Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Smell

You take your old car to the oil-change place.  They tell you oil is streaming from a hole in the oil pan. They recommend a repair shop two blocks away.  You wonder if it's owned by their brother-in-law who needs a new boat.

The dealership to which you have the car towed calls and says a new engine is $3,000-$5,000; the current value of your vehicle is $50.

Three days later, you're driving a new car.  New to you, that is.  It could have been worse-- the car you located had 13,000 miles, great price, great condition.  They also guaranteed to remove the Cigarette Smell to your satisfaction.

First Stage: 
When you pick up the car, you can no longer see the air inside and the Smell is down to a whisper.  You drive 200 miles blasting outside air through the cabin.

Second Stage:
The next morning the Smell lurks and the big-city dealership is hours away.  You hang a tree-shaped car deodorizer labeled New Car Scent from the rear-view mirror, open four boxes of baking soda, mist the seats and carpet with Febreeze, then blast outside air as you drive about your business.

Third Stage:  
When you next open the car, the Smell is overlaid by an aroma like rotting mango crossed with hot plastic.  You remove the New Car Scent tree.

Fourth Stage:
New Car Scent-the Smell permeates the garage.  You leave the garage door open when you go to spend $50 at the auto parts store.  When you get home, you change the car's air conditioning filter.  You squirt Auto-Febreeze until your finger cramps, douse the carpets with baking soda followed by vacuuming, put new soda cartons in side pockets, and add pronged odor-eater deodorizers to all air vents.  You roll down the car windows so that the seats can dry of Febreeze.
Fifth Stage:
You've banished New Car Scent but the Smell rises every time you get in the car.  You are not personally religious but you think perhaps the car is demon-Smell possessed.  You persuade a friend to "borrow" a bottle of holy water.  You hope you won't have to spray so much that you create a Mold problem, which might be worse than the Smell.  

And then you ask your friends:  Any other ideas?

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. I'm so sorry: my new-to-me car only has a faint perfume smell. I left an open jar of white vinegar in it with the windows cracked for several nights in a row. That helped a little bit. Maybe leave an opened box of regular baking soda for awhile? Good luck.

  2. no ideas.
    but I'm kind of laughing,
    and mostly cringing.

    good luck girlfriend.
    and when I had all my musty musky sweaty gardening stuff in my new car I used bags of vanilla popourri . It never overwhelmed , but gently masked. I just poked a few holes and left them in the trunk .

    this , though, this is serious.

  3. I've heard the coffee can help. Ground in bowls, maybe? Left to sit?

  4. change the filter on the A/C.

  5. You could always take up smoking. . .
    (joking, of course) USUALLY, the best solution to smell problems is vinegar. But in a car? I'm not so sure. Plus there's a risk that your car could possibly end up smelling like a pickle. When my husband came home with a smoky smelling second-hand recliner, I used undiluted rubbing alcohol in a spritzer bottle and sprayed the thing within inches of its life. It actually worked really well. Might be worth a try? Good luck. . .

  6. I've heard those ozone generators are supposed to clear a car of smells (but I'd sure enough borrow one rather than buy it if at all possible).

    Mostly I used a solution of SimpleGreen to wash every surface and all the upholstery, mats and carpeting in my Dad's car when it was time to sell it. It got most of the smoke smell out though I can't say for sure if that was a lasting solution.

    Good luck!

  7. I don't have a solution. Sorry.

    I hate the smell of the car deoderizer trees though. I'd much rather smell cigarette smoke. My grandparents smoked like chimneys, so I find is strangely comforting.



  8. Ooh...that's a hard one.

    Maybe try something from a pet shop. They have all kinds of odor removers.

    Don't forget the headliner, too. Anything fabric, will soak up an odor. Funny, though. It's the bad odors that seem to get soaked up, the most.

    Good luck.


  9. This reminds me of a certain Seinfeld episode. The valet parked the car and it was forever stinky afterward.

    Lemons? Maybe they will help.

  10. Oh my... and I actually bought a pack of those blue "new car" tree deodorizers! No ideas... I hope it can work out.

  11. This sad tale reminds me of the time we turned our (former) car into The Shrimpmobile. We bought some shrimp down at Joe Patti's Seafood (must have been in August, it was so hot), left them in the car while we went to the grocery store. There was a hole in the bag and the shrimp-infused ice melted down into the backseat carpet. Ooh, man, now that was some smell. Never could get it to go away completely.

    You can bet we double-bag shrimp and carry a cooler in the car, now! :)

  12. Oh, Kathleen! Sorry to laugh, but you wrote this in such a funny "voice". Looks like you have been having suuumm fun while I have been gone...

    How about taking it to a "car detailer"? You know the super fancy wash and clean guys. I'll be they have some "professional" tricks and it would be worth the money if they could get rid of the smell...well, smells now, huh?

    Hope something works. x0 N2


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