Mould removal can be a dirty job

Appreciated Automobile AppraisalsWhether your car is a rare classic or a daily driver, a clean, odour free interior is integral for comfortable cruising.

Appreciated Automobile Appraisals

Whether your car is a rare classic or a daily driver, a clean, odour free interior is integral for comfortable cruising.

Question: I just bought a 1998 Toyota Camry with a 2.2-litre, four-cylinder engine. Now that the previous owners air freshener has worn off, I noticed a strong mould odour in the interior, even though there is no mould visually present. I since noticed that water has collected in the spare tire well and I figure that this could be caused by worn weather stripping. I have since drained the water out via plugs in the floor, but I was wondering if the mould smell would have been caused by the water in the trunk, or if you think that I ended up with one of those flood-damaged cars. Also, how do I remove the mould?

 — Bandit


Answer: If your vehicle was in a flood, there are typically signs of it inside the vehicle. Remove the kick panels under the sides of the dash and look for dirt or water stains on the back side of the upholstery panels. Electrical connectors will also show signs of corrosion such as white powder residue on the terminals or a green fuzzy deposit inside the connectors. It is very difficult and expensive to correct these problems, as it may involve replacing electrical components, cleaning all electrical connectors and steam cleaning the interior or even replacing interior panels and carpeting. The water in the trunk however, may be due to a faulty weatherstrip seal, which could allow water to leak into the interior.

You don’t say where the mould is in your vehicle. If it is visible, then there are mould removal chemicals at many hardware stores. Be sure to wear a mask while you spray the area with the chemical and let it dry completely to break down the mould.

More likely, the mould is not visible and you are experiencing a mouldy smell. Often this comes from the air-conditioning evaporator and housing under the dash where mould has started to grow in this moist and warm environment. Your dealership or auto parts store should carry a spray chemical that can be sprayed into the housing and onto the evaporator unit. Sometimes you have to remove a component such as a blower resistor from the housing to gain access to do this.

Be sure to leave the doors open and ventilate the interior of the vehicle for an hour or more after spraying the chemical in. The housing can then be flushed with clean water. Often mould starts to grow in the housing because one of the water drains in the bottom of the housing is blocked. You can see water dripping from beneath vehicles in the summer from these drains if they have the air conditioner operating so it is important to keep them open.

Finally, if the water has soaked into the carpet, it can take many days in hot weather for the carpet to dry out even with the car doors open. You may have to take the seats out, remove the carpet and underlay to let it dry out fully and then reinstall everything. There are several “odour removers” available on the parts department shelves but an economical one is an open bag of briquettes. The charcoal in the briquettes will absorb odours and you can simply throw them away or burn them when you are done.


Question: I replaced the halogen headlight bulb in my Chevy pickup a couple months back and the new bulb burned out after only a couple weeks. I assumed it was a faulty bulb and put another one in but it too has burned out after only a few weeks. Am I just having bad luck with the bulbs or is there an electrical problem with my headlights?



Answer: The solution may be simpler than you think. Halogen bulbs operate very hot. The filament inside the bulb actually vaporizes and then redeposits the material back on itself as it operates. However, if there is grease or contamination on the outside of the bulb, the filament material will deposit on the inside of the glass instead of back on the filament.

The contamination can be as little as touching the glass of the bulb with your hand and leaving a fingerprint behind during the installation of the bulb. Before installing the next bulb, wipe the glass portion of the bulb with a soft cloth or paper towel and rubbing alcohol. Then do not touch the glass while you install the bulb. This should fix the problem of repeated bulb failures on your truck.