How to Remove Dead Rodents (and the smell) from Your Car


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:

  • Flashlight
  • 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.)

Steps to Find and Remove the Rodent:

  1. 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.
  2. Go around your car and use your nose to find where the smell is the strongest.
  3. 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.
  4. Pull out the cabin air filter and give it a thorough inspection for food bits, droppings, etc.
  5. Remove any seats that can be removed and look in, around and under them.
  6. Lift the carpet where possible and look in any nooks and crannies there.
  7. Remove the removable parts of  the dash and look in there as well.
  8. Go underneath your car with a good flashlight and look for areas with holes or other ways to access small places to hide.
  9. Look around the engine and other areas under the hood for any nests, etc.
  10. Mice use a variety of materials to build their nests, look for scraps of anything that may help to keep them warm.
  11. Also, follow any signs of mouse droppings, food bits, etc. to see where they may lead to.
  12. 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.
  13. Pull the mouse out along with any maggots or bugs that have accumulated on the decaying body.
  14. Place all items into the plastic bag, seal it and dispose of it properly.
  15. Now, it is time to clean the area to remove any remaining debris and get rid of the odor.
  16. Clean the area thoroughly with an odor remover. Spray an odor neutralizer throughout the car as well for any remaining stench.

When You Can’t Locate the Mouse

Sometimes, it won’t be possible to locate the dead rodent. 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.
  • Using air fresheners and odor neutralizers will help to reduce the smell until it goes away.

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.


  1. To get rid of dead animal odor, remove it, then put a pan of fresh coffee grounds in the car. Be sure all windows are up. Your odor will be gone in a couple of days. I have used this twice. It worked for me.

  2. Bruce K says:

    Spraying odor removers do not really work unless you are able to actually get to the location where the mouse died. If the mouse died and you can’t find it and the smell is bad, instead place some activated charcoal (activated carbon) odor eliminating filters nearby and let the porous activated charcoal absorb and neutralize the odor.

  3. Check with your car insurance – it is often covered by your comprehensive policy.

  4. I did the coffee thing and it did take the odor out, but as soon as I turned the air back on, the smell was right back. Any other suggestions?

  5. After three days in Dallas heat and reading this site, I went to my car determined to track down the offending odor. This is after my boyfriend took my car for a “lube” just so he could get it up on a rack with no luck of finding the source of the stench. As I approached the rear passenger side, the smell hit me from the opened trunk. Flies were buzzing around a sheet I keep for when my dogs ride in the car. I gingerly grabbed a corner of the sheet and began to lift it out of the car when I noticed a white grocery bag lying underneath. Immediately I recognized the remains of the pork chops I had purchased three days ago!

  6. I have had a dead mouse odor for over two months in my car; I live in WI, so winter is rapidly approaching. About six weeks ago, I took my car to the dealership and for $177 they told me after removing and replacing the filter by the dash (which by the way did have holes in it from the rodent!), they said that all that they could find was seeds-probably bird seed that I had in my garage which I have cleaned out and gotten rid of. I’m really concerned about the hantavirus and wondering what more can be done, other than trading in the car. I was told that this can be very expensive, costing up to $500 if they have to remove the dash… Anyone else had any luck in removing them when they can not readily find them?

  7. I’m dealing with this stupid situation right now. The smell in the car is sickening. I have flies the size of the tip of my pinky buzzing around the car and dipping back under the dashboard near the windshield. The air conditioning smells like a “The Walking Dead” set piece.

    And to think…I almost caught that little bugger. It got stuck on the sticky pad and everything, but it somehow dragged itself and the sticky pad back up the carpet towards the dashboard and pulled itself off. Just what I get for using “dollar store” mini sticky pads. If I’d have spent the money and bought the huge ones, I wouldn’t be suffering with a car that smells like a garbage scow right now…

  8. DM, Don’t feel bad. I bought the big sticky rat traps and the same thing happened to me that happened to you. No difference. Now, I’m stuck with a really stinky car. Hyundai wants $122. an hour to find it. Guess I’ll have to wait it out. Suffering!

  9. Same problem. Found the nest on the cabin air filter. Removed and replaced. Thought it was good as a mouse trap got one just under the hood on the driver’s side. A week later, turned the heat on and it’s worse. Going to remove the air intake cover and check that out. I’ll try the coffee as well to help the smell. Don’t want to use poision or moth balls, and I’ll trade the car in before pulling the dash. I’ll update my status and hope others do too.

  10. Same problem. I found three different nests in the trunk and cleaned those out. The last one had blue & white foam, so I guess they have eaten the back out of some of the upholstery. I put a trap in the trunk, after the fact. I had the car detailed and he cut me some slack and only charged $80.00, but couldn’t find the remains. Removed the seats and cleaned everything, but the smell is still there and it’s sickening. I don’t know where to turn next. The car is now beautiful, but smells like the city dump. Any more ideas, guys???

  11. Take it to a dealer and have an estimate done. I just had this problem with a rat that somehow crawled under the passenger flooring and died. The entire flooring, padding and other parts were replaced, as well as a professional cleaning service performed. My insurance company paid for it under a comprehensive claim. About $6000 billed to replace flooring, perform cleaning, etc., but only $250 deductible on my part. I also took advantage of a rental car benefit for the 10 days it was in the shop. Personally, I can still detect a faint smell, but at least it’s not going to knock me out behind the wheel. Good luck!

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