Help! I can't get the previous owner's cigarette smoke smell out of my new-to-me van.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently purchased an '89 Chevy Astro van for my wife at an auction. My
mechanic has done the necessary repairs, and it looks like we got a fairly good
deal. The only problem is that the car stinks -- like cigarettes and other
nefarious "weed-like" odors. The upholstery and carpet have been steam-cleaned,
and it seems like the air-conditioning unit and the upholstery on the ceiling
are the main contributors. Needless to say, my wife is steamed -- or "smoked!"
Do you have any ideas how we could de-smoke the air-conditioning ducts, the
ceiling or the whole car in general? Every car person I've talked to so far has
been pretty useless. -- Gil

RAY: Well, we fit that category, too, Gil. But that never has stopped us from
giving advice!

TOM: You're right about it being a difficult problem. Smoke gets into
everything: the seats, the carpet, the headliner. It can even permeate the duct
work to some extent.

RAY: And it's easy to understand why. Let's do the math. If both husband and
wife smoked three packs of Chesterfields a day in the Astro since 1989 -- that's
nine years -- you could be sitting in the stench from approximately 394,200
cigarettes. And that's not counting any hitchhikers!

TOM: So if it's really intolerable, then your best bet is to call a company that
does fire salvage.

RAY: Right. After a house fire, everything that didn't get burned up smells
awful. And there are companies that do nothing but get that smoke odor out. You
can usually find them in the Yellow Pages under "smoke odor services." They
should be able to help you.

TOM: Right. They'll stick 2,000 of those Christmas tree air fresheners up inside
your headliner and say, "You're all set, Gil!" Good luck.

* * *

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