How To Get Rid Of Ants In Your Car – And Stop Them Coming Back!

Ants are a pest you can find wherever you look: in your house, in your garden, and even inside your car! But while a colony can be harmless in your backyard, it becomes a real problem if it moves into your vehicle.

Furthermore, ants aren’t picky when choosing a place to nest. As long as a site is warm, moist, and has a nearby food supply, they’ll feel at home.

Group of ants working together for one objective

So if you don’t clean your seats regularly, they’ll be crawling all over your arms and legs before you know it.

But besides bugging you, some ants will chew and damage the cables in your dashboard and engine. Luckily for you, there’s a simple method you can follow to kick these unwanted passengers out of your vehicle.

This article on  how to get rid of ants in your car will cover why ants might have taken over your car, ways to stop the infestation, and how to keep them from hitching a ride again in the future.

Tired of getting bitten while you drive? Keep reading below and find out what you can do about it!

Why Are Ants in my Car?

Ants don’t like your car as much as what’s in it.

Thanks to their incredible sense of smell — one of the best in the insect world—they can detect any sweet smelling leftovers in your seats, and then relay this information to their colony.

If you don’t have any food in your car, most ants will explore around before leaving it alone.

But if they find any sweet smelling food, particularly if it’s a little stale, they will send in their workers. Even if you throw away your food container, the smell of food and crumbs will stick to your car and quickly attract insects.

Ants can also invade your car if you park next to a colony. Usually, this happens when you park your vehicle for a long time, like at your workplace’s parking lot or your garage — especially if your garage lies next to the kitchen.

Many ants also like to nest near a water source, so if you have water leaking in your car, this can be a big contributor to them liking your vehicle as a home. Make sure to get that leak fixed!

What Damage Can they Cause to my Car?

Don’t let their size fool you. Ants can cause big problems in your car and cost you a lot of money if you don’t deal with them fast enough.

Some species, like fire ants, can munch away a car’s electrical wiring. But given enough time, even the relatively harmless common garden ants can damage your vehicle.

Other newly arrived species, like crazy ants, are small enough to nest inside of your car’s wiring. Eventually, they end up creating connections between the electrical contacts.

Once one of them dies, it gets worse since they release a pheromone which attracts even more angry ants.

Besides invading the electrical wiring, ants also like to build nests inside the relays and other electronic components in the dashboard and engine.

Others can even affect the engine itself by getting into the oil pump and blocking it.

What Type of Ants Are in my Car?

There are more than 12,000 types of ant species in the world, although less than a dozen of these species are likely to infest your car.

While you don’t need to know exactly which type of ants hide in your vehicle, it could spare you from having to use a complex chemical treatment to eradicate them fully.

Knowing exactly which type of ants you’re dealing with can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time trying.

So make sure you use this guide to find out which species live in your car.

Carpenter Ants

  • Vary between ¼ to ½ inches in size.
  • Tend to be either black or equal amounts of red and black.
  • If disturbed, they emit a strong smell to warn other ants.
  • Mostly found near trees, hence their name, although they don’t feed on wood.
  • Eat insects, honeydew, fruit juices, and anything with a sweet taste.
  • Carpenter Ants live in every US state, although most of them prefer the warmer southern states to the north.

Pharaoh Ants

  • Size is 1/16 inches long.
  • Color is light, with yellow or light brown to orange being the most common.
  • Feed on insects, sweets, fats, and proteins.
  • Prefer to nest in moist places close to a water source.
  • They can move their whole colony very easily and will change their location if the colony becomes too crowded, or they feel disturbed.
  • Most Pharaoh Ants live in southern states, like Florida, where the warmer climate suits them. They don’t handle well colder climates but will survive in northern states if they nest in heated houses.

Thief Ants

  • Size is around 1/32 inches long.
  • Color is yellow to light brown.
  • Very small eyes.
  • They love greasy foods and proteins. They also feed on dead insects, dead rodents, and sometimes sweets.
  • They like to live near other ant nests, from which they steal food (hence their name).
  • Thief Ants are native to the States and can be found throughout the country.

Pavement Ants

  • Size is always 3/16 inches long.
  • Color varies from black to dark brown.
  • Are aggressive to other ants but don’t seem to mind humans.
  • Feed on honeydew, fruit, live and dead insects, sweets and greasy foods.
  • Nest in lawns or under stones, wood, or boards.
  • They live in cities along the northeast, Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest. However, smaller populations live in urban areas of other states as well.

Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA)

  • Size ranges from 1/16 to 1/5 inches in length.
  • Color tends to be red and somewhat yellowish with brown or black in the back.
  • Have large eyes and three teeth in the front of the head.
  • They react aggressively to anybody who disturbs them and have a really painful sting.
  • Like to nests in lawns and other open spaces near water sources. They can also nest indoors.
  • Food sources include living insects, dead animals, honeydew, sweets, proteins, and fats
  • RIFA live across the southeast, in states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

Rasberry Crazy Ants

  • Size is always 1/8 inch long.
  • Color is a reddish-brown although this may look different according to the available light.
  • Their foraging looks very erratic, hence why they call them “crazy.”
  • They can nest in almost any moist object.
  • They like sweet foods but can feed on almost anything.
  • Though native to South America, they live in almost all of coastal Texas and the Gulf States.

What Material Or Ingredients Do I Need to Get Rid of Ants in my Car?

Here’s a list of items you’ll need to kick the ants out of your car.

You can find most of these items in your house, make them yourself, or buy them from a nearby convenience store.

