Are you finding ants crawling on the outside or inside your car? Tried to get rid of them but they keep coming back? Well, it helps to know why ants are drawn to your car in the first place…
There are 4 reasons why ants go into cars: to find food, to find moisture, to find a place to build a nest, and for protection from the weather outside. Worker ants leave their nest to find these things, and sometimes they end up in your car looking for them.
Ants like to stay hidden, so the ants you see are not always all the ants you have in the car. You might see a few ants walking around, but the rest could be in your engine, door seals, vents, dashboard, or car seats.
Here are the top 15 best ways to get rid of all the ants in your car:
Make your parking spot an ant-free zone
The first step to getting rid of ants in your car is to stop them from coming into your car. Start by parking in another parking spot, or spray your parking area with this ant spray or sprinkle it with these ant granules from Amazon. This will kill any ants that might be nesting there.
If there is a very bad infestation in the area, it’s best to call in a pest controller to spray the area and kill the ant colony.
This includes your regular parking spots at home, at work, at the gym, and anywhere else you visit regularly.
Most ants build their nests outdoors, though some ants love nesting in wood inside a house. Scout ants leave the nest to look for things like food or a place to build another nest.
When you park your car for long enough or often enough near an ant nest, scout ants might make their way into your car. If you only ever see an ant or two in your car, they are probably scout ants taking a look around.
But if you see several ants, ants walking behind one another in an ant trail, or more and more ants over time, you might have a bigger problem:
If the scout ants found food in your car, they called more ants to help them collect the food, and you could end up with many worker ants coming in and out of your car.
Though unlikely, it’s also possible that the ants have built a nest in your car and there is a queen laying eggs in there each day. Once the first batch of eggs start hatching after three to four weeks, you will seem to have an endless supply of ants in your car until you kill the queen.
If ants have nested in your house or home, click here for the easiest methods to kill the queen and eliminate the colony.
Luckily, ants don’t often build a nest in a car because they don’t like their nest being moved around. This only really happens if your car stands still for several days in an area where a mature ant colony is looking to build a new nest to expand the colony.
Make sure you aren’t bringing ants into your car
Sometimes we bring ants into the car without knowing it when we put items with ants on them in the car.
Think carefully about the things you pack into and transport in your car, or what you’ve traveled with lately.
Ants could be hiding in cardboard boxes, food packages, camping gear, backpacks, garage items, or on any other items you carry around with you.
Look at these items to make sure there are no ants lurking around in there. If there are, get rid of them so that you no longer move the ants from place to place, like your car.
Remember to check under your shoes before climbing into the car, to make sure there aren’t any ants on there either.
Empty and vacuum your car to remove all food sources
Most ants enter a car looking for food, and they come back with more ants if they find it.
Give your car a good clean, taking out any trash and vacuuming your car thoroughly, from top to bottom and in all the cracks and crevices, to remove all food and crumbs.
Look under the car’s hood and by the fender, to make sure nothing has died in there. Many ants feed meat to their young, and a dead mouse under your hood is like a fast food restaurant for them.
If all food sources in the car are gone, it’s unlikely the ants will come back.
Dry any wet areas
Ants need moisture to live and they absolutely love to drink sweet liquids, which is the staple food of adult ants. But ants will even come into your car if they discover water from leaky seals.
If you spilled any drinks or have any wet areas in your car, use a rag or paper towels to soak up as much of the liquid as you can.
Spot clean the area with soapy water if the spill is sweet, like a soft drink. Be sure to scrub the area well, to dilute and remove as much of the sweet liquid as possible.
Then use a hairdryer on the area to get it bone dry.
Place ant bait traps in and near to the car
If you have a lot of ants in your car, use these cost-effective ant bait stations from Amazon. The traps are filled with a sweet poison, which ants love. They take the poison back to their nest and share it with the other ants.
The poison will kill some of the ants in your car quite quickly. But over time, the poison also kills all the ants in the colony, including any queen living in your car.
Be warned though, the sweet poison attracts ants too. If you put the traps inside your car you might have more ants for a while as they come to collect their prize. If you don’t want this, put the traps outside your car, on your tires, or around the actual ant nest instead. Just be sure to keep the traps out of reach of children and animals.
If you don’t want to buy ant traps and you’d rather make some yourself, here’s a simple ant trap recipe:
- Mix 2 tablespoons of borax or boric acid with 0.5 cup of sweet food that ants like, such as peanut butter or jelly. Or mix 2 tablespoons of borax with 0.5 cup of sugar and dissolve the mixture in warm water until you have a thick paste.
- Divide the mixture into several portions and put each portion on a piece of cardboard or tinfoil. Now your ant traps are ready to use.
- Put these homemade DIY ant traps under your car seats, anywhere you see ants walking in lines, on your tires, or near to where you park your car. Again, make sure that children and animals can’t get to the traps.
Wash ant trails so ants can’t find their way back
When scout ants find food, they return to the nest to call worker ants to help them collect the food. On their way from the food to the nest, the ants leave behind a pheromone trail.
The ants follow this chemical trail from the nest back to the food, which is why you see ants walking behind each other in a line.
If you see ants walking in such a line, you need to wash away the chemicals in the ant trails, so the ants won’t keep following the trails in your car.
Plain water won’t work. Here’s what will remove ant trails:
- Make a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water. Wash the areas where you have seen ants with this mixture and leave it to air dry.
- If the ants are walking on your dashboard, or any area without fabric or electronic equipment, spray the area with a non-toxic cleaner called Simple Green. Leave the cleaner on for a few minutes to work, then wipe it off with a damp cloth.
