Car Doctor Q&A: My Car Stinks

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Usually when someone tells you their car stinks, it’s a reflection on its abilities as a daily driver. This time it’s more literal.

Q. I recently purchased a Honda Pilot, it was four years old and after doing some research it was a great deal, but now I think I know why. On a recent warm day the car started to smell terrible, like a combination of wet dog and cigar smoke.

I have had the car for about 6 weeks and the dealer who I purchased from shampooed it once and said there is nothing else they can or will do. The car drives great and meets all my needs, but on warm days I need to drive with the windows open, help?

Research a Less-Smelly Pilot at

A. The problem is the smell gets into the carpet, padding and headliner and well as the upholstery.

If you haven’t already, before you use the car again replace the cabin air filter.

But at this point I think you may have only three options. The first is to rent an ozone generator. This device creates ozone, breaking down the bacteria and helps eliminate smells. Ozone and Ion generators are often used in hotel rooms to eliminate odors. One word of caution is breathing ozone is not good for you, so don’t sit in the car with the generator running.

The second option is the most expensive and will require removing the interior to get to the matting under the carpet which could be hold the smell. Clean the carpet and replace the padding and if necessary replace the headliner. In extreme cases you may even need to replace/reupholster the seats.

Your final option is to adopt a big smelly dog.