While there are numerous descriptions of what a new car smells like, one thing has remained consistent — the desirability of the smell. Most drivers reported that they found the unique aroma of their new car oddly satisfying.
Unfortunately, that new car smell lasts only a while before it dissipates. And car owners find themselves researching how to get new car smell within four to six months of driving their brand-new car.
The attempt to restore that new car smell using air fresheners or spray is often ineffective, or when it does work, the smell won’t last for long. Today, we’ll reveal some top detailer secrets on how to restore that new car smell. While at it, we’ll also provide some tips to keep your car smelling fresh and new.
How to Get that New Car Smell
There have been efforts to replicate a new car smell using air fresheners, and some products do work. However, the effectiveness of most of these products depends on the condition of your car’s interior. Utilizing an air freshener inside a car with an awful, musty smell will only mask the smell.
To get your car smelling like it’s brand new again, you need to lay that foundation by getting it squeaky clean. Before going in with the new car-smell air freshener. Doing anything outside that won’t get you much result.
Thus, achieving a new car smell is a three-stage process. It involves a thorough cleaning of the entire cabin, servicing the A/C unit to improve the indoor air quality, and finishing off with a new car-smell air freshener. Below are all the products you’ll need:
- Medium Bristle Brush
- Chemical Guys Total Interior Cleaner and Protectant
- Microfiber Towel
- Detailing Brush Set
- Vacuum Cleaner
- Chemical Guys Upholstery Cleaner
- Lysol Disinfectant Spray
- Chemical Guys New Car Smell Air Freshener
Step 1: Start by removing all the trash
Removing the trash is the first step to getting that “new car” scent. Take out any food wrappers, plastics, old receipts, or anything else that doesn’t belong inside your vehicle. While at it, remove all the floor mats and thoroughly clean them.
Cleaning the floor mats will greatly improve the air quality inside your vehicle. And regardless of how filthy they are, using a hose to blast off the dirt or scrubbing with a medium bristle brush and warm water will help get off the stubborn stains. Once you are done cleaning the mats, sun them to dry.
Step 2: Clean the windows, steering wheel, and dashboard
Once you are done with the floor mats, the next step in getting that new car scent is cleaning the interior. Start with the windows and windshields. They are known to collect dust, dirt, and other particles, which in turn circulate in the air and negatively impact the cabin air quality.
Spray some of the car cleaning solution on the microfiber towel and use it to wipe off the pollutants on the windshield. After the first wipe, switch to the other side of the towel and wipe off the remaining solution. Now, repeat the process for the windows and rearview mirror.
The next step is cleaning the centre console, dashboard, and steering wheel. In addition to dust, these areas will have hand grease and other nasty stuff on them due to constant hand contact, contributing to the poor air quality inside your car’s cabin.
Again, get your microfiber towel, spray the cleaner on it, and use it to wipe the dashboard and centre console. Ensure the towel is damp and not wet, as you don’t want to soak the electronics. For the steering wheel, use the microfiber towel for the grip area and the detail brush for the hard-to-reach parts.
Step 3: Move to the car seats
The seat is another important part when cleaning the vehicle interior. Your car seats take lots of thrashing, from dust to spilled drinks, dog hair, food crumbs, sweat, and more. Over time, the seats traps and retain all the filth, thus overpowering the new car scent.
Before you move to clean the seats, grab your vacuum cleaner and vacuum out all the surface dirt. When vacuuming, focus on the crevices and stitchings around the seats, where specks of dirt and crumbs are often trapped.
After vacuuming, spray the seat with the Upholstery Cleaner. Then use your upholstery brush to agitate and get the product into the seat for better cleaning. Get a clean microfiber cloth and wipe the seat down to absorb the dirt and cleaner from the seat.
However, the microfiber towel can only do so much, so you want to go in with your vacuum cleaner to vacuum out the dirt hiding in the foam. Spray on some water from the vacuum cleaner to saturate and gets into the foam to help dissolve the dirt stuck underneath.
