HOUSTON, Texas -- Sitting in traffic is never pleasant, but neither are those mystery car odors. If you're looking to knock out those unpleasant smells, you may want to skip the trip to the car wash and head to the mechanic instead.
From the kids to the pets to other cargo, it can be tough to figure out exactly what's stinking up your car.
Rodney Schield, a mechanic at at River Oaks Chrysler Jeep, says the source of those unpleasant smells surprise you.
"A lot of it stems from leafy debris," he said. "You can wind up with a musty refrigerator smell."
Acorns, leaves and even pollen can get sucked into your car's air conditioning system, where they get trapped and decay.
If possible, avoid parking under trees, and have a mechanic replace your cabin filter every year or every 12,000 miles. A clean filter helps keep leaves from getting into the AC.
Moisture and dirt in the carpet can also cause problems. A vacuum can help, but for tougher smells, you may want to turn to the professionals.
If you'd rather try to tackle car odors at home, you can use this easy DIY trick to kill bacteria growing in your vents. With your AC on re-circulate, spray a disinfectant like Lysol in the area near the glove compartment. That's where the air intake is. The system will suck up the disinfectant and deodorize the interior of your AC system.
Check the sunroof for leaves and other debris. Small drainage holes on the sides can get clogged, allowing water to seep into the roof's liner, creating more mildew issues.
"A little bit of cleanliness goes a long way," Schield said.
For most cars, a new cabin air filter costs about $25. You can expect to pay for about a half hour of labor if you have a professional replace it. All in, it's a maintenance cost of about $75 per year.