How to Make Someone’s Car Smell Really Bad: Tips to Remove Funky Odors

Living in a small space like your car’s interior cabin can quickly make it smell like a high school locker room. If you’re struggling with funky odors, there are a few things you can do to remove them. Here are three tips to help you out:

1. Remove all the items from your car: This sounds simple, but most people find the source of the smell from this quick search. Leaky sports drinks, lost gym shirts, sweaty running shoes, and the year-old french fry hidden in the seat track are common culprits. If you find the source of the odor, scrub the area with carpet cleaner, wet vac, and blot dry. If the odor remains, sprinkle baking soda on the fabric and allow a few hours to absorb the smell. Afterward, vacuum the powder or repeat the steps again if the odor lingers.

2. Check your car’s cabin filter: Similar to your engine’s air filter, the cabin filter cleans your vehicle’s HVA system to prevent pollutants like pollen, dust, and mold spores from entering the cabin. However, as interior smells circulate the HVA system, it penetrates the paper filter and may cause it to smell. So, find and remove the old cabin filter, but don’t replace it just yet.

3. Clean your vents: For really bad odors, removing and replacing the cabin filter may not be enough. The vents themselves may still have lingering odor or mildew and will continue to fill the cabin with funky air when the fan is turned on. Likewise, the AC condenser is a breeding ground of mold due to the moisture it creates during operation. To clean your vents, start by taking your vent cleaner and spraying it in all the vents, including the intake opening on the inside of the car and the outside fresh air intake. Then, start your car and put the AC on full blast with recirculation on. Spray both intakes again and let the system run for a few minutes. Afterward, turn the AC and recirculation off but leave the fan on full blast and lower your windows. This will draw in fresh air from the outside and further clean out the system.

One last quick tip for cars with smoke smell is to focus on the driver’s side B pillar, the headliner, and the seatbelt itself. Scrubbing them with carpet or fabric cleaner will reduce the smoke smell, but multiple applications will be needed in most cases.

Now you know how to eliminate funky odors from your car’s interior cabin. Follow these tips, and your car will smell fresh and clean in no time.