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Old 07-02-2012, 11:22 AM   #1
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persistent smell with older sportsmobile

Hoping I can get some advice here--I'm at wits end.

I'm the original owner of a 1998 sportsmobile, which I used with no real problems for years.

A few years back, after storing the van for some time, I opened it up and was hit by a strong smell, almost like a concentrated "new car" smell.

After airing it out, this smell persists, though it is not as strong as it was. It has persisted for YEARS now. People notice it right away when they get in. If I store something in the van, then take it out, the smell even "sticks" to the object for a short period of time. If you put your nose up to any surface in the van (cabinets, upholstery), you can really smell it. It is certainly not a mold smell; it is more of a chemical smell.

This is more than just an annoyance, it causes me headaches and other issues, rendering the van unusable to me. I don't know if I am just particularly sensitive or if other people would have the same reaction. I don't want to make my friends sick in the process of testing it out

In my research I have read a lot about formaldehyde and other chemicals used in RV construction and out-gassing issues, though this usually applies to brand new vehicles. Given the build date of my sportsmobile, formaldehyde could be an issue, as it was common to build RVs with such materials. I wonder if perhaps the glue or building materials are breaking down in some way after all these years?

Does this story sound familiar to anyone? Any ideas on a fix? I have read about "cooking" the formaldehyde out (running heaters on high for days), but I am not even sure I am dealing with formaldehyde. I don't get a "burning eyes" sensation that seems to be associated with formaldehyde.

Thanks for any help!
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:03 PM   #2
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

There has to be a SMB owner out there who is a chemist. What kind of chemical reaction(s) is going on here?
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:18 PM   #3
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

Is it possible that it could be a dead animal (mouse/rat) or some kind of mold? Is it parked inside or in the shade where it might be damp? Could it have a leak inside?

Mold can be very foul smelling and can make things stored in the van smell like you describe.
We rent an office for our business and it has an extra room that now has a bad mold problem because it is covered with a tree and it never gets sun to dry it out. I cannot stand to even go inside of it anymore and it is so bad that the wood floor is starting to go bad. Luckily we don't store anything in there anymore but is it just terrible and bad for your health as well. Maybe try one of these?

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_ ... =mold+test

Good luck with it, I can imagine that could be hard to deal with.
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Old 07-02-2012, 04:23 PM   #4
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

Something must have happened in the storage unit. Pehaps a meth lab?

http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...ormer-meth-lab
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Old 07-02-2012, 05:16 PM   #5
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

I am 99.9% sure it is not mold. It was stored outside, baking in the sun, at an elevation of 6000+ feet, in a bone dry climate. Also I've had some experience with mold, and this doesn't smell anything like that.

This smell is not musty/moldy at all, it is more chemical...like I said it is almost like a "new car" smell. It builds up again when the van is closed up, suggesting it is being actively emitted. The smell itself wouldn't even bother me much if it didn't make me sick. One friend even likes the smell!
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Old 07-02-2012, 06:37 PM   #6
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

Vehicle fluids? How's your AC? Could it be refrigerant?


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Old 07-02-2012, 06:47 PM   #7
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

Anyone that had a backpack or a tent in the 80s or 90s has probably experienced the bad smell of the coating on the inside of the nylon breaking down, and not being able to get it out. Could it be deteriorating nylon?
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Old 07-02-2012, 07:39 PM   #8
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

does the SMB have a marine type toilet? someone may have put the wrong type of antifreeze in the black and greywater tanks and the chemicals have stuck to the plumbing and tank. Try filling them with a warm strong solution of trisodium phosphate and letting it sit for a couple of days. If the odor changes or disappears while full that tells you a likely source. Could someone have put moth balls in it in the past? with high outdoor temps that could have cooked into the upholstery and carpets...Check the heating and cooling coils for dead rodents too....
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Old 07-02-2012, 08:29 PM   #9
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

If you're talking years, I'd look into the flooring glue. Also what type of insulation was used? Did the previous offer any info? Maybe they did some upgrades like lining the cabinets or adding some insulation. Mice leave a musky strange smell the will last for about a year. It's got its own odor and once in the vehicle, they keep coming back but you'll see that they have visited. A dead animal smell is different and very distinct to me, not chemical like.
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:46 PM   #10
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Re: persistent smell with older sportsmobile

are you noticing any drop in the coolant level after a drive? If so, you may have a minor leak in the heater coil or connecting hoses that bakes every time you drive. My old water cooled VW smelled like chemicals and it it seemed to need a little coolant top off after a weekend trip. Getting that fixed was on the to do list until another driver decided to terminate our old van...
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