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How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Car

Ants in your car – it may seem unnatural, but it’s more common than you think and a very good reason behind it!

Your kids drop some french fries between the seats. You spill some coffee on the center console on your way to work. A grocery bag spills over and frozen peas work their way under the seats. Ants can smell these food sources and are small enough to find their way into your car through any number of tiny cracks and crevices. 

The question is: how do you actually get rid of the ants in your car and ensure that no more ants get in?

This article looks at why ants enter your car, where they come from, and all the things you can do to get rid of them! Check it out!

Why are Ants in Your Car?

Ants are mainly scavengers. The only reason they would go into your car is to search for food. If they find food in your car, they will leave a scent trail as they take the food back to the colony.

This trail marks the exact path to the food, and other ants will take the same route. Once a scent trail has been well-established by several rounds of ants, many more ants are sure to follow.

If this has happened, it may seem like there is an entire colony of ants occupying your car. However, it is extremely unlikely that ants would set up an actual colony within your car. It is much more likely that the ants traveled from a colony very near where you park and are harvesting resources like food and water from various parts of your car. 

The good news is that there are some very cheap and effective ways to rid your car of ants completely!

Steps for Keeping Ants OUT of Your Car

1. Park Your Car Elsewhere

First off, you can instantly break the ant’s scent trail by parking in a different spot. The ants in your car will try to return to the colony, but if you park far enough away it is unlikely that they will be able to establish a scent trail back to the nest.

If you can, scout the area you are going to move your car to for signs of ants. That way, you can be sure that you are not going to invite ants from a different colony to invade your car!

2. Clean Your Car Thoroughly

Even if you can’t park somewhere else, this step is an absolute necessity! Ants will not invade your car if there is no reason for them to be there. When ants leave the nest, they are really only looking for food or water. If your car has food scraps (of any kind!) on the floor or between the seats, ants will be able to smell it.

It is important to thoroughly vacuum out your car from top to bottom. Be sure to vacuum the seats, the cracks between the seats, and the hard-to-reach areas under the seats where food scraps may have fallen. Clean out cupholders and any other areas where you may have spilled sugary drinks.

Another thing many people forget to clean is the outside of their car. Remember all those scent trails that the ants used to find access points into your car? Those will typically wash away with soap and hot water.

Better yet, take your car to an automatic car wash and get a wash that includes the undercarriage and lots of soap. This is sure to wash away all the pathways that the ants have used to get into your car. If you clean out all the food they were attracted to, this will certainly keep the ants from invading again.

3. Treat the Exterior Ant Colony

If you are still having problems and you have already tried the first two steps, the next step is to eliminate the source of the ants. Most of the time, this step will not be necessary. After you have cleaned your car thoroughly, there should be no reason for the ants to enter it. But, if your car sits close to a colony and the ants have previously found lots of food in it, they may have good reason to keep trying.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell ants that you cleaned your car and won’t be feeding them anymore.

Luckily, there are a number of natural and organic fire ant treatments for ants that can quickly eliminate an entire colony or get them to move. If these methods fail, there are many synthetic pesticides (like indoxacarb) that can definitely get the job done. Some of these products can even be placed as baits inside of your car to help eliminate the colony that keeps invading your vehicle!

You may also be able to find some ant hills you need to get rid of around your property. These mounds can typically be treated directly, but follow the label of the pesticide for exact instructions.

4. Use a Nuvan Strip (Last Resort)

The Nuvan Strip is a pesticide-laced product that slowly emits a noxious vapor to kill all kinds of insects. Typically used on confined spaces like closets and empty bedrooms, the Nuvan Strip can fill a space with insecticide and will kill all insects in that space for months.

Nuvan ProStrips - Package of 12 Strips with 12 Cages - 16 Gram
  • NUVAN PROSTRIPS: features a convenient plastic cage that may be selectively placed, protecting enclosed areas for up to...
  • CONTROLS: labeled pests include bed bugs, flies, mosquitoes, wasps, gnats, moths, flying insects, cockroaches, ants,...
  • ACTIVE INGREDIENT: Dichlorvos 18.6%

The only downside is that you should not drive your car while the Nuvan Strip is in place. The strip can take up to 48 hours to kill all of the ants inside of your car, and you will need to air your car out for an hour or so to ensure it is safe to drive. But, the Nuvan Strip will definitely get the job done!

Tips for Preventing Ant from Infesting Your Car

While the above methods will definitely take care of your ant problem, the easiest way to ensure an ant-free car is to prevent them from getting in your car in the first place. There are some very simple things you can do to prevent an ant infestation:

  • Keep your car clean! Ants are looking for food and water, so make sure there is none in your car.
  • Clean up any spills immediately. If you forget about spilling a sugary drink or the french fry you dropped between the seats, ants will smell it and try to find it.
  • If you find an active outdoor colony near where you park, treat the ants with baits or sprays so they don’t venture into your car.

Other FAQs

Should I ant bomb my car?

Many “bomb” products can take just as long as a Nuvan Strip to successfully neutralize an infestation, and they can also leave behind a considerable odor and pesticide residue. Our advice is to use Nuvan Strips if the infestation is severe enough. An actual “bug bomb” is way too much to use in a car.

Why are ants attracted to my car?

Food! There is almost no other reason that ants would be attracted to your car. If you keep finding ants, they are almost certainly getting some sort of nourishment. You may have dropped a candy between the seats or spilled some soda on the carpet. You may not even remember doing so. But, if the ants are there, they are likely being fed. Clean thoroughly and use a steam cleaner for sticky substances spilled in the carpet.

Can ants damage my car?

It is very unlikely that ants could damage your car. It is technically possible that ants could find their way into a sensitive electronic component or a delicate part of your engine that could cause damage to your vehicle. It is much more likely that the ants simply found a passageway around the seals of your doors, march to the food, and march directly back out again. In most cases you should be able to clean your car out and not have any problems.

Will the ants leave my car on their own?

If you stop adding food to the car, the ants will eventually clean your car for you and have no reason to keep visiting. That being said, the ants may have established a pathway through your car to another food source. This is more likely if your car has been parked in the same spot for long periods of time and is rarely used. The ants may simply be using it to travel from one area to another. In this case, simply moving your car to a different spot for a few days should eliminate your ant problem since the ants will be forced to find a new path. 

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Written by Gabe Buckley

Gabe Buckley is a professional science writer with a Bachelor's of Science in Zoology and a Master's of Professional Natural Sciences from Colorado State University.

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