Skip to main content

Why Your New Hyundai Pallisade Smells Funky

Notice something funky about the smell in your new Hyundai Palisade? You are not alone but there’s an over-the-counter solution that, unfortunately, requires a bit of high-tech skill around Nappa leather.


Now this is the kind of news you can use. Are you one of the 85,000 or so people to buy a Hyundai Palisade? If so, you might have noticed an unusual smell. Don’t worry. Hyundai has a solution for your stinky seats.

The Hyundai Palisade has been a huge hit for the Korean automaker. It’s the brand’s fourth best-selling vehicle in 2020 and it has reaped accolades including just this week Mid-Size SUV of Texas at the 2020 Texas Auto Writers Association Annual Texas Truck Rodeo.

Yet, there’s something wrong with how the Palisade smells. One Canadian poster on a forum for Palisade owners reports, “I'm working through this right now as I shop for a Palisade, and try to navigate the risks of buying a $60,000 vehicle that smells like a delicious Middle Eastern Wrap. So far, of the four dealerships here in Winnipeg, not a single one has admitted to knowing/hearing anything about the smell.

“When I forwarded publications to them, they seemed surprised. I've spoken with a Palisade owner in Winnipeg who was given the same treatment by the dealerships, but he went ahead and purchased one. There's clearly a dealership moratorium on talking about the problem until Hyundai properly diagnoses/fixes it, and while I understand it … it's a bit frustrating.”

2021 Hyundai Palisade sunroof overview

Apparently, Hyundai has come up with a solution. After this story was originally posted, a Hyundai spokesperson reached out to us to say, "Hyundai takes this issue very seriously and is making things right for our customers. Engineers have successfully isolated the odor to the headrests of Palisade Limited and Palisade Calligraphy models. A treatment process for the headrests that neutralizes the odor has been developed and it is now available at Hyundai dealerships nationwide."

It is important to note that only a small number of Palisade owners have experienced this issue, the spokesperson added.

A technical service bulletin, or TSB, provided to says Febreze is the answer. Using it correctly is a whole other issue, though.

The TSB directs that the foam inside the headrests and the seatbacks be doused with the scent-defying neutralizing agent. also says the TSB suggests other agents including unscented Febreze Fabric Refresher, pure&clean Surface Cleanser and Zep Air and Fabric Odor Eliminator.

The problem is the specificity of applying the agent. The materials are over the counter in availability. “But the TSB outlines a specific procedure for opening up the underside of the headrest to expose the inner foam and advises affected owners to get the work done at a dealership to avoid unintentional damage to the Nappa leather surfaces or stitching,” according to the post.

There is one caveat to this scent-fighting technique. It may not work the first time or at all. Hyundai says if it fails initially you need to try, try again until you find the right agent. Some Palisade owners have reported the treatment does not appear to work against a smell some have described as garlic or old, worn socks.

2021 Hyundai Palisade cracked windshield

Another issue plaguing the Palisade has been cracking windshields. As TorqueNews first reported last spring, some owners reported windshields spontaneously cracking without being struck by any debris. The story said, “Even small insects clashing with the windshields have caused cracks, which is a bit alarming.”

Keith Griffin covers Hyundai and Kia at Torque News. He has been writing continuously about cars since 2002. Keith used to be a researcher/writer for US News & World Report, as well as numerous car sites, including Carfax and Car Gurus, and a contributor to The Boston Globe. Most recently, Keith was the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter and on @LinkedIn.


Brian (not verified)    May 31, 2021 - 7:54PM

Hyundai has failed to fix the smell problem. I have had my 2021 Palisade for over seven months and have had it at the dealership’s service department six times for the problem/treatment and reported a complaint several times with Hyundai. They replaced two headrests (out six headrest) but the vehicle still smells. No one from. Hyundai has contacted me with solid solution or a plan forward??? I’m concerned with possible health risk and longtime exposure to out gassing in a confined space for my family. Has anyone tested the smell/air for low-level toxins?

Angela Planche Clark (not verified)    October 20, 2021 - 7:26PM

In reply to by Brian (not verified)

My GV 80 started smelly about four weeks after I purchased it! It’s so bad I don’t want to drive it anymore. My throat burns and I get a headache. The car is beautiful but I just can’t deal with the chemicals. Dealership hasn’t really helped.