Many things can cause bad smells in your car, and some smells are harder to get rid of than others.
Common Second-Hand Car Smells
If you have bought a used car, the bad smell might be lingering from when the previous owner owned it. Some of the most recognisable smells which can linger may be from if the previous driver regularly smoked while driving, if they spilled some milk or food, and if the car smells damp due to moisture.
Burning or Rubber Smells
If you’re driving your own car, which you bought brand new, then an unexplained smell might indicate a problem with your engine, your gearbox, or your air conditioning. You might want to get this checked out by a mechanic to make sure everything is working as it should be.
How to Get Rid of Smoke & Other Bad Smells
In any case, whether you’re looking to remove a mysterious scent in a second-hand car, or you want some advice for cleaning up your own spillage, this is your essential guide to getting rid of smells in your car.
Deep Clean Your Car
You can pay a professional to thoroughly clean your car. But it’ll be cheaper to do it yourself.
Start by airing your car. If you can, open your car’s windows or doors for a short while before you start cleaning. This will allow fresh air to circulate, which should get rid of some of the lingering smells.
Next, check every nook and cranny of your car for any old food or rubbish, and any particularly dirty or dusty areas. This alone might remove the source of the bad smell! But it’s more likely that the smell’s trapped in your car’s upholstery.
Thoroughly hoovering your car can make a huge difference, along with cleaning all of your car’s interior surfaces. Some products are particularly good at absorbing bad smells. Before hoovering you could try sprinkling baking soda on your car’s upholstery and leaving it for a few hours, this may help to absorb some of the smell.
If hoovering doesn’t do the trick, you could hire a steam cleaner for an even deeper clean that could break down the lingering odours in your upholstery.
Air Neutralisers and Air Fresheners
Many products will help you either mask the smell, or else neutralise it entirely.
For example, you could try leaving activated charcoal in your car for a few days. Charcoal is highly absorbent, and over time it may absorb all of the nasty odours in your car.
Leaving an open jar of ground coffee in your car could have a similar effect. And if you don’t like the smell of coffee, you could use citrus peel or cinnamon instead – to freshen the air rather than neutralising the smell.
Spraying white vinegar solution around your car can also absorb strong odours, but of course this will then make your car smell of vinegar. So you might have to do a lot of extra cleaning once you’ve removed that original bad smell!
And, of course, cheap and cheerful car air fresheners are widely available. While these are a quick fix, they’re not a permanent solution. They’ll just mask the odour rather than removing it. And in time, you might also start to find the artificial smell of air fresheners unpleasant.
Other Sources of Smells in Cars
So you’ve thoroughly cleaned your car, but that smell just won’t go away. What now?
The smell might be coming from your car’s air conditioning system and there are some ways you can try and fix a stale, damp and musty smell.
Or, the smell might be due to an issue with your engine, clutch, or brakes. In which case, the bad smell might be a sign of a much deeper problem. So you should investigate this with a garage as soon as possible!
This is why it’s important to get regular services for your car. Regular servicing will help you identify and fix any emerging issues long before they become problems.
And if anything ever does go seriously wrong with your car when you are out driving, adding breakdown cover to your policy will give you all the support you need.