There are a number of answers on how to get rid of ants in your car engine and I will explain all of them so you can find the perfect solution and get rid of your ant situation, be it an ant infestation/ant colony or just a few enjoying in your engine bay.
I will also ensure that you are equipped with all the necessary equipment required for each method and guide you through the whole process that won’t affect your paint job and other trim pieces.
On top of that, if you are like me who goes for checkmate, pay attention because I will teach you how to get rid of the queen ant as well, and eradicate every last one of them.
Even though killing ants is easy, the problem is getting rid of them altogether, as other ants will keep on coming, thanks to the queen ant who keeps on laying eggs.
Signs of Ant Presence In The Engine Compartment
There are telltale signs that you are dealing with some pesky ant colonies who are either living nearby or worst case scenario, residing in your car.
Chances are, you parked your car near an ant hill/ant nest and now they are roaming in your engine bay and other places like the trunk, door hinges, seats, dashboard, roof lining, floor mats, etc.
You can check for the presence of ants in your engine bay by opening the hood and looking for the trail over the cowl (the black trim between the windshield and the engine bay). The cowl can accumulate a lot of debris having moisture and food, which is loved by these ants.
Other than the cowl area, you might also find ants over the air filter area where they might be residing (in case of infestation). You can also check for the trails in the crevices where the hood sits on the engine bay.
Most of these ants would enter your engine area from the wheel wells, and sneak through the crevices where your wires go through.
How to Get Rid of Ants In Your Car Engine?
I have divided this process into four stages, including a checkmate stage — an option for those who would like to nip the evil from the bud. In most cases, you will get the job done in just the first stage.
Stage 1: Clearing/Cleaning the engine bay
Stage 2: Killing the ants in the car engine area
Stage 3: Preventive measures against the ants in your car engine bay
Stage 4: The checkmate against ants living in your car (specific ant spray)
Stage 1: Clearing/Cleaning the engine bay
The first step is to get rid of these ants from the engine bay (on a surface level). You can find these materials in any hardware store or home depot.
- Spray bottle
- Cleaner liquid (I would prefer Dawn as it’s known for killing ants)
- Pressure washer (optional)
- Microfiber towels
- Detailing brushes
If you don’t have a pressure washer and would like to get the best one perfect for your needs, you can check our detailed guide on The 6 Best Electric Pressure Washers For Cars.
Before you do any kind of cleaning of the engine bay that involves liquid, disconnect the battery first.
- Disconnect the negative terminal (with a minus sign, colored black)
- After you disconnect the negative terminal, move on to the positive terminal (with a plus sign, colored red)
Check for Ant nests in Your Car Engine Bay
When you are done with the battery, you can check the air filter and clean it out if there are ants in there. Most cars have the air filter inside a black box near the intake. You can release the locking clips, or unscrew the cover, depending on your car, and see if it requires further cleaning.
Inspect all water drains that are leading toward the hood, especially the cowl area, you might find lots of worker ants forming a trail (perfect for putting ant bait stations).
While you are at it, inspect the fuse box as well, mostly located on the sides of an engine bay. The fuse box is one of the habitable ant nests for some ant species.
I would recommend using a vacuum first to suck all the dirt and grime along with ants that are on the surface in your engine bay. If you go directly to the washing part, you will end up with a lot of mess which becomes hard to clean later on.
You can use any type of vacuum, preferably with multiple extensions that can reach tiny spaces. Once you are done, move on to the next step.
The cleaning process is like any other cleaning you might have already done so in the past. However, I would recommend using the Dawn washing liquid as it has been widely known for its ant-killing properties.
Pour it into a spray bottle and fill it with water. You can vary the amount of detergent you add depending on the level of ant infestation you are dealing with.
Spray the soapy water all over the engine bay including the inside of the hood, and especially the cowl area, but to be safe, it’s best to cover the fuse box. If you do have an air hose reel to use compressed air and clear the moisture afterward, you can spray it over the cover as well, no problem. Make sure it reaches all the nooks and crannies.
Let it stay for a while and agitate the crevices using detailing brushes and use a garden hose to gently clear away the soap. You can use a pressure washer, however, do so with caution, and ensure that you dry the engine bay thoroughly before putting the battery back.
Once you are done with this cleaning, chances are, you have killed all the ants already. However, if you still catch some ants in your car engine, resort to the next stage.
Stage 2: Killing the Ants in Your Car Engine (Ant baits)
I do not recommend using bug sprays to kill the ants as the spray leaves marks all over the plastic trims and would damage the paint job. The best way to kill ants in your car is to use an indirect method. From hundreds of products online claiming to be ant traps/baits and whatnot, I would only recommend your own DIY product.
Yes, you can make an ant bait that works and prevent ants from staying in your engine as it attracts ants first and then get rid of ants altogether.
- A 1:1 mixture of peanut butter with any essential oil i.e., rosewood, cayenne pepper, citrus, peppermint, etc. However, I would recommend neem oil. If you can’t find neem extract or powder, you can resort to other essential oils as well.
- Some wooden pieces or platforms to spread ant baits.
Mix the essential oil with peanut butter and spread it on a small wooden stick or any platform which you can put in the engine bay where ants can crawl onto (the crevices and water drains). Don’t put the paste on to plastic trims or paint job as it would leave stains later on.
Once you place the killing mixture of peanut butter with essential oil, you will see the ants crawling inside having their last meal over the ant bait stations. And this is how to get rid of ants in car engine.
