How You Can Successfully Remove Persistent Odors From A Semi Truck Cab

If you locate a used truck that has all the right features and characteristics that make it a good deal, but there is a persistent odor that bothers you, don't rule out a purchase. You can successfully eliminate bad smells from a truck's interior using a few robust cleaning strategies and materials. Below is what you will need and how to get rid of noxious odors:

Equipment and materials needed

  • Replacement cabin filter

  • Air conditioning duct cleaning spray

  • Vehicle leather cleaner

  • Hair dryer

  • White vinegar

  • Bucket

  • Stiff-bristled scrub brush

  • Wet/dry vacuum cleaner

  • Flashlight

  • Activated charcoal

  • Old socks

Eliminate odors step-by-step

1. Locate and eliminate obvious sources of odors - All bad smells have a source, but some sources are simpler than others to find and eliminate. However, it pays to take a few minutes to carefully search the interior of your truck cab to see if you can locate an obvious source of the smell.

Since rancid food is a common culprit for odors, use a flashlight to check under seats and behind them to see if you can locate any food items or food wrappers that might contain food residue. Also, be sure to look in storage compartments and spaces that may contain odor-causing substances; even exterior compartments should be checked since it is always possible the previous owner forgot about a meal in a paper sack stashed behind equipment.

In addition, take a close peek at the underside of your tractor. For example, look inside wheel wells and in the various nooks and crannies inside the engine. The warmth of an idling motor can be a powerful attractor for mice and other small animals looking for shelter; it is common for these animals to be caught in a fan belt or blade and die inside the engine compartment. The decaying stench will waft up into your vehicle's ventilation system and create a bad smell that you may think is coming from the inside.

2. Address odors directly when there is no obvious source to be found - Much of the time, there will be no obvious source for the odor inside your truck's cab. Instead, it will either have a smell of tobacco smoke or an odor that might not be easily identified. At that point, your best option is to treat all suspect surfaces as the location of the source of the smell.

In most situations, hard plastic and metal surfaces inside the cab won't carry a noticeable odor. However, soft substances, such as leather are able to retain offensive smells for a lengthy period of time. On top of that, hidden surfaces within the truck's ventilation, heating and air conditioning system can grow odor-causing mold and retain tiny particles from cigarette smoke or even animal dandruff.

To handle these situations successfully, you need to be able to reach the odor-carrying objects. For cleaning your vehicle's interior ventilation and climate control ductwork, purchase a commercially-available air conditioning duct spray and apply an entire can's contents to the interior of the vents as directed. Be sure to keep the windows down on your truck and avoid staying inside the cab as much as possible after the application.

For leather surfaces, use a good-quality leather cleaner to help remove tiny odor-causing particles. If the odor is persistent, you can heat the leather with a hair dryer to help open up the pores of the material and aid in the release of substances inside the leather. Do not allow the leather to dry out and be sure to apply a moisturizing cleaner after you are finished.

3. Clean the vehicle's upholstery - Once you have identified and removed obvious odor sources as well as cleaned your leather and climate control system, the next step is to clean the soft upholstery such as the seat cover material and carpeting. Fortunately, a simple solution of vinegar and warm water mixed in a one-to-one ratio works well at removing dirt and neutralizing odors. Simply scrub the solution into the upholstery and carpeting, taking care not to saturate the material. If you do get the surfaces too wet, use a wet/dry vacuum to remove the excess liquid from the material. Allow the damp surfaces to air dry; the vinegar odor will fade away after drying.

4. Apply the finishing touches - After everything is cleaned, the last thing to do is address any residual odor and prevent new odors from developing. If your truck has a cab air filter, then immediately replace it with a new one to keep any odor causing particles from recirculating. Be sure to regularly replace this filter to help maintain good air quality inside your cab.

In addition, place old socks filled with activated charcoal, which is available cheaply at stores that carry aquarium supplies, under your seats and in various other places where they can't be seen. Activated charcoal is an excellent odor-absorbing material and will help preserve your hard work.

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