Causes of Car Odors and Proper Elimination Methods

Causes of Car Odors and Proper Elimination Methods

Most people experience some type of odor in their car at one point or another. They do one of two things. They either buy some type of air freshener effectively mask the smell and wonder why the smell comes back once the air freshener wears off. Or, they find the underlying problem causing the odor, fix the issue and use a proper method to remove the residual odor. It is this second group of people that find more success removing odor from their vehicles in the long term and have a better automotive experience long-term.

There can be many reasons for your car to have unusual odors. Luckily, unique smells give clues as to what is causing the problem. I am going to address the most common car odors, and the most likely causes. I will talk about how to fix the problems causing car odor and how to correct them. After discussing how to correct the causes of odor issues, I will discuss the proper way to rid your car of unwanted odors. O

Car Odors and Causes

Smelling something rotten in your car is probably going to be the worst smelling odor that can occur in your car, but luckily it is also among the easiest to correct. Some people refer to this as “the smell of death”. More than likely you have food rotting in your car somewhere. Be sure to look around and under your seats for either food you have forgotten in your car or food that may have fallen.

Fishy Smell

This is going to be a surprise to many of you but the smell of fish in your car is likely to be caused by antifreeze. In this case you may need to bring your car to a mechanic. It may be problem with the heater core or the heater control valve.

Fruity Odor

Fruity Odor is another odor pointing to antifreeze. It may smell sweet like maple syrup, cinnamon, or butterscotch. You car might be leaking coolant from the head gasket or a problem with your radiator or heating hose.

Musty Odor

Musty odor is the most common unpleasant odor that I have come across in various cars. The cause of musty odors is mold or mildew. It often occurs due to exposure to water. This is one reason that it is advised not to leave windows open if there is any possibility of rain. This is a pretty easy fix and the odor eliminator that I recommend in the next section will do the trick.

Smoke Smell

The smell of smoke can be a long lasting odor whether it is tobacco or from other sources. Many people believe that the odor caused by smoking is permanent. This is simply not true and I’m going to teach you the easy way to remove it. You can even buy cars for a discount due to them having a smoke odor and easily remove the odor once you get the car home.

Rotten Egg Smell

If your car smells like rotten eggs or sulfur, there is most likely a problem with your catalytic converter.

Gasoline Smell

If the interior of your car smells like gasoline, there is definitely a problem. Gasoline is getting somewhere it shouldn’t. You should look for a gas leak or take your car to a mechanic before eliminating the odor.

Urine Smell

If your car smells like urine there is more than one potential cause. The first is if you had animals in your car. If you had a pet in your car, it’s pretty difficult to keep them from urinating while you’re driving. The urine can seep into your carpeting or deep into your seats.Traditional, this can be difficult to remove but the odor elimination method I am going to recommend will make it a breeze. The other potential problem is rodents. It’s not uncommon in locations with rodents to gain access to your air conditioning system and make it a home. This can occur is cities where rats dwell or in rural areas where mice run a muck. Rodents carry bacteria called ureases which smell like urine, so after you remove the rodents from your vehicle their is still an odor problem that you will have to correct.

Dead Animal Smell

If you think you smell a dead animal in your car, the truth is that you probably do. Rodents like to crawl under your hood to build nests. There may be warning signs like unusual sounds coming from your fan. You can even take precautions if you park your car in locations known to have rodents in the area such as installing wire mesh to prevent entrance or anti-rodent tape which looks like standard duct tape but has a layer of high dose capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot sauce).

Sour Milk

I have smelt sour milk in cars and it was particularly unpleasant. Most cases, have been due to spills or leakages from baby bottles. It can be difficult to remove because the milk soaks into the seats and you can’t reach it with traditional cleaning methods. I am going to offer you a solution for this in the next section.

Burning Rubber Smell

An odor of burning rubber is one of the odors that has a number of possible causes. In most cases this is something that you should have a mechanic investigate. The simplest problem is that there may be a plastic bag stuck to your exhaust pipe. It can also be caused by your AC compressor overheating, a lose hose under your hood coming into contact with hot components, an oil leak from one of your gaskets, an electrical short, or a coolant leak.

