so bad I had to drive with my window down with heat turned to defrost which lessened the odor but froze my feet.Oh my, the headaches,nausea and taste in your mouth for days after as well as breathing issue requiring an inhaler.Off to my local dealership I go and they do a seal,hose,leak and pressure check which resulted in the "unable to verify" even though tech could smell the odor.Was then told in order for them to search further I would be required to pay for all further testing.As you can imagine, I strongly disagreed with this and let them know.At this point the they contacted TAC (don't know what that stands for) and were directed to PI0935 HVAC case replacement.I was then informed that since my warranty had expired I would have to cover the cost (almost $3000.00 with tax).Needless to say I did not agree as this had been an ongoing issue with the heater smell.

After relaying my comments to the manager,the consultant came back and said as I had so much other warranty work done dealing with this same issue,they had lowered my cost to a little over $700.00 with tax and wondered if I wanted the parts ordered to which I said NO,I would be contacting GM directly..which I did after I used google and found you guys.:3tens:

GM Customer Care rep (Beverly) took my info,including what I had learned on this site and said she would look into it and get back to me,resulting in an offer of my share of the cost being lowered to $198.00 plus tax.Seeing as I could no longer drive the vehicle without getting sick I had no choice but to agree,intending afterward to leave GM behind.

Fast forward to dropping my car off on a Thursday,driving home in a loaner-was called Friday and told would not be ready until Monday (new case cover was broken and had to order another case)

Monday I get a call saying car was ready for pick up.Consultant hands me the keys,along with a bill for the $198.00 +tax and I asked to see the service manager.Reminded him of the ongoing coolant odor issues I had been having with my car,told him of all the complaints I had learned about on this site about the grease odor which had been found in 2013 and it was now 2016 without customers being notified.Told him I could see them not contacting every cruze owner but those of us who had documented problems with the coolant odor should have been contacted by now and anyone still having the issue should have had the repair done under warranty.I then said the fact that GM had not done that was in my opinion very dishonest and if I left there that day paying one cent toward the repair cost I would leave GM for good.....after again contacting Gm,service manager called today and said no charge.

Again,a big thank you to all involved here on the site...sorry for the long post
 

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Discussion Starter · #424 ·
Way to stick to your guns. My personal opinion is that the HVAC case should be a free replacement for the life of every Cruze made with the faulty part. It's a manufacturing defect, pure and simple. Maybe not GM's defect, but still a manufacturing defect.
 

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Thanks obermd, I totally agree,should not be left up to the customer to replace.

Part of the conversation back and forth included talk about this maybe?,at some point ,down the road this may may or may not become a recall and I would be reimbursed-the reply being that by that time I would be moved on to another brand.So anyone who has had this problem keep watch on recalls.
 

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Discussion Starter · #428 ·
I had all the odors listed in the opening post for this thread. Unfortunately I don't think Chevy is going to "recall" this one because they don't see it as a safety issue.
 

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"3) Other odors ranging from dirty socks to other earthy smells inside the car indicate the presence of mold and/or mildew in the HVAC system. This smell can appear anytime you run the blowers or even during forced air induction into the cabin while moving. It does NOT depend on engine temperature or cabin temperature settings. I am including this issue because it can mask and confuse the odors from the first two problems, making them that much harder to identify and resolve.

The resolution for this is to clean out the HVAC system using the GM mold/mildew kit, ensure the HVAC condensation drain is clear and draining, and turn on the HVAC after-blow to dry the system after you use it.

When correcting cabin odors, replace your cabin air filter at the same time. It will catch and hold glycol, mold, mildew, potentially causing a lingering smell that makes it appear the problem hasn't been corrected, only lessoned. Also, there will be some chemical smell after these fixes are done. This smell is distinct from any other smells and will dissipate over two weeks to a month."

Does anyone have the part number and any kind of procedure/write up on how exactly to do the hvac cleaning with the mold mildew kit? my car has slowly developed a smell that as of late is always there whether or not i have heat or ac running through any vent. and like you said its also present (but lesser) when the hvac is off and im "cruzin"
thanks in advance for any link/info anyone can provide me. i gotta get my daily smellin fresh again!

 

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2012 Chevy Cruze Antifreeze Vapors

I'm wondering if I have also been affected by this issue. I just bought my very first used car on December 26th 2015 from a dealership (Ron Tonkin Chevrolet in Portland, OR). I went with a 2012 Chevy Cruze. One month later on January 28th 2016 this happened:

youtube.com/watch?v=7HTTwqyhR4s

I drove it directly to Ron Tonkin's service shop after I filmed this video. The fumes got so thick that my eyes started to burn and my windshield fogged up to a point where it was impossible to see out of it. I showed the service tech and the attendant the video. Both were shocked and noticed a strong and unbearable coolant smell right away upon inspecting the car personally. They set me up with a loaner and assured me they would be able to fix it.

I called back Friday January 29th to see if I could come pick up the car after work. The service tech said that they weren't able to duplicate the issue therefore they could not officially diagnose it. My issue looks like a typical case of what people in this thread have been describing. Does anyone have experience with this? Chevrolet are you still reading these posts and helping your customers? So far, I've experienced nothing but disappointment in both the quality of the vehicle (because of this issue) and the quality of the service I have received. Please help me.
 

