Anthonette asked: We have chipmunks and mice in our area, and one of them has died somewhere in my Subaru. It is not in the ventilation system. The cabin air filter has been changed. We have looked everywhere. We can’t get to it and have not found it. The dead smell is getting weaker, but is still yucky. Any suggestions? We are using an odor eliminator spray and it helps.
A dead mouse can cause a terrible stench and is often very tricky to locate. Since mice only require a hole the size of a small coin to enter, it is easy for them to crawl into small spaces in the car interior. Once inside, they get stuck, curl up and die. Then as they decompose the stench grows and becomes unbearable before it gets better.
Locating and Removing the Dead Rodent
You Will Need:
- Plastic or rubber gloves
- Face masks
- Plastic bags
- Plenty of patience
- Odor remover (Odor removers are available at many pet stores. Those that remove cat urine smells are effective in removing dead animal odors as well. For a home remedy, you can use white vinegar.)
Steps to Find and Remove the Rodent:
- Mice are small and can crawl into the tiniest of places. A good thorough search through your car will be a good first step. The smell is awful, but using your nose will help to pinpoint the location.
- Go around your car and use your nose to find where the smell is the strongest.
- Turn the car on and run the air to see if the smell gets stronger. If it’s in the air system (or near the circulation system) this will give you a quick heads up of where to look.
- Pull out the cabin air filter and give it a thorough inspection for food bits, droppings, etc.
- Remove any seats that can be removed and look in, around and under them.
- Lift the carpet where possible and look in any nooks and crannies there.
- Remove the removable parts of the dash and look in there as well.
- Go underneath your car with a good flashlight and look for areas with holes or other ways to access small places to hide.
- Look around the engine and other areas under the hood for any nests, etc.
- Mice use a variety of materials to build their nests, look for scraps of anything that may help to keep them warm.
- Also, follow any signs of mouse droppings, food bits, etc. to see where they may lead to.
- Once found, you will need to remove the remains of the dead mouse. Protect your hands with rubber gloves and be sure to wear a face mask. The smell will be the strongest at the source. As it is moved around, the smell will get worse.
- Pull the mouse out along with any maggots or bugs that have accumulated on the decaying body.
- Place all items into the plastic bag, seal it and dispose of it properly.
- Now, it is time to clean the area to remove any remaining debris and get rid of the odor.
- Clean the area thoroughly with an odor remover. Spray an odor neutralizer throughout the car as well for any remaining stench.
Dealing With The Smell
Sometimes, it won’t be possible to locate the dead rodent or even if you do, the smell may linger. In these cases, it will be necessary to find a way to remove as much of the odor as possible until the rodent decomposes and stops smelling. This usually takes several weeks, although the smell will lessen gradually over that time. Here are some suggestions to get through this tough time.
- Keep the windows open as much as possible to air out the interior.
- If the rodent is not in the ventilation system, run it regularly to keep fresh air moving through the vehicle.
- Drive with the windows open
- There are odor neutralizers that can be purchased, or you can make your own by putting setting the bowl near the location of the odor and adding one of these odor neutralizers:
- Baking soda
- Activated charcoal (available at aquarium supply stores)
- White vinegar
You can use multiple bowls if preferred. Just remember to remove the bowl before each drive so it doesn’t spill. If using coffee grounds, be aware that they will remove most smells, but they will leave a coffee odor in its place.
- For a lingering smell, clean the car as much as possible, particularly by wiping down and/or spraying the surfaces. A mix of one part white vinegar with two parts water works well for most surfaces, though it’s always best to test a cleaner on a small hidden area first. If safe, it can be sprayed onto the dash, seats (leather or upholstery), door panels, roof upholstery, carpet and even the windows (be sure to test first if the windows are tinted). On hard or leather it can be wipes down afterwards and on cloth areas it can be allowed to dry. Be sure to spray away from you (not upwards) when spraying the roof panel so as not to get it in your eyes. Start with a light mist and if needed, a second more generous application can be done later. Be sure the area is well-ventilated while doing this (all doors/windows open) so you aren’t enclosed with the fumes.
- The carpets and cloth upholstery can also be sprayed with a pet enzyme cleaner like Kids ‘N’ Pets or Nature’s Miracle. It would be best to have the car cleaned professionally (with an extraction machine) afterwards though because leaving these product’s residue on the surfaces will attract dirt to those areas.
Additional Tips and Advice
- Find what’s attracting the rodents to the car. Are there snacks inside that they’re trying to get to? Do you have trash outside of your car (in the garage, etc.) that would attract them to the area?
- Some cars, such as Minis, have fluids that attract rodents. They will chew through the tubes to get to the liquids. They are a common problem for these vehicles.
- You can have a mechanic try to find the mouse for you, but you may end up with a big bill and no success at removing the mouse. Unfortunately, the mouse could be anywhere, and mechanics often charge about $80 per hour for their time, so it is usually cheapest to search for the mouse yourself. If you’re on a budget, you may be able to ask the mechanic only spend a certain amount of time looking and you can maximize their time by telling them the places you have already looked.
- One site user who is a mechanic wrote in (Thanks!) to say that the rodents often chew through the cabin filter and fall into the fan motor.
- Once you have remedied the problem, consider using a rodent repellent at least temporarily to prevent them from returning. There are specific products you can buy, such as Fresh Cab Rodent Repellent, or one site user (Thanks!) suggests using a couple cotton balls with some peppermint essential oil on them.
- Never put rodent poison in or near your car as the animal will likely eat the poison and die within your car, possibly in a difficult-to-reach area. Use repellent instead.