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DIY: Do It Yourself
Post here to share or improve your wrench turning skills! All BMW E46 DIY tips, tales, and projects discussed inside. Learn to work on your car and know the right BMW parts you will need!

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Old 10-05-2008, 11:16 PM   #1
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My attempt to clean the evaporator coil today (pics)


So my gf's sensitive nose has been starting to complain about some odor in the car more and more lately. I, too, have notice some smell coming from the vents especially when I start the car after it was last driven w/ A/C turned on. Reading the Bentley's manual, there's a mention about cleaning evaporator to elimiate odor issues. So i set out and googled some evap cleaner sprays. Now, I'm pretty sure there's better way of doing it, but this is my first attempt, so you can tell me what I'm doing wrong if anything.

Also, I know many have said to use some disinfectant or odor control spray and spray the air inlet while running the fan. But I think that probably only temporary and still doesn't really 'clean' out the junk that has been building up in the evaporator coil... But that's just me.

To start with:

I ordered two brands, not knowing what's the difference. The middle can is a carb cleaner. Itself is of no use for this project, however the adjustible 'straw' is definitely needed to aim the cleaner in the tiny opening of the final stage resistor opening.

I honestly didn't read the manual throughly, so I thought this would be 1 hr job. Ended up w/ 3 hr. I *think* I could have skipped a buncha steps too, but too late when I realized it because everything is out already.

  1. Remove glove compartment
  2. Remove center storage compartment*
  3. Remove shifter knob + trims*
  4. Remove center trim with ash tray*
  5. Remove IHKA control module*
  6. Remove right foot well duct*
  7. Remove final stage resistor
  8. Spray cleaner, wait 5 min or so to drain, turn on A/C to dry.

* = MAYBE I could have skipped. Not sure....

Glove compartment is easy enuf. I removed both the glove compartment + housing. Later I realized I probably can remove the housing w/ the glove compartment still attached. There are a buncha screws you need to remove.

Right foot well pannel.

There's a catch on the left side, you need to slide the pannel toward the front to get it out. A bit of twisitng / bending to get it out. Also see the right footwell duct here.

Next I push up on the center storage compartment and pull it backward, it pops right out. Didn't know it was this easy!

Remove the shift knob, shift boot, two screws and disconnect the switches and the shifter trim piece came out. I also removed the foam underneath. Four more screws and the ashtray carrier can be removed

Push from the back of the IHAK control pannel, it will simply pops out. Disconnect it.

I couldn't get a usable pic, but you do all these *just* to get to release a locking clip of the right foot well air duct. Honestly it's a lot of work to get this stupid thing out. Not knowing how ti connects, it took me 30 min or so just to figured out how to get it out. I have to pull open a bit the right pannel of the center console. Here's the stupid duct:

2 torx screws and the air distribution motor comes out. (dont' forget to unhook the top linkage):

Finally! The final stage resistor. Interestingly mine is held in place with only a plastic clip.

Using flash light and some ungodly body position, you can peek to see the evaporator coil.

Doing the BEST I could, using the spray with the "straw", I tried to cover as much of the evaporator coil as possible w/ the foaming solution. I'm pretty sure I can't get to the entire thing. There maybe some professional equipment or some smart person on the forum here that can create soemthing to do this. Let me know. This is a REAL PAIN to get to. Here's a pic of the foaming agent draining out:

If there's any doubt on amount of yucky stuff that has accumulated over the years, look at the liquid that drained out of the A/C drain hole under the car:

I used up pretty much one entire can and part of another. Just to make sure as it took me so long to get to it, I want to clean as much as I could. I foam it and let it drain I think 3-4 times.

And the famous words: "Install is reverse of removal".

Tonight, the drive was definitely odor-free. There's a hint of lemon scent right now that's from the evap cleaner. It probably will go away in a few days. So far it seems pretty affective. My gf's ultra sensitive nose can't seem to detect any smell now.

