Last Updated on April 25, 2022
Creepy crawlies have no business being in your car—we can all agree on that. But the question remains: why the hell is there an infestation in the first place?
Was it the peanut butter cup you dropped in that crevice in-between the driver’s seat and the center console? Or was it the soda-covered bottle cap that made its way into the third-row seat locking bar?
No matter the cause, when ants get in your car it’s better to have a great solution—which is where we come in.
Why Are There Ants In My Car?
Ants are in your car because there is something to eat in there… it’s just natural.
If you look down at your floor mat and there is a big brown spot, then you look closer and it’s MOVING, then you’ve likely got ants in your car.
Ants are going to be motivated by food just like you and me, so if there’s something to eat like rotting food, sugary residue, even spilled sippy cups—you can bet that they’ll find a way to get to the interior of your car and do some damage.
What Types of Ants Can Be Found in Cars?
The most common car-dwelling ant type are carpenter ants and various sugar ants (like crazy ants or pharaoh ants). While carpenter ants normally like damp wood as their environment of choice, you don’t really have a structural problem unless you’re driving a vehicle like a Morgan—they have wooden frames.
Sugar-seeking ants are more common and can be found anywhere there is food stored. They seek cellulose, which is a primary food source for ants, which helps them feed the colony.
These ants are much smaller than carpenter ants, and you might miss them at first. If you see a small, dark brown clump with some tendrils coming off of it—look a bit closer because you may find that the blob is moving.
While less common, fire ants have also been known to find their way into cars, and if you’ve ever been bitten by one of these suckers—get ready for a world of pain. They have a venom in their stings that causes a pretty painful sting that will make you remember to keep your car clean!!
If you’re having trouble identifying the type of ants that you have in your car, use this helpful ant identification guide (PDF format)
How to Get Rid of Ants in a Car
So, now that we’ve gone over the reasons and types of ants that might be living in your vehicle, let’s talk about solutions.
#1 – Move Your Car
If you are parked under a tree or near an anthill, the ants may find a way to get into your car, especially if you’ve left a window, sunroof or moonroof open.
A simple first step to getting rid of ants in your car is to get in, turn the key, and move the car away from the tree or grass you’ve been parked near. This should help keep ants from crawling around on the exterior of your car, so keep an eye on it.
If the problem doesn’t go away and you still see a bunch of ants on the outside of your car, go ahead and do some more digging in the interior. You may find there’s another cause for your ant problem.
#2 – Get Rid of the Trash in Your Car
This might seem obvious, but a lot of the time, ants are going to be attracted to the trash you have in your car in crevices. This might not seem like food to you or me, but to an ant—it’s a delicacy.
Get rid of any food wrappers (ie: granola bar, protein bar, candy bar), drink cups, used napkins, or any other stuff that may have any hint of food/sugar on it. It’s not recommended to keep a trash bag in your car but if you do, be sure to empty it after every trip.
#3 – Clean Interior Surfaces
Spending the time to detail your car interior isn’t simply for looks. Whether from a spilled Starbucks Frappuccino, your toddler’s sticky fingers, or from road trip snacking, you’ll want to make sure to wipe down all hard surfaces with a good interior car cleaner.
Don’t forget to clean the inside of your windshield as well.
#4 – Vacuum Thoroughly
This is along the same vein, but you’d be surprised how satisfying it is to clean your car’s interior with a vacuum. Just getting all the griminess out of there from all of your adventures is cathartic and it actually increases the resale value of your car.
But most importantly, you can suck up all the ants you’d like with the vacuum and hopefully get their food source out of there. Make sure you get into all the cracks and crevices that crumbs like to hide in.
#5 – Clean Your Tires and Wheels
Sometimes berries, animal feces, and all sorts of other ant food sources can end up in the grooves of your tires. This is one reason to clean your wheels and tires so you can remove the possibility of the ants being drawn to your wheels and then, eventually the inside of your car.
They are SO SMALL and they can get into any crevice you are thinking of. (Man, he’s using the word “crevice” a lot isn’t he? Yeah, I just got back from Canyonlands national park so it’s on my mind, ok?)
#6 – Ant Traps
If you have an ant problem in your car, one foolproof method is to put in liquid ant bait traps near the areas where the ants are congregating. The way these traps work is actually ingenious.
First, the pheromones emitted by the trap attract some ants, then one ant gets some of the sweet poison and brings it back to the colony. The ants then all feed on the poison and then they all die. It’s brutal, but man, if you don’t want ants in your car—you don’t want ants in your car. Unsurprisingly enough, this method works great inside your home as well!
#7 – Ant Spray
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find there are a lot of sprays out there to get rid of ants. This could be a quick way to get rid of most of the ants in your car, provided you know where they are coming from.
An easy way to track ants is to follow the line they make to and from the food source. We’ve all seen this when we were in grade school right? They form a long line that can even go underneath the tiles in the lunchroom!
So, just follow the line and it will most likely lead you to where the colony is, then you can spray the crap out of that glob of moving ants and kill them.
#8 – Natural Remedies
Hey, I’ve got a green streak too. If you’re wanting a way to kill the ants without introducing a bunch of toxins into the air you breathe, try a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Spray the ants and it will kill them. The benefit here is that you don’t have a bunch of poison that you’re introducing into the ecosystem—no matter how safe you think you’re being.
You can also sprinkle some cinnamon on the ant trail which will cause them to inhale it, suffocate, and die. Brutal, right? BuT iT’s NaTuRAl.
Lemon juice works to destroy the scent receptors in the ants so they won’t be able to follow the trail that the other ants are leaving to your trash/food source in your car. If you see a bunch of lone ants wandering around, you know the lemon juice has done the trick. Or, I mean, you could just clean your car.
If you are really going down the hippy route, mint is a great way to repel pests. Ants don’t like the smell or the taste of this fragrant flora, but I do! Get some mint going in your car life and you’ll prevent the ant problem, but you may just find an automotive journalist has made his way into your vehicle. Hey man, we’re all friends here.
How to Prevent an Ant Infestation in Your Car
The best way to get rid of an ant infestation is to not have it happen in the first place. Sounds condescending, know, but hear me out.
If you keep your car generally clean, try not to eat in it, and have your passengers make sure to take out their trash on a long road trip—you have a pretty good chance of keeping your car ant-free.
On the other hand, I’m not that clean of a car owner, and I haven’t had an ant problem so there could be a lot due to where you live and what kind of environment you park your car in.
If you keep food sources away from your car, then you won’t run into ants, and they won’t be a problem for you. Make sure you clean your car and just observe what’s going on!
Featured Image Credit: BarnFinds.com