If you've recently purchased a used car from a previous owner, you may find that there is a used-car odor that comes along with the car. Used cars won't have that new-car smell that most people love, but that doesn't mean you should have to put up with very unpleasant odors. It can be hard sometimes to detect the source of the odor. Once you do find that, it can be harder still to get rid of the odor. Here's a guide to handling bad odors in a car.
Determine If It's Coming from Inside or Outside
Odors sometimes originate from the engine. If you only notice the odor when the vehicle is running, it could be that the smell is coming from under the hood. You can lift the lid to see if you detect anything visually, but if not, bring the car to a mechanic. Sometimes little critters find warmth inside your car's engine in cold weather and get trapped and die in there. In that case, you'll certainly want a professional to handle any removal and clean up.
If the smell is there even when the car isn't running, it's probably coming from the interior. Use your nose to pinpoint a general location. Don't discount areas such as inside the car door or inside the upholstery.
Figure Out the Cause
Figuring out what is causing the smell can be a combination of sensing if the matter is organic or foreign. Foreign smells may emanate from things like greasy metal parts, soiled gym bags, or worn sneakers. If this is the cause, simply removing the items and using a car freshener will likely get rid of the odor.
If the smell is organic, it might be caused from mildew. This can occur from leaving the windows open in the rain or fog or allowing damp towels to remain on the car's fabric seats. If you determine that the smell is mildew, choose a dry day to leave the doors open and the windows down. This will give the car interior a chance to dry out, effectively neutralizing the mildew smell. If the carpet or upholstery is still very wet, use a wet vacuum to soak up excess moisture in addition to letting the car interior vent.
To avoid this scenario of dealing with used-car odors, purchase your used car from a reputable used-car dealership that will take care of this issue for you.