Need professional (in Brooklyn) to make car smell better.
March 27, 2007 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Know of any car care specialists in or around Brooklyn that can make my car stop smelling so bad?

About a year ago my girlfriend left my back window down overnight and it rained. Ever since, the entire car -- front seat, back seat, floor mats, and trunk -- has reeked (I can't tell if the air blowing from the vents also smells or not). The smell is not acrid, just very musty and pervasive. I assume it is some sort of mold or mildew, but can't say for sure.

I've tried most of the tricks suggested in related Ask MeFi threads -- fabric softener, Febreze, Borax, activated charcoal -- all to no avail.

I've also gone to two professionals so far (one in Boston, one in Brooklyn) both who claimed they could do it, but they just did a standard shampoo and sprayed the car down with some nasty perfume, which did not dampen the smell, just made it temporarily more complex.

Because of this, I feel I can't trust anyone I call. I need hard core anecdotal evidence from a group of strangers on the internet. Any suggestions?
posted by blapst to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are screwed. Seriously. Fixing the smell could cost more than your car is worth.... Mold is impossible to remove except by taking everything out of your car (the seats and all the carpet) and replacing it. Especially after this much time. My car was intermittently like this for a year or two. Then it got a lot worse in the winter of this year. I just had it fixed to the tune of replacing all of the carpeting in the entire car.

I looked into getting an ozone generator, which can kill mold, if you can get the concentration of ozone high enough. I liked the stuff I saw at "Air-Zone" ( Also you could check Jenseco. Many of these are expensive ($200-$400 for what I was planning to buy). But there's a 30 day 100% guarantee. So if you were slightly less than perfectly ethical, you could buy one, use it, and, if it didn't work *wink wink*, you could return it. I did not wind up buying one of these generators, but I think it had a 50% chance of working. Especially if you can close all of the windows (except the one that will need to be cracked since the cord needs to run somewhere) and leave it on for hours. Repeatedly.

Best of luck.

A final option I tried (without any luck, but I'll suggest it here for completeness) was calling body shops and mechanics. Any body shop that deals with water damage *should* have one of these, but I couldn't find anybody who would admit to having one. I didn't look that hard, so maybe that's an option for you. This would consist of, I imagine dropping off the car, having them run the ozone generator for a few hours for a couple of days and then giving the car back.
posted by zpousman at 2:05 PM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

A few thoughts:

You need to treat the interior as if it were flood damaged, which, in essence, it was.

This site has a good overview of how to restore a flood damaged vehicle. Ignore the pages that explain repairing mechanical damage, and study the pages that explain restoring the interior. This is the sort of comprehensive approach you need to apply if you really want to solve the problem.

With that in mind, talk to a firm like these guys: They specialize in flood damage repair, especially carpet and fabrics, and are located in Brooklyn. (No affiliation, so thank Google...) If they can't do the work themselves, they should be able to recommend someone who can.

Good luck!
posted by mosk at 2:15 PM on March 27, 2007

Have you tried an enzymatic cleaner? I don't know if it would work on mold/mildew, but supposedly they work on most organic odor causes. I know it works on getting vomit/urine smells out of carpets/upholstery. It's not that expensive, so I think it's worth a shot...Nature's Miracle is a great brand and you can get it at most major petstores.
posted by tastybrains at 2:35 PM on March 27, 2007

Sounds like you almost need a reupholsterer. Can you isolate the source of the smell? Seats? Carpet? Underlay? Maybe buy a replacement carpet from a car wrecker, or get new seats. Not cheap, but cheaper than a new car.
posted by tomble at 11:42 PM on March 27, 2007

I was told a while back, by a guy I knew who ran a full service car wash, that the key to removing smells was a machine that generates ozone. For a hundred bucks, his people would run this machine inside the car for a few hours. He said it would smell like burnt popcorn for a few days but, after that, both the original odor and the burnt popcorn smell would be gone.

On the linked page (which I never saw in my life until three minutes ago when I googled "ozone machine remove smell"), it claims that the machine will eliminate mold odors. It says that before you begin, the interior should be completely dry, but it doesn't say anything about getting rid of the mold. However, common sense tells me that if you don't get rid of the actual gunk itself, the problem will return.

Please keep in mind... I've never used these procedures or anything like them. I'm not giving them a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I'm just passing along what I've heard.
posted by Clay201 at 6:28 AM on March 28, 2007

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