Getting rid of a bad car smell, can be difficult. Just when you have totally gassed yourself with odour removers, cleaners and such, you think you have got rid of it, only to climb back in your car the next day and find that familiar, yet nauseating smell has come back, with the added twist of roses, pine needles or citrus smell on top of it, depending on the type of cleaners you were using.



Car Ionizer

Finding the Source

With a bad car odour, the first thing you have to do is become a detective, or a CSI. You have to take apart the crime scene piece by piece. You need to dedicate, a Saturday, or a day where you can dissect your car and find the source. There is no point in spraying everything, and scrubbing away if you don't know where the source is. All this does, is make everything look clean, but you still have that smell, and now you are tired.

Finding the source of a bad car smell is your first task. Start by taking out the floor mats, they can harbour all kinds of rotting things. By squatting down at the side of your car, as you take out the mats, you can usually see evidence, if that is the source.

Under the floor mats, there can be a whole colony of smelly things. Last year I had a lingering aroma, only to find out my son had stepped in some "doo doo" and the got in the car, it had worked its way through the mats, because I had cleaned them over and over, but it still came back. I kept getting poo smell laced with pine needles from my cleaners!  

Check under the seats as well for random rotting food products (yes it can happen)  You entire car can smell like a science project very quickly especially in the winter months.

After removing the mats, you then need to give it all a good vacuum, and then a sniff check. In most cases, this is where the offending smell starts, or just under the seats near the mat, where things can get pushed by your feet. It somehow can work its way through mats, especially the carpet ones, and especially in the winter months, when you turn on the heater.

If you give your car a good wash at the car wash, and get right down and aim the nozzle under the car, you can loosen smelly things you may have picked up off of muddy laneways, that can work their odours into your car, then shampoo your carpets, let dry and then maybe this is a good time to treat yourself to some new mats.

Bowl of Vinegar

Next, overnight, place a bowl of vinegar. This will absorb any lingering odours, it has a great way of neutralizing odours. Just don't forget to remove this bowl of vinegar, or you will have the new smell of spilled vinegar.

Check the Engine Compartment

But sometimes a bad car smell, doesn't start in the car, but somewhere else. This is what happened to me. Hope you have had your breakfast before you read this. I am still grossed out, and I am not a squeamish person.

I was visiting a house, on a cold night about a week ago, when the neighbour saw me leaving, he said "it smells like your house has a natural gas leak" We had just put a new furnace in this house we are renovating, so I became very concerned and ran back in, but everything seemed OK. I smelled that "rotten egg smell" of natural gas or propane.. But I couldn't find it in the house.

I went back to our house, and thought nothing of it, but soon realized that this odd bad car smell was coming from my car. I would notice it, as I climbed out of the car or a quick whiff of it when walking around the car. I don't have a "propane" car, so couldn't figure it out. It is winter here, and I figured I just had something nasty under my car somewhere. It only showed up when the car was warm and running. Finally yesterday it was cold here, and I had my defroster on, and the smell of rotten eggs and gas was strong. So, my daughter figured something had died.. I just didn't have the courage to open my hood. Got my hubby to do it this morning, he didn't see anything right away.

We had our heads right in there looking around, when he suddenly noticed it and the smell. A large mouse, must have crawled on top of my engine. He was curled up on the oil filler cap, and well you can imagine the rest.. He must have just died there and then for the next week, he was heating up and I was filling my car with this smelly heat.. Gross!

So, today, is totally clean my car day, and I am going to put in 5 bowls of vinegar overnight!..

We didn't notice it right away, because he was the exact same color as my engine.. Black/gray.. Felt bad, but grossed out at the same time. I guess he crawled up there to stay warm and then just died..

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Dead Mouse

So, there ends the saga of the bad car smell, but this just shows you, you need to investigate the source of the smell first, so that you can attack the smell with the right cleaners. Otherwise, you just get that nasty smell laced with the smell of cleaners, which sometimes is worse!

Vinegar can be one of your best friends when it comes to removing odours. Once you have identified the odour, removed what you could, and you are just left with that "not so nice air" leaving an open bowl of vinegar in the car works really well.

But don't limit your investigation of a bad car smell to the inside of the car, you odour just may be lurking somewhere else, and if you have a weak stomach, then maybe you should invest in a "detailing of your car" where they get right in there and find it for you…