How can Jill get one very stubborn stink out of her '87 XJ6 Jaguar?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

I was given a 1987 XJ6 Jag. She's one fine-looking lady. But she smells. I recently spent $1,100 of my government stimulus check having the car completely cleaned on the inside. My mechanic (a very honest, small-town guy) took out all the carpeting and the seats, and cleaned them. He replaced the roof lining. He then scoured the entire inside of the car before putting the seats and carpet back. He used a cleaning machine recommended by another client who'd cleaned his pickup after a fire. He sprayed everything with Febreze and placed packs of charcoal under the seats. I picked it up after a month in the shop. It's better. But only marginally. Any other suggestions (we've done the cut onions, the dryer sheets, an air freshener "bomb," etc., prior to this very expensive last resort)? Help! -- Jill

TOM: You might want to try a real bomb next.

RAY: Actually, my brother had a similar problem with his '74 Chevy Caprice Classic Convertible, Jill. It took us a long time to find the cause of the odor. But we finally figured it out. It was him.

TOM: There are two possibilities. One is that you've got a bad case of mold. Cleaning the seats and carpets might not be enough if you didn't specifically treat for mold. You need bleach or a biocide to kill the spores. Soap, odor removers, onions and old gym socks are all useless against a huge mold spore invasion.

RAY: The other possibility is that a small animal died somewhere in the car. If a mouse or rat got stuck in a ventilation duct or in your air cleaner, it can produce a disgusting and almost unbearable odor that can last for months, until the carcass eventually disintegrates.

TOM: So, what you need is someone with a good nose. I'd help you myself, but mine's just big, not particularly good.

RAY: You need to find someone who's familiar with both of those smells. Your best bet is an automotive detailer, or someone who works in a body shop. Ask him or her to sniff your Jaguar. Make sure you give the appropriate background before making that request, because someone could take it the wrong way.

TOM: Once you know what you're looking for, you can form a plan to get rid of it. Animal remains can be searched for and removed -- or simply waited out. Moldy carpet and its underlying padding can be treated with a biocide, or can be replaced.

RAY: Or, here's a creative approach. You already know of a cleaning machine that works on smoke odor. So, light the interior on fire, and then use the machine!

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