Paint Odor

The most likely reason for a car to smell like paint is someone spray painting under their hood with improper paint. This smell can also be caused by a malfunctioning solenoid or a refrigerant leak. Some people also describe this smell as similar to paint thinner, nail polish remover or acetone. These paint odors have the potential to be toxic so you need to get this problem resolved right away.

Waxy Smell

Waxy smells are most likely encountered in older Mercedez-Benz, BMWs and most notably Volkswagens. The odor is coming from insulation which has a waxy coating. This is not a serious issue.

How To Eliminate Odors

The best way to kill odor is by using an oxidizing agent. To explain what an oxidizing agent is as simply as possible, an oxidizing agent is an active compound that changes the structure of compounds that they interact it. Things that we can smell are aromatic compounds. Aromatic compounds are a class of compounds which all have similar chemical structures. Oxidizing agents donate electrons to aromatic compounds disallowing them to function as odor-causing. There is an oxidizing agent on the market designed specifically for cars which is called Biocide Autoshocker.

The way in which Biocide Autoshocker works is proven by science. It also is easy to use. You close your car windows, open the container, and let your car sit for a few hours. It travels through the air into every inch of your car including the spots you would never be able to reach. Biocide is advertised for cigarette use, rotten food, booze, sweat, coffee, and mildew/mold. In reality, it can eliminate any odor because all odors are aromatic compounds which oxidizing agents work.

If you are curious what Biocide is made of, it is a gas called active chlorine dioxide. Within a few hours (and even quicker in the sun), it is decomposed into water and salt. This is why the instructions say to open the container within the car and close your windows and doors. Leave your car to let it sit for a few hours, and your car will be fresh when you get back.

One thing that made me eager to try Biocide Autoshocker is that it comes with a money back guarantee. This made me feel comfortable with my first purchase and I am glad I decided to give it a go.

The Problems with Other Odor Elimination Methods

Air Fresheners

Air fresheners are the common approach to dealing with car odors. I myself occasionally use air fresheners when I come across a scent that I like. The difference is that I don’t try to use air fresheners to try to eliminate odors. At the very best, air fresheners can mix with odors or mask them, but when the air freshener wears off, the odor will still be there. You could continually replenish air fresheners, but I’m not comfortable in a car knowing that there is a stench lurking underneath.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can sometimes be useful as an odor eliminator but when you use it, you need to cover the source of the smell with the baking soda for it to go away. I find biocide must simpler to use. Even if you try to cover your whole interior with baking soda it will never get in all the nooks and crannies of you car. I like to open bioshock in my car and be happy knowing that it will be dispersed into all the hard to reach areas like under the seats, penetrating into the seats and headliner, and into the air conditioning ducts.


White wine vinegar is sometimes recommended to remove odors from cars. It may or may not work, I have never tried it. I am not comfortable coating the interior of my car with vinegar nor would I be happy if my car retained the smell of vinegar. I prefer to use a professional product that is designed for use on cars and I know works well.


Charcoal is another “natural” remedy sometimes advised for odor elimination. The problem with it is just doesn’t work well. It doesn’t hurt to try as charcoal is inexpensive. You can save some time and skip to the professional grade product that is known to work well, has awesome reviews, and a money back guarantee.

Professional Odor Removers

There are professional odor remover companies in most major cities. They keep your car for a few hours or a few days and do a number of treatments. I never had any issues that I couldn’t solve with bioshock, but if I did I would seek out a professional odor removal company. I have heard that they are highly effective but they do come with a significant increase in cost.

My Best Advice on Odor Removal

I can only speak from my own experience with odor removal. I would say first identify the cause of the odor removal. There may be a mechanical issue that needs to be fixed, or old food that is thrown away. After you fix the issue, then treat the car with bioshock. I buy in bioshock in bulk and always have extra on hand for when me or family need to solve an odor problem in our cars or home.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *