Car Smells Like Cigarettes But You Don’t Smoke?

If your car smells like cigarette smoke and you don’t smoke, then you’re probably very confused. There are many reasons this can happen; some not so obvious.

If you’re not sure what to do, then read on as we explain why your car smells cigarette smoke.

Reasons Why

  1. The first reason could be that you bought a used car, and the previous owner smoked in it. The dealership you got it from may have cleaned it, and you may not have noticed it until days later. This is quite common. Many dealerships don’t clean the ashtray and what’s behind it correctly and get all the cracks that these odors like to hide. Some dealerships might not replace the cabin filter, too, and that filter is the biggest culprit for smells.
  2. Another reason could be that you have a secret smoker around you. Maybe your spouse, kids, neighbor, or even co-workers might be smoking at or near your car. If someone you know is smoking and they get in your car, that smell can transfer from them to your car’s seats. Or you might have someone like a neighbor or co-worker smoking near the vents of your car, and it’s finding it’s way inside. It might be helpful to park your vehicle somewhere different or make sure you don’t have someone in your family hiding smoking from you.
  3. Sun Roof might have a clogged drain. This one is rare, but if there is a clogged drain and it’s hot, it could make the car smell all kinds of funny.
  4. Phantom Smoke Smell? If you smell smoke smell all the time and not just in your car, it might be a medical issue. If this is the case, you need to see a doctor.

Uber Drivers

I want to quickly talk about Uber Drivers as they’re more affected by this than anyone I know. Many customers will complain about the littlest of things, and the smoke odor is one of them.

I recommend you keep a bottle of Ozium in your car and spray it after each person that gets out. Yes, every time someone gets out.

The reason why you spray after each person is that many people complain about all types of odors, whether it’s a smoke odor or perfume they’ll complain about it. And if you neutralize the odor, the less likely you have to deal with people complaining about every little smell of the last person to ride.

Check out the Reviews and Price on Ozium here.

Getting Rid Of The Smoke Smell

I have a post about getting rid of the smoke smell from your car here and many other places too.

If you just bought the car, I would take it back to the dealership and tell them of the situation and see if they can fix it. Many dealerships will have an ozone generator that will neutralize the odors better than any spray you can get.

The next best option is to let a professional detail shop take a stab at it as they see this stuff all the time.

The last option is to do it yourself, which I’m sure many people will. Here are things to consider and do if you do it yourself.

  • You will need to focus more on the areas people touch like the steering wheel and cup holders as this is where the smell lingers the most.
  • Make sure to shampoo the carpets thoroughly, and any soft surfaces get cleaned with it too.
  • Glass cleaner is a must-have for cleaning the glass, and some hard surfaces of your car as the cigarette tar likes to stick to that stuff.
  • A steam cleaner might be a worthy investment in this cleaning as it can steam off the cigarette tar.

Don’t forget to replace the cabin air filter as it holds the most smells. Even if the dealership said they gave it a new one as you can never be too sure.

The Bad News

Time for the bad news, smoke smell sticks, and hides in anything porous. You can spend days cleaning the car for the smoke smell, but you’ll never get it 100% out. The only thing that does get it out is just pure time.

It will take months for the smoke smell to go away entirely and many days of you leaving the windows down (not raining, of course).

When cleaning, you’ll hear many people tell you to use baking soda and sprinkle it on the carpets and seats. While this does help get rid of the odor, it is terrible for regular vacuums to suck up. If you use a shop vacuum, you should be fine but avoid using your good vacuum. I recommend taking the car to a car wash and use their vacuums instead of yours.

Other Options

There are many different options that many of the professionals like to use. You have to be more aware when using these options as they can be more dangerous if you don’t follow the directions on them.

You can buy an ozone generator, but make sure to read the warnings on the machine as breathing ozone is dangerous.

Lessons Learned

All the times I’ve bought cars, the biggest lesson I’ve learned about this is not to buy a car if it has a slightly odd smell. It may not be that noticeable, but often the scents get worse over time before they get better.

I’ve seen many cars that might have a slight smoky smell to it, and people brush it off as they think it goes away, but it doesn’t and usually gets worse over time before it gets better.

Another lesson I learned is that it might not have anything to do with a previous smoker. The smoke smell could be something in your car burning like a fan motor or in the engine area.