There can be multiple reasons why ant infestations happen in cars. Here are some that are the most common:
- Possible food sources: A simply thing like a french fry dropped on the floor mats or food wrappers left in the cupholder will attract ants. It really does not matter to ants how big the food source is, they will be crawling inside for a drop of food crumbs.
- Warm environment: Ants, like most people, can get cold too. They might be looking for a location to nest in your car. As an example, carpenter ants like houses and other warm structures to build nests, even though they usually prefer rotten tree stumps.
- Plants: Yes, the cute plant that you got from the farmer's market might have had bugs while you were transporting it in your car. Some of those insects carried in can even be cockroaches.
- Bad parking spot. You thought parking by a tree was a good idea to give keep your vehicle under shade, but what you do not realize is the fact that the tree you left your car under might have a colony of ants living nearby.
- Car openings. One thing none of us can control is the fact that all cars have several opening that are easy enough for the ants to crawl into
What types of ants can live in your vehicle?
Any type of outdoor ants can be crawling in your car, but it is important to identify which ones can be in your in the case of you getting bit by those insects. Here are some of the common ones:
- Pavement ants are the most common ant species that nest in soil along edges or inc racks around pavement, patios, driveways, sidewalks, and foundations, but they can realistically nest anywhere soil is present.
- Red imported fire ants nest in soil and other moist environments like irrigated lawns and the edges of riverbanks and ponds. Most of these ant species are found in the subtropical southeastern USA states. They are attracted to oily and greasy foods. These ants are the ones that can sting humans.
- Pharaoh ants live in commercial food handling establishments such as hotels, grocery stores and hospitals. They like to nest in warm, humid areas near food and water sources. They can also nest outside buildings where constant moisture source is present.
- Argentine ants typically live next to urban areas and they nest outside of buildings, at the base of trees or in the tree itself, garden beds, or along the edges of paths. They thrive in swamps and low lying areas where moisture is in abundance.
- Sugar ants, also known as banded sugar ants, live and forage a for food source in suburban areas. They also like warm and humid climates.
How will ants in your car cause damage?
Even though ant bites are painful, some species of ants can also damage your vehicle. For example, the red imported fire ants can take over your electrical circuit and cause short circuits in the car. If there is an ant colony in your car, you should call the exterminator.
How to get rid of ants in your car?
The first place you should check when you find ants in your car is the location of your parking spot. Did you accidentally park over an ant hill? If so, move your car away from it as soon as you can.
It is not probable that you will have an ant colony living in your car, but those ants are probably looking for food sources and water. If your car happens to have those two things, the ants will find them.
Next thing you should do is look around the interior of your vehicle. Do not forget to check:
- seat covers
- glove compartment
- floor mats
- fender wells
If you find ants in those areas, it does not always mean there has been an ant infestation. Sometimes ants leave pheromone trails to your car for whatever reason.
2. Remove the food source and water
At once remove any food items, including your groceries and cases of bottled water. Next, trash any food packagings, soda cans, and candy wrappers. Make sure to vacuum the areas between and underneath the back seats as well as the front.
It is crucial to get rid of food when trying to get rid of ants in your car. This one thing can make a big difference in the process of keeping your car clean from insects like ants.
3. Use hot temperature to kill ants in your car
Park your car in the sun. The car can reach hot temperatures inside during the summer months. Your vehicle can reach temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in less than an hour, which is enough to kill ants in your car quickly. You can also start the car and leave the heater on for approximately 10 minutes to speed things up, and this will kill any foraging ants in the engine compartment.
Check this guide of engine bay cleaning
5. Steam clean the car to get rid of ants
Use a steam cleaner to clean your car thoroughly from the ants and any leftover food stains that has been soaked into the floor. Steaming your whole interior as well as the AC vents can be a great addition to get rid of dirt and insects, which will also disinfect your car without using any chemicals.
The Fortador Volt Mini is a great portable steamer that heats up to 338 degrees Fahrenheit. It comes with different types of accessories that can be switched out when using and will be a great helper in the process of cleaning your car from an ant infestation.
Be sure to steam all of the surfaces of the interior, the steam will not damage your car unless put too closely to the surface. Always check the wheel wells, undercarriage and under the hood, those places can still have ants hiding even after you vacuum and steam everything out.
Check this guide for choosing car wash steamers
6. Use a vacuum to pick up dirt and crumbs
The simplest way to get rid of ants in your car is by using a vacuum. If you do not want to ruin your own vacuum, go to any self service car wash and use their vacuum. Those vacuums might not seem like a lot, but they have enough power to suck up all the ants in your car.
Vacuum the inside of your vehicle like usually would, starting with seats and upholstery and working your way down to the floor. Also, do not miss the hard to reach spots because there might be the food those ants came to eat. Even though you might not be able to get rid of all the ants, this step will help you prevent other ants from coming in.
7. Try using essential oils to deter ants from returning to your car
Ants are not fans of smells that humans find pleasant. For this reason, essential oils and sprays are great things to try to prevent ants from your car, home, and more.
The best essential oils to prevent ants are:
Try mixing two to three drops of essential oils by choice in a 24 ounce spray bottle filled with water. Then, spray the solution under the seats, near the doors, between between the back seat and other hard to clean areas.
Do not try to overdo the spray to later regret the spray in your vehicle. Start light and spray again if you do not think it is enough.
Avoid doing this trying to kill ants:
- Using an ant spray in your car is not a good idea as any size vehicle is a confined space too small to be aired out throughout the whole surface area. You can try it at your own risk as a last resort, but it is not recommended. Most types of the ant spray contain pyrethroid insecticides that can displace the oxygen in the air, and thus making them dangerous to use in place other than households and offices. Additionally, the oils included in these products are known to stain the upholstery.
- Ant baits, which can come in gel formulas or be placed in a container with ant bait stations are not a good idea either. These products do an outstanding job of being ant traps, but why would you want more ants coming into your car? Moreover, most of the ant baits are labeled for household use either way.
- Ant traps are also not a good idea inside the car as these ant traps contain glue that can get stuck to your car floor if turned over by accident; the glue can stay on your car permanently, and you might have to get a new floor. Additionally, if you have little children that might not know what the ant traps are, they might want to touch the ant bait that is usually toxic to humans if touched.
How to prevent ants coming into your car
In warmer climates and humid areas, more ants tend to get into people's cars. However, you can take these simple steps to avoid having ants in your car:
- Try finding parking spots only on paved areas. By doing this, the chances of parking over ant hills will be very slim.
- If there are no paved areas to park on, be on the lookout for ants underneath you.
- Try to keep your car clean at all times. That means, having little to no possible food sources in the car. If you like to keep snacks in your vehicle, make sure they are closed at all times.
- Before putting things like plants or produce boxes in your car, make sure to search for any signs of bugs and ants on or in them.
- Keep essential oil spray in your vehicle if you know have had a problem with ants or bugs before.
It is rare to have the whole vehicle surrounded with ants to the point where a person himself can not get rid of them, but everything is possible. If it so happened to be your car, hiring a pest control professional would be your best bet. Even if there are not that many ants, and you simply do not want to deal with the process to get rid of ants, a pest control professional will be happy to help you with your problem.
At the end of the day, the one thing all car owners should do is either not eat in the car or clean up after themselves whenever they do. Snacked on sour patch and dropped one on the floor by accident? Make sure to pick it up and vacuum the area to prevent a tedious process of trying to get rid of ants.
If you have bugs and roaches in your car, please check our special guide for cockroaches removal out of car cabin