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why does my car air conditioner stink

If there is an odd, moldy smell that kicks in as soon as you turn your air conditioning on, you don't have to close your nose and bear it. More likely than not, you've built up some mold and mildew thanks to moisture in your AC system. This moisture occurs naturally, and is part of the car, but if left for too long it can create mold. As air pumps past the evaporator and into the car, it picks up mold spores, which feed on the moisture. Luckily, they are easy to clean, and your car will smell good as new.

Note: This article deals with AC odors, which are moldy, mildewy smells (like old socks, wet dogs, etc. ) For burning or chemically smells, take your car to a dealer immediately.
This is a common problem for all air conditioners (in a car or not), and is caused by mildew growth. In cars it often happens when people run their A/C on the recirculation all of the time, or the drain gets clogged. The system doesn't dry out completely and mildew starts to grow.

You should be concerned about your health, especially if you have allergies. Just imagine all that mildew and god knows what else growing in there and being spewed in your face every time you turn the A/C on. Here's a link to describing how mold may affect health, if you are still not convinced. Run it on recirculation only when something stinks outside, or you want it to cool down quickly. Fresh air from outside will help it dry out better. Make sure that your A/C drain isn't clogged and there is no water building up.

Run the heater on full for a while, that will dry out the system and might 'cook' the mildew. Change your cabin air filter (if you have one). There are special sprays sold to remove the mildew from the A/C system (read the instructions carefully before using them). Just using Lysol or some other stuff like that will work too, but the smell will be more unpleasant. I suggest that you do all of this, and in the specified order.

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