Ants are one of the annoying pests that invade cars.
Their prolonged presence in the car can cause some serious damage to your car’s interiors and even your car’s electrical and engine.
Not to mention, the chances of ant bites will increase, and with those bites, you get itchy red welts and allergic reactions if you’re sensitive to bug bites.
This guide will reveal how to get rid of ants in the car without hiring a pest control expert.
You’ll also learn how ants get inside your car and where they hide. Plus, there are hacks and tips to prevent ant infestations in your car.
Why Are There Ants In My Car?
The primary reason for ants in your car is that ants have detected a food source.
However, other reasons can cause the ants to get inside cars. Some of them are parking the car near an ant hill or ant nest, underneath trees, and parking the car with open windows.
An exploding ant infestation in the garage can also make the ants sneak inside your car while looking for an alternative place to hide.
At times, flying ants, or winged ants, that swarm after the rain will fly inside your car through the open windows.
The ants get inside the car in the form of ant trails when they find a food source, which can be dead bugs.
Many bugs like carpet beetles, wasps, flies, and even rodents get inside the car.
Some of them may die inside the car because of starvation.
So, their carcasses can also draw the ants into the car, especially the ones that feed on dead insects.
Removing ants’ food sources is vital to eliminate ants in the car. You’ll learn to do it in a minute.
But before that, let’s find out why some people see ants in a brand-new clean car despite no food waste.
Ants In The Car But No Food
If there are ants in a clean car with no food waste, those ants are accidental intruders or looking for a warm place to build their nests.
You can also bring ants in your car when you carry potted plants with ants or other things like furniture or cardboard boxes with ants in them.
Ants are primarily moisture bugs. But some species of ants, like the pavement ants and the leaf-cutting ants, can survive in conditions.
For instance, many ant species overwinter and disappear during winter.
But the pavement ants can remain active in a heated building even during the cold season.
Ants In Car Engine
The temperature changes in the car’s engine area under the hood can draw ants to the car engine.
Also, the water leakages from the car’s radiator and the oil leaks make the engine area damp.
There can be dead bugs and rodents stuck underneath the car’s hood.
The stench of their carcasses can draw the ants’ attention, causing them to sneak inside the engine compartment area.
The presence of ants in the car engine area can also make them build their colonies under the hood. It’s a common problem with old cars lying idle for months.
Ants in the car’s engine can cause harm to your engine. So, it’s always best not to leave your idle for months and give it a start occasionally.
Ants In Car Dashboard
When you see ants crawling on your car’s dashboard, it’s a clear sign of ant infestation.
These ants are looking for the thinnest gaps on your car’s dashboard to sneak into. Or the food and beverage stains on the car’s dashboard have drawn the worker ants.
Ants from the car’s engine section might spill over to your dashboard.
Spillovers occur when the number of ants inside the car increase and when they start to look for alternative hiding places.
How Do Ants Get Inside The Car?
The most common entry points for ants to get inside your car are through the gaps in the car door seal, car trunk, and between the car’s doors and floor.
It’s easy for ants to get inside the car. On finding the source in the car, ants will crawl inside the car through any thinnest or tinniest of gaps they can find in your car.
The ants you see crawling on the car’s exterior or the side mirrors are the worker ants looking for a gap to sneak inside.
An ant infestation in the car can begin with a single ant that will spot a food source.
The foraging ants leave pheromones trails, a scent that ants pick up to reach the nesting site or food source, for the other ants to follow.
Those ants use the entry points in the car to sneak inside the car and start an infestation.
Where Do Hide Inside Cars?
Any thin crevice inside the car is a hiding place for ants in the car.
Ants will sneak inside the car seats, glove compartment, center console, underneath car floor mats, and gaps below the car paddles.
The car’s trunk is one of the favorite areas for the ants to hide. It’s because there’s always one thing or the other, like food crumbs and dead flies, for the ants to eat.
Ants will hide in the gaps at the edges of the car trunk. As their numbers expand, they’ll move into different sections of the car.
The common ant species more likely to get inside cars are the red fire ants, carpenter ants, acrobat ants, pharaoh ants, odorous house ants, and pavement ants.
Red Imported Fire Ants In The Car
The red fire ants are the nastiest ants that your car, yard, and home can ever have. These are tiny red ants that bite and sting at the same time.
And the pain, itching, and burning sensation on your skin from their bites and stings are the most intense compared to other ant species.
The presence of red fire ants in the car signifies two things – you parked your car near their ant mounds, and there’s too much food waste, or dead insects, inside your car.
The fire ants underneath the ant hill live in tunnels where they lay eggs and rear their larvae.
The red fire ant problem in your car is the worse. These ants in your car will surely bite and sting you.
Carpenter Ants In The Car
Carpenter ants are big black ants that bore inside damp woods and walls to lay eggs and build colonies.
In the outdoors, carpenter ants prefer rotten tree stumps or firewood piles to build an ant colony.
Their presence in the car can be accidental. It’s because your car isn’t an ideal habitat for them.
You can also unintentionally bring carpenter ants inside the car when you keep potted plants, wood pieces, and cardboard boxes with carpenter ants in them.