Hope this info can help some of you if you are looking to do this also. I'm sure there's better / easier way to do so. Also, maybe some one can confirm, could I have skipped all the middle steps and leave the right footwell duct intact to gain access to the final stage resistor?

Last edited by peanut_man; 10-05-2008 at 11:30 PM.
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Old 10-06-2008, 07:00 AM   #2
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This is pretty helpful will keep for futher reference. Nice Job Man!!
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Old 10-06-2008, 12:02 PM   #3
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I'm Replacing my FSR this weekend and I will def. try this. GJ
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Old 10-08-2008, 12:56 PM   #4
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thats awesome!! thanks for taking photos and making this diy.
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Old 10-09-2008, 12:21 PM   #5
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Awesome. I gotta do this to mine for sure.
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Old 10-10-2008, 01:06 AM   #6
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NICE DIY I will definitely try it before the winter...
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Old 07-07-2009, 01:10 AM   #7
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i wonder, if you can put something like an air freshner in there to have smell good coming out all the time....just a thought....def worth a CTRL-D


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Old 07-08-2009, 07:45 PM   #8
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Hello dirsh it appears that you have not posted on our forums in several weeks, why not take a few moments to ask a question, help provide a solution or just engage in a conversation with another member in any one of our forums?
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Old 07-08-2009, 07:51 PM   #9
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Just FYI we do the final stage resistor update alot at the shop, and you only need to remove the glove box to remove the final stage resistor.

It is definitely an upside down wild hand postion to maneuver in there.

I need to do this soon, I did a full cleaning of the vents and intake with the fan running, but the mildew-like smell is still there from the evap core.

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Old 08-27-2009, 05:52 PM   #10
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Wow, very nice thread I will likely do this soon

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Old 08-27-2009, 09:54 PM   #11
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good DIY! excellent pictures, proper written English, and clear step-by-step directions.
All DIYers should follow suit and take example!
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Old 08-31-2009, 08:04 PM   #12
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Would removing the blower motor be a better way to get at the evaporator? It almost seems like less work.
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Old 09-01-2009, 02:11 AM   #13
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woops I've been meaning to do this

is the smell still gone?

Hello dirsh it appears that you have not posted on our forums in several weeks, why not take a few moments to ask a question, help provide a solution or just engage in a conversation with another member in any one of our forums?
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Old 09-07-2009, 02:08 AM   #14
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I hope you had better luck than I did... I used this method (it's in the Bently, too) and sprayed the hell out of the evaporator, but after the cleaning smell went away, the original smell came back. I think it must be on the heater coils then? somehow the compartments are separated when the AC is on.
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Old 09-07-2009, 04:09 AM   #15
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nice job!!

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Old 02-07-2010, 01:21 PM   #16
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I read and tried my hands on removing those parts and stuff to reach the resistor but can't find any. Got lots of bruises on my hand, but I then realised, I might be working on the wrong side of the car. Created a BIG mess too!!!

My ride is e46 2002, valvetronic 1998cc 143hp version, Right Hand Drive, asI am from Malaysia. I can't seem to see anything that fit your photo when I have removed the parts.

Today I tried working on the driver side (but its your glovebox side since your cars are LHD), but again, I can't find anything that look similar to what you have posted. Here is a pic, can someone tell me if there is any similarity and which I should start pull out?

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Old 08-06-2010, 11:09 AM   #17
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except get rid of the smell, I'm not sure what's the necessary to clean it.
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Old 08-06-2010, 11:12 AM   #18
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very nice explanation

now pics of gf pls
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Old 08-06-2010, 11:57 AM   #19
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What is this final stage resistor that I read about here? Apply to M3's?

I need to clean mine out.....bad funk when you first turn on the A/C.
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Old 08-07-2010, 01:11 PM   #20
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Has anyone tried cleaning the evaporator by removing the blower fan assembly? According to some, it can be done in 20 minutes, and exposes the entire evaporator. Here is a DIY on the fan removal (start at post 50 for the updated steps with detailed pics):

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