New car smell is something that car enthusiasts love. This smell is actually the smell of upholstery, vinyl, glue, leather, plastics, paint, and more combining to create a unique aroma that is distinct to each manufacturer and the materials used in the production of their cars.
These are called volatile organic gasses or VOCs. VOCs are not healthy but they are in fairly low amounts in new cars and are generally not harmful although some people are more sensitive to them than others.
Car manufacturers are actually working hard to reduce VOCs as much as possible. Due to this newer cars don’t have the same strong smell older cars had. With new cars starting off with a weaker new car smell, they don’t smell new as long.
There are several reasons that this smell fades over time. Eventually it will disappear but it can be slowed and preserved for much longer if care is taken.
In this article we’ll run down all of the things that will cause the fading of new car smell and explain things that can be done to help preserve it.
We’ll also discuss new car scent products that can rejuvenate your vehicle after the original new car scent has faded for good.
Causes of fading new car smell
The bottom line with new car smell is that it isn’t going to last indefinitely. It will usually fade within a few months.
However, I remember getting into a 1960’s Buick around 15 years ago and noticing it still smelled new. It was a car that was special ordered from a young woman that died before the car arrived. Her family preserved the car in a garage and had it maintained regularly even though it was never driven.
My Buick-fanatic friend Charles bought it when the family eventually decided to let it go. Part of the reason it still had a bit of new car smell was due to it not being exposed to daily use.
Also older cars had stronger smelling and more numerous VOCs. While you shouldn’t expect to extend the natural new car smell for 30 years or more there are things that can be done.
The following are the best ways to maintain the smell as long as possible.
While other odors don’t necessarily cause new car smell to go away faster they do mask or foul it. Drink spills, dropped food, gym clothes, and many other things can overpower your new cars’ aroma. Even worse, some of these things can get embedded into your carpet, headliner, seats, or other places and be very difficult to remove.
Keep your car clean and free of foreign smellsOne of the very best things you can do to help preserve the natural smell of your car is to keep other smells out. Keep your car free of anything that can stink it up. There will be times that you’ll need to have smelly items in your car. Do your best to plan to protect your car from them. For instance, if you’re frequently driving to the gym and back get a good airtight bag for your dirty gym clothes.
Frequently clean your interiorA lot of dirt and debris gets tracked into a car. Sometimes things happen that we may not even be aware of whether it is something we did or it was the fault of a passenger. Keeping your carpets well vacuumed, upholstery or leather cleaned, and surfaces wiped down will help prevent odors from things that can’t be seen from overpowering the natural smells of your car. Be sure and check out our mega post on how to detail your car paying special attention to the section on the interior.
Avoid strong-scented cleaning productsWhen detailing your car you’re going to eventually need to use products that will have their own scent. Try to use products that aren’t too strong smelling. Additionally you can choose products that can help bolster your new car smell. Leather conditioner can help restore some faded new car smell although it will obviously alter it from how it smelled when your car was new. While it may be a different scent you’re in control of how that scent will evolve.
Leaving your car parked in the sun will speed up the release of gasses from plastics, glues, leathers, etc. This is where new car smell comes from. Over time, the daily heating of the interior of your car will remove most of your new car scent. Anything you can do to protect your car from damaging UV rays and heat from the sun will help slow this process.
Park in the shade
Probably the most obvious thing to try to do is park your car in a shaded area whenever possible. If you don’t have a garage available and you have a place to put an inexpensive car cover to park under that would make a great difference. I’m fortunately that there is a parking garage available where I work. It’s less convenient that parking next to the building I work it but it’s worth the extra effort.
Tint your windows
Tinting your windows will also make a good difference, especially if the tint is designed to block UV rays and keep the interior cool. If you’re not a fan of the tinted look there are tints that can be applied that make almost no visible difference but greatly improve UV protection and heat penetration. This extremely mild tint to visible light waves can be applied to your windshield in many states. Where I live it is only legal with a doctors approval for medical reasons. With the prevalence of skin cancer that should be an easy sell for most doctors.
Use a sun shade
For times you can’t park in the shade, a sun shade can do wonders for cutting the heat down and protect your dashboard from extreme heat. Your windshield is the largest path for sunlight into most cars and anything that can be done to reduce UV rays from coming through there will make a noticeable difference in the amount of heat in the cabin.
Ways to restore new car smell
New car smell air freshenersThe truth is you’re not going to be able to restore the true smell of your particular car as it was when new but you can imitate it. There are many great fragrances available that can help reinvigorate the smell of your interior. I’m personally not a fan of things that hang from my mirror or air vents. If that isn’t an issue for you there are plenty of great options and they are very inexpensive. There are also some spray air fresheners that can help restore the scent that are quite effective.
New car smell essential oilsIf you’re like me and prefer a more stealthy approach to restoring that new car scent me car smell essential oil is the way to go. There are plenty of essential oils available designed to mimic a new car smell. Just apply some to a cotton ball and stash it under your car seat or somewhere else inconspicuous.
Use strong-scented cleaning productsIt makes sense to avoid strong-smelling cleaning products when trying to preserve the natural new car smell of your vehicle. But when it has faded away cleaning products can help restore it. As mentioned earlier, leather conditioner is a good example. Rubber dressing may also provide a more natural new car aroma. Products like carpet cleaners or plastic cleaners will have distinctive smells and you may want to experiment with a few different options to see which has a more pleasing aroma.
New car smell doesn’t usually last more than a few months at best. It can be significantly extended by keeping strong odors out of your car that could overpower the new car scent and doing your best to protect the car from heat as much as possible.
Replenishing the smell is going to be more practical though. Eventually even the best cared for vehicle will eventually lose the new car scent.
Air fresheners and essential oils are the most effective ways to control how the new car scent smells in your car. Cleaning products can also effectively contribute to maintaining the pleasing scent.
Hopefully you’re now well prepared to maintain an aroma that is pleasing to you in your car or truck whether it is brand new or several years old.