1. Attachments are working again! Check out this thread for more details and to report any other bugs.

Alcohol smell in 2004 Prius

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Care, Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by Kiran, Apr 19, 2024.

  1. Kiran

    Kiran Junior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2013
    8
    0
    0
    Vehicle:
    2004 Prius
    Model:
    II
    Hi All,

    I have a Gen2 2004 Prius with approximately 110k miles. I am smelling a strong alcohol smell in my main cabin and was wondering if anyone has any ideas of the cause. I googled and saw a possible theory of a clogged AC drain pipe. I have had an issue with that in the past and unclogged it manually. However we are coming out of winter in Seattle and have not been using the AC. Also this smell is very strong with a clear alcohol smell. I am wondering if it could be a leak of something. Coolant or something else possibly? Any ideas on what to check would be very much appreciated.
     
  2. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2012
    11,021
    4,476
    0
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Vehicle:
    2007 Prius
    Model:
    Two
    Unless you're trying to get out of a drunk driving charge your sense of smell needs independent verification... AC is usually a mildew/musty smell.
     
  3. Tombukt2

    Tombukt2 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2020
    8,512
    1,477
    0
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Vehicle:
    2009 Prius
    Model:
    Base
    Yeah the musty mildew smell is the condensate water running off of the condenser coil and not escaping fast enough out of that box and that drain tube and you get old smelly water smell now glycol I could see you smelling that if you have the heater core leak or something along those lines which runs into the cabin all the time in these type of vehicles since the late '90s or even earlier glycol is what antifreeze is made out of a little bit different than alcohol but one of the hol's nonetheless.
     
  4. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2018
    7,011
    6,603
    1
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Vehicle:
    2018 Prius c
    Model:
    Two
    good quality windshield washer fluid typically includes denatured alcohol.

    Does your car have a rear wiper/washer? supply tube leak in cabin?

    That's about the only "natural source" I can think of for an ethanol/methanol odor around a Prius.
     
  5. Tombukt2

    Tombukt2 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2020
    8,512
    1,477
    0
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Vehicle:
    2009 Prius
    Model:
    Base
    I think it have to be the long too running to the back I think our front reservoir is so large because it supplies the front and the back via two squirters or pumps which are in the front forward edge of the jug I do believe.
     
  6. Kiran

    Kiran Junior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2013
    8
    0
    0
    Vehicle:
    2004 Prius
    Model:
    II
    Thanks for all the ideas and community expertise. I don't think it is the AC condensation leaking as the smelly is clearly a glycol type smell. There is no mustiness. I had a problem with the condensation tube a year or two ago with wetness under the glove box. I was able to resolve it with a pipe cleaner.

    I am not sure it is the windshield fluid because of the intensity of the smell. I suspect something else like coolant or Tombukt2's idea round the heater core leak (not sure where that is). When I opened the engine and sniffed around, I didn't find the smell. It is pretty strong inside the car. I tried running the AC and the driver door side vent seemed to have the strongest smell. Where can I check to see a leak?

    I am going to try and get a mechanic to take a look mid week. If I can narrow it down before then it would be nicer though as this is an expensive mechanic. Also, I was just getting ready to sell this prius to upgrade. It has been incredibly reliable and I hope this repair cost won't prevent me from upgrading.
     
  7. Kiran

    Kiran Junior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2013
    8
    0
    0
    Vehicle:
    2004 Prius
    Model:
    II
    I think this could be the problem. Unfortunately, watching a youtube video scared me with the scope of work to fix the heater core leak. Crazy amount of labor and definitely above my skill level. i am feeling like this car is going to be hard to recover value from at this point. hope i can still get something for so i can upgrade.
     
  8. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2018
    7,011
    6,603
    1
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Vehicle:
    2018 Prius c
    Model:
    Two

    You should be proud of getting your moneys' worth out of this car, even if you used it all up and there's nothing left to sell on.

    In your shoes I would not proceed with this repair; it will cost less to apply more earnings directly to the next car rather than put money into this car to recover its value.
     
    Kiran likes this.
  9. Tombukt2

    Tombukt2 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2020
    8,512
    1,477
    0
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Vehicle:
    2009 Prius
    Model:
    Base
    These kind of things get more interesting by the day the two generation threes and the four twos that we have here have had no air conditioning or heat or core problems maybe they happen on somebody else's watch but almost every repair piece of information has been in all four of these cars I don't see anything about radiators or heater cores or evaporator cores I have done these in older Toyota's back in the '80s a couple of times not near as bad but on a generation two I would just relegate that car to winter duty or something like that or it would sit quite a while before I got the wild hair to tear it all apart especially if it doesn't have all the good stuff in the car like leather interior and all of that I'm certainly not going to do it to a tan interior velor material car that's a throw away the minute you get it that's a work vehicle to get all nasty and dirty Not generally a keeper.
     
    Kiran likes this.
  10. Kiran

    Kiran Junior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2013
    8
    0
    0
    Vehicle:
    2004 Prius
    Model:
    II
    Thanks everyone. There is a small chance it is a hose or seal somewhere. Let’s see if I get lucky. Otherwise 14 years since I bought it for $12k. I can’t complain honestly. Has treated us well for a long time.
     
  11. TMR-JWAP

    TMR-JWAP Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2016
    6,156
    5,840
    0
    Location:
    Columbia, SC
    Vehicle:
    2007 Prius
    Model:
    Touring
    If it comes down to not wanting to spend a ton on repairs (if needed) there's always the last resort of leak stop. Although not always recommended, when a choice exists between scrapping it and trying leak stop, the leak stop should win every time. Just go with a good quality version. I've also seen people just bypass the heater core if the leak is not repairable or too $$ to fix. there's several ways to get additional years of use from the car, if needed.
     
  12. Tombukt2

    Tombukt2 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2020
    8,512
    1,477
    0
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Vehicle:
    2009 Prius
    Model:
    Base
    Yes here in NC that car would not get thrown away It would just be relegated to other duties that's all there's plenty of time in the year here where I don't need the air conditioning and most of the time I don't use heat so the car would be far from scratch It would be used another 15 years parts running and doing whatever with it No way it'll get scrapped It just won't be traveled in in business clothes or any of that kind of stuff especially when it's 100° out.