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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Operation Un-stink: Smelly Hyundai gets the lemon law treatment | Hagerty Media

Have you ever found yourself desperately trying to get the putrid smell of urine and raw chicken out of a car, with no luck? Or did you recently purchase a new vehicle that smells like gym socks and the manufacture won't help? If so, keep reading!
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/how-to-get-smell-out-of-car-lemon-law/
64 REPLIES 64
Reinhold_Weege
Advanced Driver

That client's name? One professional golfer named "Tiger Woods".
MattFink
Detailer

...too soon?
Flashman
Instructor

I doubt Tiger owned (or paid for) the Genesis he totalled. He's a celebrity.
Tim
Instructor

It's true. The vehicle he totaled was a loaner from the tournament or country club (I can't remember which, but either way, he didn't pay for it and it wasn't even his.)
hyperv6
Gearhead

Odd how so many imports are coming up with odd smells. I had a buddy with a Hyundai smell issue and interior seat issue. Traded for a Tahoe. Problem fixed.

MattFink
Detailer

What type of Hyundai? I wonder if it was related.
Timbo
Intermediate Driver

Quit buying foreign - especially knowing what has come from Asia!
Bokeoyaji
Intermediate Driver

Good amount of things you buy come from Asia these days...
bassicdave
Pit Crew

That "pesky smell" comes off in the shower.
Mike_E_V
Detailer

How do you get the car into the shower?
RG440
Pit Crew

How about an article on eliminating “Moth Ball Stench” from a stored vehicle? I have passed on a number of classic/antique vehicle sales with this moth ball “smell”. Have even turned around on sales as an undisclosed condition.
Islander
Intermediate Driver

I have that problem, no mice but fairly severe moth ball stench. I plan to try the Meguiar's Air Re-Fresher. Unless someone has a better solution?
hunternicholas
Intermediate Driver

Search everywhere for stray moth balls and remove all of them. After that, sunshine and fresh air. Park in the sun and leave the doors and the trunk open.
It'll take a while but the odor of moth balls will eventually go away.
drhino
Instructor

I planned to make some goofy comment about “Taco Tuesday”— but the real story here is incredible.
MYTFAST
Intermediate Driver

I wouldn't buy another Hoover vac for anything!!! The wheels kept breaking off their vacuum after only 6 months of use & the replacement did the same thing. There was only had 1 place within 40 miles place to take the vacuum for repair & then charged me a $5 disposal fee for the broken one before giving me a replacement, which again also a short time later had the same broken wheel problem. The repair guy tried selling me a different brand of vac & told me the Hoover had a lower base wheel design flaw & was basically a piece of unrepairable junk! And yes, I replaced it with a Shark!
Mike_E_V
Detailer

I have successfully mounted my shop vac on a set of wheels you can buy at your local home repair box store. The wheels are for the bottom of a Rubbermaid "Brute" trash can. They are pricey but solve the issue and can handle some serious weight. The frame is a composite material and it is easy to attach your shop vac directly to the base.
Solosolo1
New Driver

What a lot of BS, this is just an advert for the products the detailer has used. I owned a detailing company for 7 years and even when you thought that the cats pee smell had been eradicated think again, because as soon as it rains and your carpets get damp from your wet shoes and you close all the windows overnight, the smell will be back with a vengance in the morning!
MattFink
Detailer

Always appreciate any feedback. I don't get paid to mention what products I use at all. But that is the most common question I am always asked, so I like to mention exactly what I find to work the best. After 15 years I have tried so many different products that I like to share which ones I've settled on just for the sake of helping out our readers that may be shopping retail for detailing supplies. Lots of different brands mentioned in my articles depending on what product I'm writing about.
Did you try all of these steps when trying to get out cat pee? (this was human urine)
Mike_E_V
Detailer

As a former truck wholesaler who has had hundreds of vehicles detailed, the shops I utilized understood sometimes the guts of a vehicle need to come out of it and into the open air where both sides of carpets can be cleaned and pads can be cleaned and or replaced. I once bought a Volvo 760 wagon which was owned by a dog trainer. We had to literally disassemble the entire interior of the car including door and read side panels. We stopped at the headliner. They were filled with dog hair and likely everything else associated with raising/training animals. This was in the mid 90's and that detail then was $350. Quite fair I think considering a normal detail then was $100-$125 give or take.
Ed_Turbo
Pit Crew