- Another great natural product that smells amazing is concentrated orange oil extracted from orange peels. Orange oil contains d-limonene, which breaks down the chemicals in ant trails and kills and repels ants, so they won’t easily come back. The oil can be used on many car surfaces such as metal, glass, rubber, and plastic, but don’t use it on your fabric seats or carpets!
Use a bug bomb to kill the queen
If you have a lot of ants all over and inside your car, it might be time to get professional help. Many car washes and detailers offer car fogging services, and they will fog the ants right out of your car.
Sometimes this is the only way to get rid of a queen ant that’s hiding deep under the hood or in the car’s body panels, where she lays fresh eggs daily.
If you want to do it yourself, try this odorless and film-free bug fogger from Amazon. Place the fogger under the parked car (always switch off the car so it isn’t a fire hazard), leave the car windows open, then close up the garage and lock it so no one opens the door.
Be sure to keep an eye on things, seal any CD slots with tape, and keep children and animals away until the room and car have both aired after the great fogging.
Spray tires and entry points with insecticide
Your car’s tires touch the ground, so it makes sense that most ants get into your car by climbing up the tires (others might climb into your car from branches or anything else that touches your car).
Once the ants are up your tires, they can enter your car through the doors, under the hood, or anywhere else they find a gap.
If you have an ant problem, try spraying insecticide on your tires, door jambs, and around the hood. This kills ants on contact, so they won’t make it inside.
This method is only effective if you have ants going in and out of your car or walking on the outside of your car. It won’t kill a colony of ants that are already nesting inside your car.
The following insecticide sprays from Amazon are very effective at killing ants on cars:
- Bifenthrin concentrate, which is listed as a pest control for transport vehicles. Spray it on or paint it on with a brush.
- Defense insect killer, which is odor-free and kills ants for up to 12 months. It comes with its own wand for easy application.
- For tires, a good spray is this Raid Ant Killer spray. Spray your tires, including the wheel wells, once a day with this spray for at least a week, or until you stop seeing ants in your car.
Water washes away insecticide so you may need to reapply the insecticide after heavy rain, or keep your car dry.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth inside the car
Diatomaceous earth is an inexpensive, chemical-free, non-toxic, natural product that’s very good at killing ants. When ants walk over diatomaceous earth, their exoskeletons get damaged and they die.
Sprinkle this fine powder all over your car seats, your dashboard, and on the floor of your car, then leave it there for as long as you can, but at least a day or two.
Simply vacuum up the diatomaceous earth and any dead ants when you’re done.
Give your car a power wash
Water is a great way to remove ants from the outside of your car as it literally sprays them away.
It doesn’t keep the ants away long-term though, so you’ll still need to take other measures if the ants have left ant trails in your car or built a nest in there.
To get rid of ants quickly and easily, use a strong hose spray setting or get a power wash done on the car’s body, under the hood, on the wheels, and in the wheel wells.
Use heat to make ants leave
Ants are cold-blooded and use their environment to control their body temperature.
Ants are most productive and do best in temperatures that range between 75 and 95°F (24 – 35°C). But even if it gets very, very cold, ants won’t necessarily die inside your car, they just go into a lazy calorie-saving way of life.
Even though ants like warmth, they won’t stick around your car for long under extreme heat. Researchers have found that when the temperature in the mound above an ant nest reaches 107°F (42°C), ants quickly run deep down into their nest, where the temperature is cooler and more stable than it is above ground.
If you live in a warm area, park your car in a sunny spot at midday, and leave the heater on inside the car to get ants to move out.
If the ants are under the car’s hood, run your engine for a while, to make it very warm and toasty under there.
Otherwise, go to an automotive repair place that offers car painting services. These companies often have hot rooms where they bake paint onto cars. Ask them to bake your car for you and kill the ants inside.
Sprinkle cinnamon or baby powder in your car
There are some smells that ants hate and stay away from. Lucky for us, these are smells we generally like.
To get and keep ants out of your car, sprinkle baby powder or cinnamon on the carpets on the car’s floor and rub it in.
The bonus is that this should leave your car smelling good.
Rent an ozone machine
Some people swear that they got rid of ants in their car with an ozone machine.
You can rent or buy your own ozone machine. These machines are sold as air purifiers and odor removers, but they also kill bacteria, mold, viruses, bugs, and, some say, ants in cars.
If you do try an ozone generator, follow the instructions carefully. You will need to leave the machine on inside the car for at least eight to ten hours, then air the car for a good hour or so before you get in and breathe the air in there.
Make chemical-free ant spray with dish soap
If you want to make your own eco-friendly ant spray to spray any ants you see crawling around your car, try the simple recipe in this blog post.
The spray is only effective if you spray it directly onto ants – it won’t work if you spray it on the surfaces in your car and the ants walk over it.
Use essential oils to get ants out of a car
Ants use their sensitive antennae to smell out food and to follow chemical ant trails that other ants have left.
But when there is an overpowering smell, such as the smell of pure essential oils nearby, ants can’t smell properly or pick up ant trails, so they move somewhere else.
If you have ants in your car and you want to use the beautiful aroma of essential oils to get them out, place some drops of essential oil on cotton wool balls. Put these cotton balls under your car seats, by the dashboard, and in the boot of your car.
Ants really hate the smell of these essential oils:
You can mix and match the fragrances to make a car deodorizer that you love. My personal favorite is a mix of orange oil and eucalyptus oil.