Tips from Used Car Advisor

Car Advisor Tamotsu Todoroki

Hi, this is Tamotsu Todoroki. I am a car advisor of
I write an online column every week to take care of your vehicle. My column is all about something useful and practical for your vehicle. Please have a look once to keep your car in good condition.


How to Get Rid of an Unpleasant Odor in a Car - Vol.399

The new car smell is certainly a scent that most car lovers find very appealing. Unfortunately, it is exactly what its name suggests - a smell that only new cars have. As we know very well, nothing can be new forever and cars are no exception.

After some time, our cars tend to develop different odors, some of which might not be so pleasant. When the interior of a car develops a peculiar odor, there can be several causes.

Some scents are self-revealing. Such is the case with gasoline and oil smells. When these are suspected, the best thing to do is to have the car thoroughly inspected for possibly hazardous leaks.

Other odors can be strikingly unfamiliar and hard to detect. Air fresheners can be used to mask the less intense fragrances, but a long-term solution is usually more complex.

The Source of the Odor
Carpets, floor mats, upholstery, seat covers, and forgotten food top this list. Cigarette smoke is a great contributor too and so are the unwanted spills which can even cause mold. A dirty air conditioner filter or trapped water can also make your car smell bad.

When an unwanted odor is detected inside the car, the first and best thing to do is to conduct a detailed search. Usually, you should be able to find the source. If a search fails to deliver satisfying results, a meticulous and comprehensive cleaning of all surfaces is the best way to go.

Cleaning Your Car
Vacuum-cleaning can do miracles for many kinds of odors originating in carpets and the upholstery. A smell confined in the fabric can linger for a long time, but it can be efficiently eliminated by proper vacuuming or steam cleaning.

Along with vacuum cleaning, the car's interior should be given a good wipe down using a clean cloth, warm water, and other appropriate products. This is particularly useful when trying to get rid of a cigarette smell because the tar from the smoke usually forms a sticky deposit on all interior surfaces. The use of car deodorants, post-cleaning, is highly recommended.

Dealing with a Lingering Smell
If the cause of the odor is a spill (soft drinks, water, milk, etc.) or a bodily liquid stain (urine, vomit, etc.), putting charcoal or sprinkling baking soda over it could absorb the smell. These should, of course, be removed after a while by vacuuming or steam cleaning.

Checking under the carpets and floor mats for mold and mildew could prove to be important as these can also be the source of a rather obnoxious odor. Humidity, condensation and unwanted water collection make up perfect conditions for the growth of these organisms. They are easily removed even with the vacuum cleaner, but the bigger concern should be the cause behind the appearance of the condensation.

Going Pro Sometimes Helps
Unpleasant smells can also come from other areas of the car. This is why sometimes it may be necessary to hire a professional to check the car's ventilation system, air conditioner, heaters and engine parts for leaks and unwanted vapors.

More persistent odors may also require professional attention and some of them might never be completely gone. With older cars, the very materials, adhesives, and chemicals used during the production of the car's interior may over time develop an unpleasant smell.

Luckily, cases like these are rare and most odors can be efficiently removed with chemical products available today and a determined and comprehensive cleaning effort.