Reader Question: Getting Rid of The Funk?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Mindy asks:  Thanks for your article the other day about cleaning your own car. My question is about the smell of my car. It stinks! I’ve tried Febreze and other things but the car still has a “funky” smell that just doesn’t go away. Any advice?

My reply: The first thing I’d do is ascertain whether your car has any leaks – including internal ones, as from a leaking heater core. Feel with your hands for any sign of moisture on the carpets; be sure to feel up in the footwell area of both the driver and passenger side; a coolant leak – if you have one – is more likely on the passenger side. If you have a leaking heater core, the funk will not go away until the leak is fixed – and the carpet dried out.

A water leak will also lead to funk. A good way to check for a leak is to go through an automated car wash and see whether any water is slipping past door seals and so on. Once again, feel the carpet. If it’s wet, you will need to find the leak – then dry the carpet. It may also be necessary to shampoo the carpet, to get the stink out.

The best way to do this is with the seats out. Usually, they can be removed from their tracks by unbolting them. Now you have access to the whole surface area and can vacuum, shampoo and dry the carpet. Be sure it is dry before you put the seats back.

If you had a bad leak, it may be necessary to replace the carpet/underlay – if mold has taken hold.

Also: Check the air box (where the air filter is housed) for dead rodents. That is another way for funk to get into your car!

And: Check the drainage holes for the AC (look underneath the car, around the cowl area). If water stays inside the vents, the Funk will be with you, always!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. When you’re drowning the thing in Febreze don’t forget about the headliner, windows, dash, etc. Having had to fumigate several hand me down company trucks, most of which were driven by smokers, Febreze works ok on the cigarette smoke, but not much for other stuff.

  2. Though of that old Seinfeld episode with the car with the smell that wouldn’t go away.

    Once had my nephews in my old van. After that, funky smell that wouldn’t go. Turns out one of them had stuck some unwanted food in the spare tire compartment. Where it then rotted and stank up the joint. Took a while to find it too. Yuck.

  3. If there are none of the issues Eric suggests, try putting a pail full of vinegar in the car with the heater system on recirculate for 15 minutes. Leave the pail in the car overnight with the windows up. Air out the car thoroughly the next day.

    If that does not do it, try leaving an ozone generator running in the car overnight.

  4. Sometimes the HVAC has funk in it. Turn the AC on full blast and spray a full can of Lysol into the intake vents on the outside.. this can kill bacteria that has colonized and help if the smell is coming from your vents.

    • Anon, that works well when I’ve done it. I used to have a vehicle I could remove the entire carpet by simply unbolting the front seats and loosening the console. Every now and again, I’d take it out, wash and scrub hell out of it, hang it on the line to rinse and dry. The carpet always looked like new as did the rest of the interior. Back in the 60’s there were few choices to make your interior surfaces look good and smell good. I used Lemon Pledge on everything but the glass. That was the first car I owned and the one I began using was on the glass.

      People were always asking if I had new carpet. Even the last pickup(till this Z71 POS)I owned looked that way when it was 19 years old. The original owner didn’t smoke and neither did I and I wouldn’t allow anyone to smoke in it.

      It’s weird it never seemed to send a man into a frenzy by not smoking, then again, I didn’t know many men who smoke. But the women, lord almight, the anguish they suffered not being able to smoke nearly killed them.It was no fun for me either since I’d have to stop and let them “open air” smoke. I almost tried to make them change clothes and take a shower. I”m extremely allergic to cigarette smoke but don’t want my vehicle to smell like anything except now and again, I’d put some fresh basil in the cutoff toe of an old sock and stick under the seat.


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