Well, thats logical, Hyundai's naturally stink.
elvacarsdallas
Pit Crew

As the only orginal owner of a 1960 Elva Courier, (yes it's British) that has been driven cross country, raced, wrecked, burned and fixed I have worked on it. I drive it now just when I want to, just for the fun of it. I bought it new from a dealer in N C that went bust complete with MSO.
PS. No sale, it's in my will.
Vito
New Driver

I've used 2 thing that work steam cleaner first if that don't work I use a ozone generator.have even removed smoker smell.
MATTMERICA
Instructor

roger that - I do the same thing - steam it first, then ozone generator. I got a cool ozone machine from amazon for $65
MattFink
Detailer

Good advice, thanks.
Dar
New Driver

There was a car company that launched a new car and several weeks later, many had a terrific fish smell. The technical specialists investigated and it turned out that the adhesive for the headliner had whale blubber as an ingredient.
MattFink
Detailer

Wow, I'd love to hear what car that was!
audiobycarmine
Advanced Driver

A Porsche whale-tail of course.
MATTMERICA
Instructor

I am actually flabbergasted at the lack of quality responses on this topic and also in the article. Why buy all that spray and junk? There is one thing and one thing only that truly un-funks the stink, and it sells for about $65 on amazon. Get an ozone GENERATOR. Now of course, if there is something dead in the car - chicken in this case - you would remove that, vacuum up rat turds, whatever is in the vehicle. But an ozone generator, running for 20 minutes with the windows rolled up, will guarantee you at least a 100% improvement. If not to your satisfaction, do it again. I have been rescuing "barn finds" for several years now (that is how I came to Hagerty to begin with) and was "used" to paying a well known detail guy around $300 to unfunk the vehicles. Well he ran into one that he couldn't fix - there was a sub woofer behind the seat of the truck that mice had been living in - for 20 years. You can only imagine how bad that smelled. He was out of town and I had to get teh rig at least non-smelly enough to show it to a buyer. Ozone generator fixed it after three attempts. Each time it got better until it was gone. It works on smoke, mouse turds/pee, mold, rot, everything. Thank me later.
MattFink
Detailer

Thanks for the feedback! You are right to recommend an ozone generator. I could probably rely on it more than I do. I actually do mention using an ozone generator in the article, however I am a firm believer in always doing the LEAST aggressive options first with all things car detailing. Even when using it you would still need to do most of the steps mentioned. Ozone is always last for me, especially since most people don't have one, it is not safe to breathe, and (as mentioned by commenter "bblhed" below) over time it will destroy rubber and plastic so use sparingly and ventilate well. Thanks for reading and sharing advice.
hunternicholas
Intermediate Driver

I haven't heard that about destroying rubber and plastic.
Is that in with the units instructions?
Is there a way of protecting these things?
lemansboy70
Pit Crew

The biggest complaint I get is people who don't change the cabin air filters. Most people don't even know they have one till it starts stinking.
ed
Detailer

I recently changed the cabin filter in an Acura, and another in a Mercedes. I now understand why this really isn't a user-maintenance item.
Enthu-Z-iast
New Driver

For Step #3 another trick I learned is to use a crockpot with about a half inch of white vinegar in the bottom. Plug the crockpot in for about 12 hours checking on the level of vinegar every so often. It removed skunk smell from inside my house, removed the cigar/cigarette smell from a friend’s house, and removed a putrid smell from inside one of my cars. You’d have to remove the source of the smell and clean up the area first, but for step #3 it worked great!
MattFink
Detailer

Great idea. Never heard of that, thanks for sharing.
vsadd
New Driver

Agree with Matt as posted below regarding ozone generator. Had previously tried most all of the steps listed in the article, but after 3X with the OG the cigarette smell was gone. OG requires careful use, so read directions carefully.
MrBill-1943
Intermediate Driver

