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How to Get Rid of Ticks in Your Car

Hiking is wonderful, especially with man’s best friend. Unfortunately, hiking is by far the most common way of getting bitten by a tick.

For most of us, a good hike cannot be found right outside the backdoor. This means taking your car to and from the hiking trail. Without the right precautions, you’re bound to get a tick (or two!) in your car. Since ticks can survive for a month or more without a blood meal, this means your car can become a potential source of tick bites – and possibly Lyme disease.

While most people love to take their dogs on hikes, this actually increases the risk of bringing ticks into your car. So, you need to know how to prevent ticks from getting into your car at the end of a hike – and how to eliminate them from your car if it has become infected!

The Best Ways to Prevent Ticks in Your Car

As they say, the best defense is a good offense. If you do the work to check for ticks at the end of each hike, there is a much lower chance of them setting up shop in your car.

Checking for ticks is easy if you follow some simple rules:

1. Check Yourself First

Checking for ticks is easiest if you wear light-colored clothing and have a buddy help you. Proceed in a systematic fashion, first checking your arms, armpits, and chest, before you move on to your lower half.

Wearing long-sleeves and pants helps keep ticks on your clothes and can prevent them from biting, but that is not always an option in the hottest parts of summer. If a tick has made it’s way to your skin, it is probably going to stay there – you can check your body further when you get home.

Also, try running your fingers through your hair, check areas like the back of your neck well.

2. Check Your Dog

Ticks can be surprisingly hard to find on dogs with thick, dark fur. So, use the same systematic approach that you used to find ticks on yourself. Start at your dog’s head, carefully spreading their fur and looking all the way down to their skin.

Once you have worked your way through all the fur on their backs, have them roll over and check their belly. Be sure to check in their armpits and between their legs well – ticks love these warm places.

Between the toes is another key place to check, though it may be difficult to get a good look if your dog is sensitive about their feet being touched.

3. Use Light-colored Seat Covers (or Bedsheets)

By covering your seats with a very light-colored fabric, you will be able to easily see if any ticks fall off of your pack or your dog when you put them in the car. If you can catch any ticks before they tuck themselves away into the dark recesses of your car, you will have a much easier time eliminating them.

Though this is just a quick checklist of things you should check before you get in your car and leave a hike, there are a few more steps to checking for and preventing tick bites on your and your dog. You can find all the steps in our Full Guide on Checking for Ticks.

While these steps will help prevent ticks from getting in your car, avid hikers will find that it is almost inevitable that a tick or two sometimes escapes the process. If you do find a tick in your car after a hike, there’s a good chance that others are hiding in the carpet or in the folds of fabric on your seats. Keep reading to learn how to completely eliminate them!

How to Eliminate Ticks in Your Car

If you suspect that your car may be infested with one or more ticks, you should probably take the time to get rid of them before they bite you, your family members, or your pets.

Ticks carry a lot of serious diseases that can be life-threatening such as Lyme Disease. The good news is that it can be relatively simple to eliminate ticks from your car using the methods below:

Park in the Sun

This is likely the easiest way to eliminate ticks from your car, however, it only works in the right conditions. If you go hiking on a bright, sunny day, simply park your car in direct sunlight when you get home. Though the exact temperature that kills ticks is not well-documented, temperatures about 130° F for at least 1 hour should do the trick!

Considering that the inside of a car can get up to 170° F in the right conditions, this is definitely a viable option for killing ticks. 

To make sure this method is effective, you must park to maximize the heat energy your car builds up and monitor the temperature. Roll your windows up, and park so that your windshield is facing the sun directly. By placing a temperature recording device in your car, you can check your car as the sun is going down to ensure that it reached temperatures above 130° F.

Things like the outside temperature, window tinting, and cloud cover can all affect how hot your car gets. If this temperature cannot be reached, you may want to resort to the options below to ensure all the ticks in your car are dead.

Vacuuming/Steaming

Believe it or not, a vacuum is a great tool for extracting ticks from the fabric of your car. This method works best if you have a handheld vacuum attachment that has a rotating brush. Ticks can hold on tightly to certain fabrics, and a spinning brush helps pull them free. An even better option is to use a steamer.

Steamers are effective for the same reason that parking in the sun is effective: high heat kills ticks. To effectively use a steamer on the fabric of your car, go slowly. You want to increase the heat of each area to treat as much as possible before moving onto the next area. The steam will literally cook the ticks you pass over, sort of like how you cook a lobster. This method can be especially effective for any ticks hiding in the folds of your seats. 

Use a Nuvan Strip

The Nuvan Strip is a device created to kill insects in small spaces like closets. It works by slowly emitting a powerful, organophosphate insecticide that is lethal to nearly all pests.

Luckily, the trapped air in your car is very similar to the conditions in a closet and these strips can be an effective way to eliminate ticks in colder weather and without the hassle of having to vacuum every crack and crevice.

Nuvan ProStrips - Package of 12 Strips with 12 Cages - 16 Gram
  • LONG LASTING
  • WORKS ON WIDE RANGE OF PESTS INCLUDING BED BUGS
  • EACH 16 GRAM BAR COVERS 100-200 CUBIC FEET

Simply unpackage the Nuvan Strip, and hang it somewhere on the inside of your car. Leave the strip in the car for 2-3 days, and let the insecticide do its work. After this waiting period, you can air your car out again for 1-2 hours and it should be completely safe to drive.

The only disadvantage to this method is that you shouldn’t drive the car with the Nuvan Strip in place, as you may be exposed to the organophosphates.

The Best Trick for Ticks in Your Car: Be Persistent

Ticks can be crafty little beasts. So, you’ll want to keep an eye out for any ticks that you come across. Checking your clothes, animals, skin, and car for ticks regularly is the best way to ensure that you don’t get bit. 

That being said, ticks probably won’t stay in your car for long. They prefer to live outdoors if they are not actively trying to bite you. This means you’re more likely to find a tick on your body or on your dog than you are to find a tick simply hiding out in your car. Plus, ticks don’t tend to congregate. So, if you do find one or two in your car, it’s not likely that there are many more.

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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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