A Foul Wind Blows… From the Toyota Camry's Dash Vents, Lawsuit Claims

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
a foul wind blows 8230 from the toyota camrys dash vents lawsuit claims

Toyota might have another stinky legal problem on its hands. A proposed class-action lawsuit filed in the US. District Court for the Southern District of Florida claims the automaker committed fraud by failing to properly address an HVAC problem that leaves Camry cabins in an unpleasantly scented state.

Condensation is the culprit in this issue, though the plaintiffs accuse Toyota of covering up the fact that it doesn’t have a solution.

The lawsuit, Javier Cardenas, et al. v. Toyota Motor Corporation, et al., was filed on July 12th and concerns Camrys of the 2012 to 2017 model year. CarComplaints uncovered the legal action.

According to plaintiff Javier Cardenas, who lives in Missouri but purchased a 2014 Camry when living in Florida, cranking the air conditioning in his car leads to a “funky, horrid, old smell.” Cardenas, who still owns the car, says passengers complain of a foul odor even when the A/C is off. A trip to a Missouri Toyota dealer resulted in a $300 quote for taking apart the instrument panel; instead, the plaintiff carried out the suggestions the dealer provided for mitigating the smell (opening the vents, periodically turning on the heater), to no avail.

The content of a follow-up call to Toyota isn’t mentioned in the lawsuit. Nor is it mentioned whether the second claimant, Kurt Kirton of Tennessee, has ever experienced such issues with his own 2015 Camry. Such is the nature of lawsuits.

Regardless, there have been issues with the Camry’s HVAC system, leading to several technical service bulletins (TSBs) over the years. As early as 1997, Toyota issued a TSB to eliminate musty odors that occured when the operator cranked cold A/C in a vehicle left sitting in a hot, humid environment for a period of time. The automaker blamed the odors on either a blocked evaporator housing drain pipe, or microbial growth in the evaporator.

A 2009 TSB informed dealers of a “newly designed evaporator sub-assembly … made available to decrease the potential for HVAC odor.” This bulletin was updated in 2011. Two years later, another TSB told technicians that the odors were “naturally occurring from the HVAC system and/or related environmental factors,” adding that “there is no way to eliminate these odors.” It also listed mitigation measures. The TSB was updated in 2015 to cover 2007 to 2015 model year Camrys and Camry Hybrids.

The two plaintiffs claim the source of the smell — suspected mold — poses potential harm to the vehicle’s occupants, and that the automaker covered this up by having dealers claim the odors were nothing unusual. They also claim they paid more than they would have, had they known of the HVAC system’s smell. Hence the fraud allegation.

“No reasonable consumer expects to purchase or lease a vehicle with a HVAC System Defect that exposes them to foul, noxious, and/or toxic odors, mold, and other contaminants,” the suit states.

It will be up to Toyota to prove that there was/is no risk to occupants from possible mold spores in the car’s vents, and that its communications with dealers and customers was above board.

This is not the first class-action lawsuit filed over the issue. Over the past few years, at least two suits have targeted Toyota for reeking A/C operation, while message boards are full of queries about how to eliminate such odors.

[Image: Toyota]

Join the conversation
2 of 46 comments
  • Bloodnok Bloodnok on Aug 01, 2018

    not just toyota: my unlamented sainted focus had bad breath, too. the dealer didn't even believe me about the stench so i never got any satisfaction. so i did get rid of the beast, and good riddance too.

  • Tsoden Tsoden on Aug 03, 2018

    I can confirm this was a problem on my 2000 Camry. I bought the car used back in 2005. The funny thing though was when the AC was running, there was no funky smell at all... however when it rained, and the AC was OFF, but the fan blowing, it smelled like someone stuffed dirty gym socks up my nose. i initially had the dealer clean the system with the special type of disinfectant foam... but it did nothing. I also went through about a dozen cans of "fresh Linen" Lysol spray over the 5 years I had this car... and it kinda helped, but was really only a patch that didn't resolve the problem 100%. During my ownership of the car, there was never any technical service bulletins about this at all. The Camry was the only car where it was THIS BAD. I have had other cars with a bit of an off smell with the A/C... but nothing like this.

  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.
  • Chris P Bacon I've always liked the looks of the Clubman, especially the original model. But like a few others here, I've had the Countryman as a rental, and for the price point, I couldn't see spending my own money on one. Maybe with a stick it would be a little more fun, but that 3 cylinder engine just couldn't provide the kick I expected.
  • EBFlex Recall number 13 for the 2020 Explorer and the 2020 MKExplorer.
  • CEastwood Every time something like this is mentioned it almost never happens because the auto maker is afraid of it taking sales away from an existing model - the Tacoma in this instance . It's why VW never brought the Scirrocco and Polo stateside fearful of losing Golf sales .
  • Bca65698966 V6 Accord owner here. The VTEC crossover is definitely a thing, especially after I got a performance tune for the car. The loss of VTEC will probably result in a slower vehicle overall for one reason: power under the curve. While the peak horsepower may remain the same, the amount of horsepower and torque up to that peak may be less overall. The beauty of variable cam lift is not only the ability to gain more power at upper rpm’s on the “big cam”, but the ability to gain torque down low on the “small cam”. Low rpm torque gets the vehicle moving and then big horsepower at upper rpm’s gains speed. Having only one cam profile is now introducing a compromise versus the VTEC setup. I guess it’s possible that with direct injection they are able to keep the low rpm torque there (I’ve read that DI helps with low rpm torque) but I’m skeptical it will match a well tuned variable lift setup.