Driving Ants Away: How to Get Rid of Ants in the Car

Having an ant infestation in the car is nobody's idea of a good time. How do you get rid of ants in the car? A few tips include identifying where the ants are coming in, cleaning out the car, trying natural repellents, and, in some cases, calling in a professional exterminator.

By Pest Advisor Editors (Updated on Aug 23, 2023)

Fact Checked by Jason Chapman

Driving Ants Away: How to Get Rid of Ants in the Car photo

Getting ants in the car can be a common issue, particularly during the summer. A few ants can quickly turn into an infestation, and that makes your vehicle not only uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous. After all, swatting at ants while driving is very distracting.

Here are some of the steps you might take in order to get rid of ants in the car:

  • Identify the source of the ants
  • Clean out the car thoroughly
  • Try natural ant repellents
  • Seal entry points
  • Try using traps
  • Get professional help
  • Keep the car maintained

Ants on the Move: Identifying Entry Points

Since ants are so tiny, their entry points often are, too. Identifying where the critters are getting in is the first step in your mission to banish them from your car. After all, even if you can kill the ants in your car currently, if you don’t thwart their access, more ants will simply move in.

Begin the search by inspecting the windows and doors for gaps, cracks, and compromised seals. Then check out the seams and vents. Use a flashlight to see if you can detect signs of ants using these areas as an entry point. If you spot ants inside the car, watch them for a while to see if you figure out where their scent trails are. This might take some time.

Once you have identified the entry points, use automotive caulk to close off any openings. Also, replace any damaged or worn weather stripping while you’re at it, since ants can get in via these gaps.

Crumbs and Creepy Crawlers: Clean the Car Thoroughly

Once you’ve eliminated any compromised areas, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and clean out your car. Remove everything from the vehicle, including from the trunk and glove compartment, then thoroughly vacuum. Remove the floor mats, shake them out, and vacuum them, too. Pay attention to any crevices where crumbs might accumulate, particularly in the seats.

Move the seats forward and backward to reach the areas underneath them. Also, empty out the console and cup holders. Wipe them down with a damp cloth or automotive wipes to remove any sticky residue from spilled or leaked drinks.

Finally, use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down the dashboard, steering wheel, and control panels. You might be surprised by the amount of grime you find, but ants won’t be. That’s part of why they’re attracted to cars in the first place.

Natural No-Entry Signs: Repellents to Try

Once everything is sparkling clean, consider using some natural ant repellents in the car. Keep in mind than once you close up the car and leave it parked, particularly on warm days, the scent of anything you are using will become magnified. So, only use scents you and your family members aren’t sensitive to.

Some to try include peppermint oil, cinnamon, tea tree oil, citrus essential oils, and vinegar. Any or all of these will tend to make ants turn around and say “never mind,” even if they’ve found an entry point to your car that you’ve overlooked.

Before using any essential oils, be sure to dilute them well with water or a carrier oil. Also, plan to refresh the scents periodically, since they – and their efficacy – will fade over time.

Baited Roadblocks: Let the Ants Do the Dirty Work

In addition to trying to repel ants, you should try using bait traps. These will lure ants in with a delicious (and deadly) treat waiting for them. The ants will take the morsels back to the nest, where they’ll kill the queen and the rest of the colony.

Whichever type you want to use, read the packaging to ensure it’s safe for the confined environment of your car. They should be rated for indoor use. Place the bait traps in area where ants will tend to be active. These might include under the seats and in the cup holders. Of course, make sure children and pets won’t be able to get to them.

Monitor the bait traps to make sure they’re being used by the ants. If the bait supply is dwindling, replace them. You will need to be patient, as it does take some time for the ants to find the bait and for the rest of the colony to consume it and die.

Roadside Rescue: Calling in the Experts

If self-help measures aren’t working and you’re finding that you still have a lot of ants in your car or if you have fire ants or another biting species, it’s time to call in the pros. Professional pest control services are ready with the expertise, tools, and techniques needed to tackle your ant problem.

Your exterminator will be able to assess the situation and come up with a treatment plan. They’ll create a long-term solution, and they’ll also give you advice for DIY follow-up so you can keep your car free from creepy crawlies.

Vigilance Behind the Wheel: Maintaining Your Ant-Free Ride

Whether you were able to ban the ants on your own or you relied on a professional service, your infestation will, at some point, be under control. At that point, you’ll need to take steps to maintain an ant-free environment in your vehicle.

Create a consistent cleaning routine. Make it a habit to wipe down surfaces and vacuum on a regular basis. This will both keep ants at bay and also give you a chance to inspect for signs of ants so you can catch any new infestation at the earliest point possible.

Don’t eat meals or snacks in your car, and only drink water. That’s the easiest way to keep ants out, but it also might not be the most realistic way. If you must eat in the car, be sure to dispose of wrappers and trash immediately. Also, plan to vacuum up any crumbs as quickly as you can, particularly if you have children or if you’ve spilled anything. Wipe out cupholders with wipes to remove traces of spilled beverages.

Continue using natural repellents to discourage ants from entering, and always keep your windows closed when you’re parked.

Finally, just stay vigilant. Take the time to consciously look for ants. Teach the rest of your family to also be aware and to let you know right away if they see ants or if they’ve dropped crumbs or food. By following these tips, you can keep your car ant-free and save yourself a lot of hassle.

Citations and Credits

Featured image by Joey Banks / Unsplash

Article image by Towfiqu Barbhuiya / Unsplash

Article image by Sue Thompson / Flickr

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