Excellent suggestions. The one I missed and never did was the cleaning bomb while running the AC or fan for 15 min with everything closed. Back in the day when we bought a used car direct from an owner many smoked it could affect the selling as well as buy price so we leaned the hard way many of these tips. Even at my age a day is lost without learning and I never lose a day. Thanks for the great stuff.
MattK
Detailer

Thanks Matt, Interesting way things turned out.
bblhed
Advanced Driver

I count myself lucky, I pull my car out of storage in the Spring and just hit it with Febreze and that does the trick. Only once have I had to use an Ozone generator in my car and I just used my CPAP cleaner. I have lent my large corded Ozone cleaner to friends that had people get carsick in their cars or might have left a bag of fast food in the car. To anyone out there with a CPAP cleaner I will mention that it also works wonders in the refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, dishwasher, under the kitchen sink, and in that cabinet that you keep the trash can. On the down side, Ozone not only removes smells, it also is not safe to breathe and over time it will destroy rubber and plastic so use sparingly and ventilate well.
Studenorton
Advanced Driver

Brilliant! I *knew* there was a reason Bill Shatner made ads for those darn things.
67SSRS
New Driver

When I was a kid my sister’s friend got car sick and barfed in the back seat of my dad’s 69 Coupe deVille. Mom cleaned up all traces, then set a saucer of ammonia on the floor overnight with the windows up. Next day smell was gone.
Mike_E_V
Detailer

Successful lemon law! In 2013 we purchased a new Cadillac XTS Platinum at the San Diego Auto Show. This is the first year of the CUE system. When the car arrived it only had one key fob. The dealer ordered another and at 800 miles the new fob arrived. Programming had become a significant operation now and the car was needed overnight. We picked the vehicle up and to our surprise the memory seat would not function. Long story short, ten fobs can be programmed into the car's ECM. Only 1 & 2 will operate the memory seats. The new fob was considered (by the car at least) to be fob #3 so it would not operate the memory function. Unfortunately during the process of deleting all fobs and reinstalling them the CUE system inadvertently was fried. Took a while for a new one (again 1st year of CUE) The car was never the same after the incident. Phones wouldn't stay paired. Doors would lock by themselves with the key fob in the car. That happened on a vacation in Napa, CA. Luckily my wife had the extra fob in her purse. The car never left us stranded but it became irritating to drive and the fear that something might happen to strand us at a most inconvenient time was always in the backs of our minds. $72K for a Caddy in 2013 was alot to pay and it should function as inteneded. We lemon lawed the car after 47 days in service for the same issues and received all our money back. We test drove a 2014 "V" model to replace it but wasn't impressed. First time to lemon law a car and hope it is the last. Our 2017 XT5 went 54 consecutive days in service waiting for a front axle assembly but you can't lemon law a car for parts availability. Interesting.
MattFink
Detailer

Bummer that happened, but glad it worked out. Appreciate the story!
hunternicholas
Intermediate Driver

I can't find an association of your comment to the article posted here.
Mike_E_V
Detailer

I learned years ago even the metal in vehicles can and will absorb odors. As a truck dealer in the 90's we discovered a product used by funeral homes to remove odors from a hearse. Very expensive and very effective. You can fill in whatever blanks you need in your head to imagine the odors needing removal both in a hearse and in some trucks.
hunternicholas
Intermediate Driver

I'm not thinking that you're a liar, but I don't know how the odor of a corpse processed with formaldehyde could seep past both the formaldehyde and the gasketing of the casket.
Can you clarify?
Tim
Instructor

I'm disappointed there was no Seinfeld reference in the story. "The Smelly Car," season 4, episode 21 may be the most famous pop-culture reference about car odor. Or people-caused car odor. 😄
MattFink
Detailer

Good call! That's entirely my fault, can't believe I didn't think of that. I should have had a whole section on how to remove "valet's B.O.", haha.
brians356
Detailer

You don't know permanent smell until you sit in a vehicle parked every workday at a paper mill for a decade. My dad worked at a paper mill for 35 years, and us kids never wanted any of his otherwise pampered low-mileage rigs when they became available.

An old boyhood prank of The Greatest Generation was to hide good Limburger cheese under the back seat of someone's car.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

I like the smells in my old cars.