Why Does My Car Smell of Fish?

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 13 days ago

2 min read

  • Advice
  • Maintenance
  • why

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

There’s nothing quite as off-putting as the smell of fish infesting the confined space of your car. It’s the kind of thing you never want to happen - and when it does, you want it to go away as soon as possible.

There are several possible explanations, ranging from mouldy food to a damaged exhaust.

This guide will help you identify the cause of the fish smell and eradicate it for good, leaving your car smelling clean as a breath of fresh air.

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 process or employ a professional cleaning service instead of getting your hands dirty.

If you do it at home, an excellent DIY remedy is white vinegar and baking soda. Create the mixture, then apply it heavily to the smelly area and leave it to soak in for a while. After that, soak up the remaining mixture.

Man cleaning the interior of a car.

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 for upholstery repair who can also replace sections of your car's fabric surfaces if necessary.

The average price of an upholstery repair booked through WhoCanFixMyCar is £79.34.

Fishy smell when the heater is on

Antifreeze can smell fishy and may leak into your vehicle via the heating system.

Close up of a car's coolant reservoir.

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

Below is a table of the average price for leak repairs for a few of the most popular car makes.

Car makeAverage price

Car smells like dead fish

The smell of dead fish is not a pleasant one, nor are the mental images it conjures.

Sadly, the smell could be from a dead animal in your blower motor. An animal may have crawled inside your car for shelter and died when the engine switched on.

This clean-up job is unfortunate, but it is the only way to eradicate the smell before it becomes even more intense by embedding itself in the car upholstery.

A local car wash may offer an under-the-bonnet cleaning service.

A man cleaning under the bonnet of his car.

If you still can't figure out why your car smells like fish, take it to a local mechanic who can perform the necessary diagnostic checks to determine what's wrong. 

It could be something straightforward that may not need repairs; in this case, you can drive home happy knowing that the smell is resolved and you didn't have to pay over the odds!

If you have any other issues with your car that you'd like to try to diagnose yourself, check out our guide on self-diagnosing car problems. The more you know about how your car works, the better.

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