Now, use the vacuum cleaner’s suction power to suck out all the dissolved dirt while still scrubbing the seats. Ensure you are thorough and suck out all the dissolved dirt, even if it means going over multiple times. Don’t leave out the headrest, sides, and back of the seat.
Depending on the condition of the seat, you may have to saturate the seat and then vacuum it one more time. Once you are satisfied with the result, you can proceed to the other seats and repeat the process. You should also vacuum the carpet and clean the seat belts when working on the seats.
While leather seats have a similar cleaning process as cloth seats, they require some extra level of care. You can check out our guide for some insightful tips on cleaning leather seats like a pro.
Step 4: Replace the cabin air filter and clean the A/C duct
The condition of the cabin air filter and A/C duct largely impacts the vehicle’s air quality. Consequently, cleaning the entire cabin without improving the air quality won’t provide the desired result if you have a filthy filter or mold infested duct.
Excess moisture in the A/C unit creates a breeding ground for mold and bacteria in the duct, resulting in a mildew odor when the unit is running. The cabin filter lasts between 15,000 to 30,000 miles but can get clogged earlier than expected, depending on where you live.
Regularly servicing these parts will keep your A/C working perfectly with clean air circulating in the cabin. Most manufacturers have the cabin filter sitting behind the glovebox, and you may have to go through the engine bay or glovebox to access it. Find and replace the filter (most auto parts stores have it).
For the A/C duct, you can clean it without removing the dashboard or air vents. Turn on the air-conditioner and set it to full-blast with recirculation turned off to allow fresh air into the vehicle. Then get the Lysol Disinfectant and spray it into the air intake system with the AC still running.
The cleaner will move through the air system into the AC duct and clean it. If you can’t find your vehicle’s filter or access the air intake, spray the disinfectant on the passenger side of the cowl section, and you are good.
Step 5: Open the windows and doors
Once you finish the entire process, you want to leave the windows and doors open for some hours to dry the seats. Depending on the current temperature outside, you may have to air the vehicle for about two to five hours to dry the seat. After leaving the seats to dry, return the floor mats and spray the air freshener.
Tips to Keep Your Vehicle Smelling Fresh and New
There are some proactive measures you need to take to retain that new car scent. While they may seem of little importance, they play a crucial role in giving your vehicle that clean and fresh car scent.
1. Regular Cleaning
Cleaning your vehicle cabin regularly helps to eliminate dirt, sweat, body oil, or dust accumulation, which could cause awful odor. Vacuum the seats, carpets, and floor mats to remove crumbs, pet hair, and other particles that can contribute to odors.
Spills from food and drinks can also create unpleasant smells that linger over time. A good rule of thumb is to always take immediate action whenever there is a spill to prevent the stale odor that’s likely to follow. Also, fresh spills and stains are easier to clean.
Using a deodorizer to cover up a stale odor without tackling the odor won’t help. Once the smell wears off, the odor will return, and you’ll be back to ground zero. However, you can prevent this by regularly cleaning the cabin, as it helps to keep out the pollutants that could eventually create foul odors.
2. Proper Ventilation
When dealing with an offensive odor inside your vehicle’s interior, leave the windows and doors open. This is even more effective than masking the odor with an air freshener. In addition to leaving the doors and windows open, you can run your fans at full capacity for better results.
Airing the vehicle introduces fresh air into the cabin, clears out unpleasant odors, and, most importantly, reduces moisture and humidity. Moisture aids the growth of mold and mildew, which in turn makes your car smell musty.
When dealing with molds, you want to check for possible sources of water leaks inside your car and seal them. You will also need to air the cabin to prevent the reformation of mold.
3. Avoid Eating or Smoking in the Car
A simple but very effective tip for retaining that new car scent is to refrain from eating or smoking inside your car. While you might be tempted to snack or light up on the go, holding back on that urge makes a difference in preserving that unique new car aroma for much longer.
