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Why does my car smell of fish?

Stephen Wright, 11 months ago

2 min read

  • Advice
  • Maintenance
diagnose-IT-fishy

Fish smells can be one of the worst car odours to eliminate. But where do they come from, and, more importantly, how do you get rid of them? WhoCanFixMyCar has a few solutions

Guide to fishy smells:

Fishy smell inside your car

Fishy smell coming from heater

Whole car smells of fish


Fishy smell in the car

The smell may just be coming from food that has gone mouldy, in which case your car will require a deep clean. You can undertake this cleaning process yourself or employ a professional cleaning service if you don't fancy getting your hands dirty.

If you do it yourself at home, a great DIY remedy is white vinegar and baking soda. Create the mixture then apply it heavily to the smelly area, leave it to soak in a while then soak up whatever of the mixture is left.

If the stain is on your car seat or floor, you can rent handheld Vaxing equipment from most supermarkets - they'll give your upholstery the ultimate clean! Smell still lingering? There are experts out there for upholstery repair, who can also replace sections of your cars fabric surfaces if necessary.


Fishy smell when heater is on

Antifreeze can smell fishy and may leak into your car through the heating system.

It is possible for it to leak through your radiator's heater core with its stench then getting blown out through the blower. It may have leaked for a number of reasons. This can range from a loose clamp to a bad hose. The best bet is to have it seen to by a mechanic; they will be able to tell you exactly what's wrong. 


Car smells like dead fish

The smell of dead fish is far from a pleasant one, nor are the mental images that it conjures.

Sadly, the unpleasant fishy smell could be coming from a dead animal in your blower motor. The animal may have crawled inside of your car at night for shelter and warmth, then has unfortunately been obliterated when the engine switched on.

This is undoubtedly an unfortunate clean-up job, but it is the only way to eradicate the smell before it becomes truly pungent by embedding itself in the car upholstery.

Whilst this is a problem you can diagnose yourself, your best bet to resolving it is to drive to a local car wash and see what under the hood cleaning service they offer. Otherwise... could it be an actual dead fish hidden somewhere in/on your car?! Worth a check!


If you still can't work out why your car smells like fish, take it to a local mechanic who will be able to carry out the necessary checks to determine exactly what's wrong.

It could turn out to be something very simple that may not even need repairs, in which case you can drive home happy knowing that the smell is resolved and you didn't have to pay over the odds!


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