Vacuum Cleaner

You don’t need to buy one specifically designed for cars. Any hand-held vacuum cleaner will do the job, provided you can use it to clean under your seats.

Plus, it’s always a good idea to carry a vacuum cleaner around which you can use to clean any crumbs left in your seats before they attract unwanted guests.

Ant Pesticide

Common chemical pesticides, like those from brands such as Raid or TERRO, are one of the best ways to get rid of ants.

But their strong smell makes them somewhat of a double-edged sword, which is why you should only use them on your tires and never inside the car itself.

Ant Traps

Like pesticides, ant traps provide an odorless chemical solution to your problem.

Traps can come in different forms, including granules, liquid, and gels – but regardless of their presentation, all traps are a mix of moist, sweet bait and a slow-acting poison.

The idea behind the method is that once an ant eats the bait, it will carry the poison back to the colony, where it will kill even more ants.

Natural Homemade Solutions

Homemade remedies do an excellent job of taking care of ant infestations. Not only are they effective and cheap to make, but they also give a fresh smell to your car’s interior which no chemical pesticide can match.

Since there are so many alternatives, here’s a little list of some of the best options you can choose from:

  • Lemon extract: For some reason, ants hate how lemon smells. So squeeze three lemons and mix them with 10-20 ml of water. Pour your mix into a spray bottle and get ready to use a killer solution.
  • Coffee grounds: Any coffee grounds will do the trick, provided that it’s recently made. To use it, just let it dry and then sprinkle it wherever you see any ant inside your car. Then you can vacuum it off or leave it there so they won’t come back.
  • Salt: Boil water and add table salt to it. Pour your mix into a spray bottle and use it in an infected area.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint oil not only drives ants away but will also give a pleasant smell to your car. So whether you apply it directly or dilute it in water first, you’ll see results quickly.
  • Clove Oil: Clove oil contains a high percentage of eugenol, a chemical compound which acts as a natural pesticide and carries a fragrant smell.
  • Chalk: Chalk is one of the oldest and most effective natural ant repellants out there. All you need to do to keep ants away from your cars is to draw a few chalk lines around your tires.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Scattering Cayenne over your seats and around your tires will keep the ants away while also making your car smell better than ever.

How do I Get Rid of Ants in my Car?

Getting rid of an ant infestation is easy provided you follow some simple steps.

It just comes down to cleaning your car well enough, getting rid of any crumbs or even the smell of food, killing any ants currently present in your car, and closing any paths through which they can sneak back in.


Follow these five simple steps below to make your car an ant-free ride again!

Change Parking Spots

If you frequently park for long periods of time near trees or other places likely to hide an ant colony, it’s only a matter of time until they hitch a ride in your vehicle.

However, most of the times you’ll only need to find a new parking place to get rid of this problem.

You could, for example, park in the center of your workplace’s parking lot which would put you away from any ants walking through the curb.

If the ants are exploring and haven’t nested in, they’ll eventually leave your car alone without setting up a nest.

Remove all the Trash and Crumbs in your Car

As long as there’s food in your car ants will keep trying to get in it, so make sure you pick every single food scrap, burger wrappers, paper bags, soda cups, and any other piece of trash left on the floor.

The cleaner your car looks the less attractive it will look for ants. Plus, your passengers will thank you too!

Make sure you scan every crevice of your car. You’d be surprised at the amount of trash which slips between the cracks and edges of the seats, and under the rugs.

Remember that ants can still smell the trash and crumbs even though you can’t see it.

Vacuum your Car Thoroughly

After picking every obvious source of food, you should use a vacuum to pick up any crumbs of foods left.

If possible, use a portable vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment to ensure you don’t leave any crumb behind!

Take out your car floor mats and wash them while you clean the seats and, use one of the best car carpet cleaners from our guide, to make sure there are no scent generating stains on floor that might be attracting ants. Make sure you also vacuum the dashboard, under the seats, and any other hard-to-reach area.

Treat your Tires

As the only point of contact with the floor, your tires represent the only entryway for ants to your car. To block their path, apply pesticide around the wheel edges but make sure you avoid the brake pads and disc.

When parked in your garage, you can also draw lines of chalk around your tires to stop any bug from getting into your vehicle.

Lay an Ant Trap

Now that you’ve cut all their food supply, it’s time to put your ant bomb. This trap will bait any ants left in your car into eating the poison and spreading it to the rest of the colony — killing them in the process.

And the best part is that it’s completely odorless and won’t stink or contaminate the inside of your car.

Make sure you place your trap under the seats, near the dashboard, inside door compartments, or any other place where the ants are likely to find it.

How do I Stop Ants from Coming Back?

Keeping ants out of your car is very easy once you follow a certain routine.

The first step is to avoid parking near ant colonies and get rid of any nest in your house. For extra protection, you can spray insecticide on your tires once a week, carry it in your glove compartment and apply it when you leave your car at work.

Also, try not to eat in your car again. But if you need to, make sure you carry a portable vacuum cleaner with you and use it to pick up all the crumbs from the floor and seats as soon as you’re done eating.

Wrapping It Up

Ants represent a big threat to your car. Not only will they distract you while you drive, but can damage your electrical wiring and force you to do expensive repairs.

The good news is you can avoid these problems by keeping your car clean, free of food, and parking away from ant colonies.

Once you get rid of the ants in your car, keeping them at bay is only a matter of making cleaning a habit. No more trips to the drive-through and leaving food containers all over the seats!

Just make sure always to keep your car clean, and you’ll have a peaceful, ant-free commute that you, your passengers, and your wallet will appreciate.

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars. Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned. Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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