Behind the Wheel

How to Keep Your Car Smelling *Almost* as Good as New

March 10, 2015
First off, I’ll admit — nothing out there is quite as good as that real-deal new car smell the infuses a brand new vehicle. Even though air fresheners try to replicate it with “new car” scent, it just isn’t the same! Perhaps it’s because car manufacturers don’t actually spray a scent in the car. The scent usually comes from the materials used to make the car, and it can wear off once the materials have been exposed to the elements for a few months (and exposed to the fast food or spilled milk that show up in the back seat 🙂 ). Car and Driver even went so far as to write an entire article on the “secrets of that new-car smell”! And though the smell not be easy to re-create, there are a ton of things you can do to prolong the new car smell — or at least make it smell really, really good! Here are my ideas for freshening up anything from an old junker to a recently “worn-in” ride:
  • Keep it clean, from the very start! If you have the advantage of reading this while your car is still new, then you’ll have much less work to do. You just need to maintain that new car smell, instead of trying to bring it back! In order to prolong the scent as long as possible, be sure to remove trash from the car at the end of every day — never let it sit overnight!
  • Don’t eat in your car. Even if you think you can avoid getting crumbs or spills in your car while you eat on the run, the food smells will permeate the vehicle and overpower the original scent of your car. Just say no to eating on the go! (It’s safer not to, anyway!)
  • Vacuum frequently. Bits of dust and dirt are inevitably going to get tracked into your car, so make sure to keep up with regularly vacuuming of your ride. I recommend giving the car seats and floor mats a quick vacuuming once a week, so that the dirt doesn’t pile up and create a bad odor in the car.
  • Pick up a can of Ozium. Okay, so I just said that “new car” scent is nothing close to the real thing, but this is not a typical scented air freshener. This is an odor-killing spray that car dealers actually use in their vehicles, so it’ll get you pretty close to that original car scent! Read a couple reviews of this stuff on Amazon and you will be sold.
  • Replace or clean your air filter. The air filter does an important job of keeping dust particles out of your car when the air conditioner is running. Hence, the air filter will become very dirty after awhile and may start to smell. People usually need a new air filter if they notice an odor with the AC is on. Replace your air filter at least every three years or every 30,000 miles.
  • Give your car a good detailing. Even if you don’t want to spend the money to have it professionally done, be sure to clean your car in detail an average of once a month. Detailing your car includes vacuuming, shaking out floor mats, cleaning all windows with Windex, wiping down the dashboard and all interior and of course washing the outside of the car.
  • Use baking soda. It seems to be a universal odor killer, and baking soda gets the job done for your car too. Leave baking soda on really tough stains or spots producing odors for at least one hour, then lightly scrub the area and vacuum it up.

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