If you are still finding ants roaming in your car other than the engine area, I would recommend thoroughly cleaning the floor mats. If they often remain damp/moist, it can attract ants and give that habitat for the ant eggs, which later on become those pesky worker ants that roam your car interior and exterior.
An exception: In the case of red ants and pharaoh ants, you can use ant-specific spray on the infested area, yes, I know I contradict myself here but it’s for a good reason.
The red fire ants or the red imported fire ants are not like your regular carpenter ants or your leaf cutter ants, these are much more dangerous and are a much bigger health hazard, so having a little discoloration of the trim pieces is better than having a ruthless fire ant problem in your car.
Stage 3: Ant traps and preventive measures against the ants in your car engine bay
The essential oils can work wonders as a preventive measure against the ant problem. However, I will give you a list of precautions and preventive measures that help keep the ants away from your car.
- Keep the wheels clean as they are the only ground contact through which the ants tend to enter your car.
- The fender wells can accumulate loads of ants if you are living in an area that is damp all year round.
- Make sure to park your car on paved roads and avoid parking in areas that aren’t paved. The soil where you might park your car can have ant hills/ant infestations or some rotten tree stumps where thousands of ants can enter your car for no reason. And not to mention the pheromone trail that they keep on releasing while in your car that keeps on attracting more and more ants.
- Get rid of ants in your car by eliminating all kinds of food sources that foraging ants can get. Food sources can be addressed by regular cleaning of your car floor, the car’s engine, and the car’s interior.
- Keep your car clean and dry as much as you can.
- You can spray insect repellent on the undercarriage of your car to keep the ants from entering your car.
Stage 4: The checkmate against ants living in your car (The ant spray)
If your house is located in such a place where ants colonies are thriving, simple cleaning and prevention measures can only do so much. I will give you a surefire way that will eradicate the ant colony for good. However, it can take several hours.
By all means, proceed with caution, because even though I am helping you out, I am not sure which type of ant species you are dealing with. Some ants are harmless while others can be really dangerous and would require a pest control expert.
Before proceeding on DIYing the checkmate, I would recommend checking which specie the ants belong to and proceeding if and only if it’s one of the harmless ones that do not have stingers and doesn’t bite that terribly. And don’t forget to wear protective gear even when you are dealing with colonies of simple sugar ants.
- Drill machine with a long drill bit
- Large funnel
- Pest control liquid/chemical to be mixed in water if mentioned on the label (make sure to get the specific chemical for the exact specie you are dealing with. An all-rounder ant killer can work for most common ant species, however, it does not kill all types of ants, which is why it’s always best to get either a specific one or the one that includes the specie you are trying to eradicate).
- Protective gear
- Wear protective gear
- Get the chemical and pour it onto the ant hill
- If you want to wipe out the whole area underneath the lawn or outskirts of your property, you can drill multiple holes into the ground and pour the chemical with the help of a funnel.
- Make sure to get the chemical that is safe for plants if you are doing this over your planted garden
- The last step is to see them die.
Yes, that is how to get rid of ants in your car engine. You completely wipe them out of existence. Make sure to use other methods mentioned here before you perform this one.
What Kinds of Damage Can Ants Cause to The Engine
You might be familiar with the changing industry trend that involves this biodegradability factor, sadly though, automakers are now making biodegradable car components, which include wiring insulation.
These wires are insulated with cellulose (also known as soy-based wire insulation), which resulted in a massive Class Action Law Suit against Toyota where hungry rodents ate the wire insulation causing electrical issues. Did it stop the Automakers from making soy-based wire insulation? No, it didn’t.
Most ants have an indirect relation to destroying these car cables. If the wires are moist for an extended period and are not cleaned in a timely manner, it will give rise to molding (fungus) which is then cultivated by the ants inside that eat this fungus.
In this whole process, the cellulose coating on these wires breaks down into cellulase, which is then consumed by some ant species, and this is how ants damage your electronics.
In simple words, you will face electrical issues, where sensors might stop working, turning the check engine light on. If you are unlucky enough to have red fire ants, they will chew on these wires regardless. Fire ants also cause corrosion due to their soil-based colonies.
Overall, these ants can literally stop your car from working properly as you need all the sensors and electrical components to keep all the functions running smoothly. Modern cars are even more susceptible to these issues as they are welcoming the ants in cars with soy-based wires and are working on ever so complicated electrical systems.
How do ants get in the car?
Ants can get in your car through the wheels and they can also get in by falling off of a tree onto your car. Make sure to avoid parking under a tree or near any ant hill or unpaved roads. To learn more about this issue, check the detailed discussion and avoid this from happening.
How to kill ants in the car?
There are multiple ways to kill ants in your car. You can use essential oils paired with peanut butter or anything sweet. Or you can carry out a thorough cleaning of your car with dawn dishwashing liquid (known to kill ants) or any other soap available to you.
Worker ants leave pheromone trails and a few hours later, the car inside would have the whole colony where now they don’t prefer rotten tree stumps, and instead, these tiny creatures invite other ants to chill out.
You have two options on how to get rid of ants in your car engine, you can either kill ants or Prevent ants from getting in.
You might find it challenging to get rid of these (mostly worker) ants who leave these pheromone trails to further haunt you regardless of how clean your car interior is. The first thing is to find a better parking spot, it can help with ant control. You can spray insecticide, but I put it as a last resort as it can damage the paint job.
If you have ants in the car, make sure to go through all the options on how to repel ants or even better, kill them for good without any damage.