• Q. I need your help. My car has an odor that will not go away. My car, now known as “The Farm,” smells like a barn. Basically, my brother’s dog (her name is Drama) squirted her anal gland (yes, it’s disgusting) on my Prius’s fabric back seat. The substance permeated several layers of seat fabric. By the way, this was three years ago. I’ve had the car cleaned many times. They’ve shampooed the seats, done some sort of ozone cleaning, sprayed weird animal-scent removers, etc., and the smell hasn’t gone away. The odor is so horrific that if I roll down the window and stop at a tollbooth or to pay a fast-food worker, the person literally flinches. Have you ever seen that “Seinfeld” episode about the car smell? Well, that’s pretty much the situation I’m in. My mom thinks that if I change out the back seat, it will get rid of the smell. I think it’s too late. Anything that is in the car for more than a few hours takes on that smell. If I’m in the car for several hours, I smell like the car. I think even if the seats are removed, the smell has become part of the interior’s DNA and will never go away. It’s horribly embarrassing! I can’t let anyone get in the car. Do you have any advice? Is there any cleaning substance you can recommend? Or should I cut my losses and trade it in, hoping the dealer has no sense of smell? Please help. •
RAY: Wait until your dealer has a terrible cold, then go and trade it in.
TOM: I’ve had several cars like this, although not with this particular odor. Usually, it was mold. I’d have an old convertible, and the top would either leak or stop going up and down altogether. So I’d leave it down all summer (of course). The car would get wet, mold spores would be fruitful and multiply, and before I knew it, I was driving a biohazard level 3 containment zone.
RAY: Didn’t help him much with dates. Although, on the plus side, he never got asked to drive the carpool.
TOM: If you hadn’t waited three years, I think you’d have a better shot at this. We spoke to our Car Talk veterinary consultant, Dr. Linda Siperstein, and she says that for dog anal gland odor, they use a product called A.O.E., made by Thornell. She says this can even be sprayed right on the dog’s tailpipe if necessary.
RAY: Thornell also makes a similar product for carpets and upholstery called Dog Odor-Off. The company claims that it works even after the offending material has dried, but who knows? Or maybe you’ve tried it already and it didn’t help.
TOM: I’d say you’ve got three choices now. One is to replace the back seat with one from a junkyard, and then do your best to treat the rest of the car with one of these dog-gland-specific industrial-strength odor fighters.
RAY: You’re right that the smell is now in the headliner, the other seats, the carpet and who knows where else? But if that is a secondary odor, you might be able to tamp it down to a merely nauseating level.
TOM: On the other hand, after soaking in this aroma for three years, I’m not optimistic. So the second option is to just trade in the car. Sure, the dealer will notice the smell when he checks it out, but maybe he’ll think he can treat it. Maybe he can. It’s certainly cheaper for him to replace seats, carpets and headliners than it is for you.
RAY: Your third option is a fire. Even that might not get rid of the smell, but it will at least mix it with some more pleasant smells, like burnt rubber and plastic. Good luck!
• Q. I am hopefully starting a retail job at an auto-parts store as a part-time associate/part-time driver. Could you please provide a primer on what every parts monkey should know? (I use the term “parts monkey” in all its warmth and mirth, and mean to offend no one). I have been a fan of you two guys for nearly 20 years, and I find your radio program both informative and entertaining. •
RAY: It seems to me the best parts guys are guys who have actually worked on cars before.
TOM: The reason is that when you go in the back room and you pull a set of pads for a Ford F-150, and you see that they’re only two inches long, you’d know right away that those are the wrong pads and that somebody stocked them in the wrong place.
RAY: So you’d be able to correct the error before you sent the customer away to go home, jack up his car, remove the wheels and brake pads, and then realize that he’s got the wrong pads
TOM: Or before you sent the wrong parts out to a shop that’s got a car on a lift, in pieces, and a customer reading a 12-year-old People magazine in the waiting room for what’s going on four hours.
RAY: And, unfortunately, the only way to get that kind of experience is to work on some cars. So if you’re really serious about moving up in the parts world, you’d probably be well served by volunteering or getting a lackey job at a shop one or two mornings a week. Then you’d get to know what the different parts for different cars actually look like, and you’d be able to spot obvious errors.
TOM: And when you’re delivering parts, our best advice is not to dawdle. When a shop calls for a part, that often means they have a car up on a lift, taking up space, with other cars waiting to get in and owners waiting for them.
RAY: So come in, hustle the parts off your truck, get your signature and get going. That’ll make a better impression than regaling the mechanics with your review of the latest episode of “Downton Abbey.” Good luck.
Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or email them by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.