The problem goes way beyond a nuisance and in many cases causes such respiratory problems as sneezing, coughing, tightening of the chest and drowsiness.

Although this problem has been around for a long time, it's getting worse. But there is also good news: Remedies to fix the problem are more effective than ever.

Where does it come from?

The source of the smelly malady is mold, a single cell organism that grows in the dark and wet environment in your car's air-conditioning system.

The fungi in your air-conditioning grow on a part called the evaporator core, which is deep inside your dashboard. The core, which looks like a small radiator, circulates cold Freon from the compressor under the hood.

The evaporator core gets wet, because humidity condenses on the core surface. Mold loves wet surfaces and it gets food from pollen in the air, dead insects or bits of leaves that blow in through the outside vents.

What you can do about it

Until now, getting the mold off the evaporator core was very costly and repairs often lasted only weeks. You can kill mold with an antimicrobial treatment-even Lysol works-but the mold will reappear.

Some manufacturers are distributing a product to dealerships that can eliminate the problem. It is not available directly to consumers. A treatment may cost about $75 to $110, depending on a dealer's labor charge.

Apart from the treatment, motorists can do plenty to combat mold. Remove dead leaves near the air intakes around the windshield cowling. Dry all liquid spills inside the car, especially milk. Clean stale food out of the car. And periodically, run the blower without the air-conditioning on for 10 minutes, because it can dry off the evaporator core.

New cars have incorporated ionized air purification systems which also helps to combat mold. When shopping for a new vehicle, check to see if this option is offered.

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