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I'm wondering if I have also been affected by this issue. I just bought my very first used car on December 26th 2015 from a dealership (Ron Tonkin Chevrolet in Portland, OR). I went with a 2012 Chevy Cruze. One month later on January 28th 2016 this happened:

youtube.com/watch?v=7HTTwqyhR4s

I drove it directly to Ron Tonkin's service shop after I filmed this video. The fumes got so thick that my eyes started to burn and my windshield fogged up to a point where it was impossible to see out of it. I showed the service tech and the attendant the video. Both were shocked and noticed a strong and unbearable coolant smell right away upon inspecting the car personally. They set me up with a loaner and assured me they would be able to fix it.

I called back Friday January 29th to see if I could come pick up the car after work. The service tech said that they weren't able to duplicate the issue therefore they could not officially diagnose it. My issue looks like a typical case of what people in this thread have been describing. Does anyone have experience with this? Chevrolet are you still reading these posts and helping your customers? So far, I've experienced nothing but disappointment in both the quality of the vehicle (because of this issue) and the quality of the service I have received. Please help me.
Nice long story, but...............has the fogging reaccured since the car was returned to you?

Your description falls along the lines of a heater core failing, but there are other things such as a plugged cowl drain that can do this.
Heater core would be noted with every use.....cowl drainage problem could occur every time the car is washed or in heavy rain.....hence the question about it happening since the car was returned.

Rob
 

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I'm wondering if I have also been affected by this issue. I just bought my very first used car on December 26th 2015 from a dealership (Ron Tonkin Chevrolet in Portland, OR). I went with a 2012 Chevy Cruze. One month later on January 28th 2016 this happened:

[url]http://goo.gl/dhebwX


I drove it directly to Ron Tonkin's service shop after I filmed this video. The fumes got so thick that my eyes started to burn and my windshield fogged up to a point where it was impossible to see out of it. I showed the service tech and the attendant the video. Both were shocked and noticed a strong and unbearable coolant smell right away upon inspecting the car personally. They set me up with a loaner and assured me they would be able to fix it.

I called back Friday January 29th to see if I could come pick up the car after work. The service tech said that they weren't able to duplicate the issue therefore they could not officially diagnose it. My issue looks like a typical case of what people in this thread have been describing. Does anyone have experience with this? Chevrolet are you still reading these posts and helping your customers? So far, I've experienced nothing but disappointment in both the quality of the vehicle (because of this issue) and the quality of the service I have received. Please help me.
Hey Jvint,

Very sorry for this! I can definitely understand how frustrating this may seem, and would be happy to help. Feel free to send me over a private message along with your VIN, current mileage, contact information and dealership. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Patsy G
Chevrolet Customer Care
 

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So i finally got around to pulling my cabin filter and the filter was pretty dirty and smelled of the stale odor ive been dreading. Ran some scented lysol disinfectant through the hvac on all modes heat/ac and i got rid of my odor. Keeping the filter out of the car until i find a new filter as i am not re-installing that nastyness back into my car. Im so glad i found this thread and was able to narrow it down to the hvac and not the coolant issue. Im never gonna own a car and not be apart of its forum lol thanks everyone.
 

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Hey, so there are 3 threads, of hundreds of comments on this issue.
Is something finally being done about the issue?
I'm well past my warranty, but have consistently, every year, needed to see my dealer concerning this issue.
Coolant smell in the cabin when turning up the heater

2011 Chevy Cruze Eco.
 

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Hey, so there are 3 threads, of hundreds of comments on this issue.
Is something finally being done about the issue?
I'm well past my warranty, but have consistently, every year, needed to see my dealer concerning this issue.
Coolant smell in the cabin when turning up the heater

2011 Chevy Cruze Eco.
Same problem here. I had to bring the car 3 times to the GM dealership and the problem is still not solved. Any new solution? They replaced the water pump and the antifreeze tank.

Could GM do something about that? It's a health issue since the fumes go inside the cabin...

2012 Chevy Cruze LS
 

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Hey,
My solution which helped not going to the dealer last year, was to just not put the heater past halfway point.
It'll take the car about 10 to 15 minutes to warm up, if you rout the air to your feet (hot air rises).
Most of the time I put it at 10 o'clock, and it gets the car nice 75F warm (colder climates probably have to dial in higher).

Other than that, no solution, than every other year or so, go to the dealer and pay them a fixed fee.
Another user mentioned blocking off the heater core, but then you won't be able to heat the car's interior anymore.
 

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I have to go back to the dealer each week.

I'm in Canada, so heat is important during winter.

So basically, the car value is near nothing now.

Would someone from GM contact me please, this needs to be resolved. It's an important health hazard.
 

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I just read through 22 pages and eight years later there is no definitive fix from GM? Thank you all for the posts over the years. The best I got was replace the o-ring on the reservoir cap. Sorry to bring this back to life. 2014 1.4T with 140km. Replaced reservoir, water outlet and soon to be o-ring. Nothing spotted on water-pump side. Smells and level drops for at least 2 years now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #440 ·
I just read through 22 pages and eight years later there is no definitive fix from GM? Thank you all for the posts over the years. The best I got was replace the o-ring on the reservoir cap. Sorry to bring this back to life. 2014 1.4T with 140km. Replaced reservoir, water outlet and soon to be o-ring. Nothing spotted on water-pump side. Smells and level drops for at least 2 years now.
I think the root cause of a lot of these problems is the extremely high temperatures the Cruze runs. Those members who have replace the electronic thermostats or gotten tunes that reduce the temperature to more normal ranges have reported no further issues with their coolant systems as well as no apparent impact on emissions or fuel efficiency.
 
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