Mobile Detailing Services

Top 5 Places Odor Hides in Your Car

By: Adam Churchwell

Maybe you left the window open when it rained.  Did you spill your coffee while driving to work? It’s possible your kids left all kinds of who knows what in the back seat.  Were the previous owners smokers?  Under any circumstance, foul odors make it near impossible to enjoy your time in the car.

So you’ve replaced your floor mats, had your seats and floor shampooed, sprayed every odor eliminator on the market and bought enough air freshener trees to build a log cabin.  It seems no matter what you do you can’t seem to get rid of the smell. So what could you be missing and what can you do to finally eliminate that stench?

Here is a countdown of the top 5 places foul odors hide in your car and what can be done to eliminate them for good

The Places You Don’t See


5) It’s in the floor compartments

Be it a vacation or a trip to the home improvement store, stow and go seating has made life considerably easier for families to travel and transport simultaneously.  Many times however, they are left unattended and without being cleaned by owners and detailers alike.  Open them up, vacuum, spray odor eliminator, and let them air out once in a while.  Sometimes just them being closed for extended periods of time can cause a stagnate smell to permeate through the vehicle.

4) It’s under the back seat

I swear my kids can turn even solid objects into liquids and then immediately spill them without ever saying a word about it.  Cleaning the top of the seat is not enough to eliminate odors like spilled milk, old snack foods, and candy that have made their way into the darkest depths of the back seat.

Some seats can be lifted easily as they are on hinges that can be released by pulling a lever or strap.  Others are held in by simple clips that can be popped by pulling a seat in a specific direction.  Others require tools to be removed.  Either way to truly get odors caused by spills in the backseat may require lifting or removing the seat all together.  Only then can you get a thorough cleaning underneath as well as the bottom of the cushion itself.

3) It’s in the trunk

We all have done it at least once in our lifetime.  We forgot a bag of groceries or didn’t notice that something fell out of one in our trunk.  Unfortunately just removing the old food or drink isn’t usually enough to remove the smell.  The top, sides, fabric on the lid, and floor of the trunk may need to be steamed and shampooed.  If there is a spare tire under the carpet, you should probably also clean that compartment.

2) It’s in the Air Conditioning 

Odors are don’t just get trapped in fabrics.  They travel through the air and can get bound on other surfaces.  They circulate through your A.C. system and can get caught up in your cabin air filter as well as bind to condensation in the system.  That condensation then dries and the odor sticks to the inner linings of your A.C..

So next time you spray the odor eliminator, turn the a.c. on full blast and spray it into the return vent (it’s usually under the dash).  Also if your car has one, replace the cabin air filter.

1) It’s in the headliner

The number 1 reason smells are still in your vehicle…the headliner.  Last year I completed 65 odor elimination services for a local dealership and more than half of them were resolved by cleaning the headliner.  You have to know what your doing when cleaning a headliner.  Most are glued and can’t be heavily saturated with liquids.  It’s also not recommended to use heat to clean headliners as it can separate the glue from the fabric.  If you are going to go at it alone, start by using a pH neutral cleaner and a microfiber towel.  Mist the towel and work small sections at a time.  If you can’t get it out on your own, call in a professional.

Honorable Mention

It’s a good idea to check your seat belts from time to time.  Getting in and out of your car during rain and snow can lead to a musty smell building up in your seat belts.  Kids can also transfer food and liquids from their hands and clothes to the belts and that can lead to some stinky and sticky situations.