Getting the bugs out of your car

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Spider on red car

No hitchhikers welcome! Image: Benimoto/Flickr/CC BY

We’ve all heard of vehicles with bugs that need to be worked out. But what do you do when those bugs come with six legs and sharp mandibles? It is not uncommon for insects to infest vehicles. Here’s what you can do to evict the squatting pests.


Automotive journalist Tom Torbjornsen recently wrote about Andrea Preziotti of Brooklyn, N.Y., who had an infestation of large carpenter ants in the heating and air-conditioning system of her 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV. Her documentation of the invasion on her personal blog proved the bugs were there when she bought the car, which led to her getting a brand new Hyundai from the automaker.

Ants are constantly on the search for food, and they can smell the smallest crumbs in your car. And if there is a way in, they will find it. Once a food source has been located, the bugs will set up a colony to collect it and bring it back to their nest.

Evicting ants

Preziotti’s Hyundai dealer initially suggested fumigating the car with a bug bomb. Preziotti was not comfortable with that solution, however, and rightfully so. Once a car is contaminated with chemical insecticides, it will be virtually impossible to clear out all traces of the dangerous and smelly residue.

Torbjornsen suggests baiting the scavengers with peanut butter laced with boric acid. The worker ants will carry the food back to their nest, killing the queen and all her subjects.


Last March 65,000 Mazda6 cars were recalled after the automaker received 20 reports of yellow sac spiders infestations in the tiny rubber hoses linked to the fuel tank. The infestations likely originated at the assembly plant or from a parts supplier.

Most insects and arachnids will die in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. But the trick becomes how to heat or cool an entire vehicle to those extremes. If one lives in New Mexico and it is summertime, the answer is simple. Park your car in the blistering sun all day. Of course, most do not have that option. The blog Living With Bugs suggests finding an auto body shop that paints cars and negotiating with them to let you park in their heated paint drying room for a while.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide is the gas that makes soft drinks fizz, and it is also fatal to most insects. Blogger Jack DeAngelis suggests an inexpensive method of delivering the gas to the pests. Dry ice, sold in many drug and hardware stores, is frozen carbon dioxide. Simply seal up the vehicle and place a pan of dry ice inside. As the ice melts, the gas will be released, killing the invaders.

Insurance coverage

Often, comprehensive insurance policies will cover extensive damage caused by pests. Torbjornsen wisely suggests examining a policy carefully before paying for any repairs out of pocket.


LA Times
Living With Bugs
Autos AOL

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