4. Utilize Odor Absorbers and Air Fresheners
You can also make use of an air freshener to make your car smell good. They come in many different types, such as sprays, gels, vent clips, and hanging cards. Choose a fragrance you like that goes with the feel of a new car, and use them sparingly so they don’t cover up the natural smell.
With deodorizers, you get to eliminate unwanted odors and enhance the overall smell in your car interior, creating a pleasant environment for you and your passengers.
5. Replace Cabin Air Filter
The cabin filter purifies the air that enters your vehicle. Most cabin filters are located behind the glove box, and depending on the manufacturer, they are designed to last between 15,000 to 30,000 miles. You can always check your owner’s manual for the recommended replacement intervals.
You should occasionally inspect the filter and replace them when necessary for effective filtration of the air entering the vehicle cabin. While at it, we also advise cleaning the A/C duct to remove excess moisture and improve the overall air quality inside the vehicle cabin.
How Long Does a New Car Smell Last?
Typically, a new car scent lasts for about six months and is most noticeable when you first get the car. But what exactly is that smell drivers always describe? The smell commonly referred to as the new car scent is not from any one single substance.
It emanates from the numerous chemical compounds used in the components inside the vehicle. From the chemical compounds released from the plastics to the paints, sealants, and lubricants, all released into the air. This process is called “outgassing”, and that’s what keep your car smelling new.
These chemical compounds are generally known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can also be hazardous. However, the extent to which these compounds might be harmful is yet to be agreed on.
With time, the smell will begin to fade off, but the rate at which it does depends on temperature and climate conditions. Volatile organic compounds are released more rapidly in warmer weather than in colder temperatures. Thus, the smell may only last for a short while during summer.
How to keep out bad odors from vehicle cabins?
Practicing routine maintenance will help keep awful odors from your vehicle. Regular vacuuming and cleaning will help remove dirt, dust, sweat, and other pollutants that could accumulate and cause an offensive odor.
You can also open the windows and doors to let in fresh air. It does an even better job than masking the odor with an air freshener. But if the stench persists after airing the vehicle, you should consider deep cleaning the entire vehicle cabin.
Why does my car smell like a cigarette smell?
The cigarette smell in your vehicle could be because you or the previous owner smoked in it. Smoking in a car leaves a cigarette smell that lingers even after the incident. And deodorizers are usually ineffective in eliminating the awful smoke smell.
The smoke will permeate the entire cabin, penetrating both porous and non-porous surfaces, making the restoration process a bit of work. Our article on “how to get smoke smell out of a car” simplified the entire process into five steps.
Does vinegar remove vehicle odors?
Yes, vinegar can be used to remove vehicle odors. Just like baking soda, vinegar is also a very effective homemade cleaning solution. Its acidic nature helps to neutralize odors and, when mixed with water, makes a great cleaning solution both soft and hard surfaces. It’s also strong enough to cut through built-up grime and grease.
What is the best odor eliminator for cars?
Activated charcoal is a natural odor eliminator considered the best for removing unwanted odors. They have a huge surface area with numerous micro pockets and pores that trap smells. They are effective against various odors, from food to pets, smoke, and more.
Pour some activated charcoal into a bag or pouch and place it in the center. Over time, the activated charcoal will trap and lock in the unwanted smells.
Your brand-new car won’t smell like freshly done laundry forever. But with regular cleaning and keeping out food, cigarette smoke or other possible pollutants you get to retain that new car smell for as long as possible.
You can also replicate that new car scent in your older car using air fresheners. Professional car detailers have advised that the entire cabin must be squeaky clean and free of any awful smell to get the most result.
Thus, cleaning the dashboard, windows, seats, carpets, and even the A/C is a necessary condition before applying the air freshener. We know the entire process is a lot so we made a comprehensive guide on how to get new car smell and included some tips to help retain the fresh car smell.