An abrupt change in weather, like sudden rains or an increase or decrease in temperature, can also make carpenter ants sneak inside the car.
Carpenter ants will feed on any food waste inside the car. But it’s unlikely that they’ll build a colony inside the car.
Carpenter ants will quit your car when the food supply perishes.
Small Black Ants In Cars – Sugar Ants
The tiny black ants in the car are sugar ants, a phrase used for ants like pavement ants, odorous house ants, and acrobat ants.
These ants aren’t typically black. But they’re dark brown, making them appear like small black ants.
The presence of these ants is a sure sign of the presence of food waste inside the car.
These ants feed on the greasy foods, beverage stains, and food crumbs that can be present in your car.
How To Get Rid Of Ants In The Car?
Cleaning your car, using ant sprays, and keeping ant baits are the three primary ways to get rid of ants in the car.
Vacate Your Car
Before you clean your car, you’ll need to remove everything that is inside your car.
Start with vacating the storage sections of your car, like the trunk box and glove compartment.
Remove the car floor mats and other fabrics like seat covers, if any, in your car.
Also, get rid of things like boxes, soda cans, food containers, cups, food wrappers, candy wrappers, and other types of waste.
Use A Vacuum Cleaner To Clean Your Car
The presence of food sources inside the car attracts ants to your car.
So, to eliminate ants in the car, you’ll need to eliminate the food crumbs and stains that are bringing the ants to your car.
Give your car a thorough cleaning with a vacuum cleaner. Ensure that you cover the car storage areas, floor, seats, and the area under the car’s dashboard where your feet rest.
Do not skip over any gaps in these areas. These areas are the primary hiding places for ants in the car.
The vacuum cleaner will remove all the ants that it encounters.
You can also use a vacuum cleaner to clean the engine section of your car if you’ve noticed ants in the car engine.
Scatter Insecticide Dust Inside The Car
Vacuum cleaners can miss out on many ants hiding in the confined space of your car.
Use insecticide dust and ant spray to negate that limitation.
Insecticide dust is highly effective in eliminating bugs that hide in tight spaces. The dust particles get inside the thin gaps and cracks and kill the ants, but not instantly.
Insecticide dust is a desiccant. It penetrates the exoskeleton of the ants and gets inside their bodies.
They absorb the fats, moisture, and bodily fluids inside the ants, causing them to die.
So, scatter insecticide dust inside the car, especially in tight gaps, corners, and confined spaces.
Let the dust sit in the car for an hour to do its work. Then vacuum clean the car again to remove the insecticide dust and the dead ants.
If you want to use a natural ant killer, which is safe for humans and pets, then you can use diatomaceous earth instead of an insecticide dust.
Wear a mask while using insecticide dust or diatomaceous earth because you can inhale the suspended particles of these products.
Also, read the safety instructions on the packets, and follow them, before using.
Use An Ant-Killing Spray Inside The Car
Follow up the second step by using an ant-killing spray. Use the spray in all the areas of your car’s interior that you cleaned.
The ant spray acts as a double whammy for the hiding ants inside the car.
The residual toxicity of the ant spray also ensures that the spray works even after a few hours of spraying.
Close the car’s windows and leave the car for 30 minutes after spraying.
Clean Your Car’s Interiors With A Disinfectant
Mix a disinfectant with a gallon of water and pour it into a spray bottle.
Then spray the mixture on the car’s interior. Take a dry cotton cloth to wipe off the spray.
You can also mix dish soap with water to prepare a spray for cleaning the car’s interiors.
This step is essential because cleaning the car’s interiors will remove any beverage stains and pheromone trails that attract ants.
So, ensure you clean all the hard surfaces inside the car, including your car seats, trunk, glove compartment, steering wheels, console, and dashboard.
Wash The Car Floor Carpet And Other Car Furnishings
Before you put back the car furnishings, wash or clean them. The furnishings like car floor carpet and car seat covers can also have pheromone trails and food stains that will attract the ants.
If your car’s interior is made of leather, use a leather cleaner to clean them.
And as a final measure, wash your car or take your car to a carwash to remove any pheromone trails on the car’s exterior.
Keep Ant Bait Stations Inside The Car
Ants are tiny bugs that can escape and hide in the thinnest gaps. And you shouldn’t let them stay alive in your car.
To ensure you don’t leave a single inside the car, keep ant baits in the car trunk and on the car’s floor.
Ant baits will attract the hiding ants. And when the ants feed on them, they die.
You can also use sticky ant traps and ant gel baits.
Sticky ant traps have a gluey surface that entraps the ants when the ants crawl on them.
Use a few drops of ant gel baits inside the car. The gel baits kill ants when the ants consume them. Gel baits also attract ants, and these baits are poisonous.
Remember, no matter what ant baits you’re using, you’ll need to leave them overnight for the best results.
However, keeping the baits can attract more ants to your car. To negate that, close the car windows, lock the car, and keep your car in an ant-free and bug-free parking spot.
How To Prevent Ants In The Car?
You’ll need to follow some precautions to stop ants from entering your car.
1. Ensure that there’s no ant infestation in your garage
2. Park your car away in clean areas, especially in spring and summer
3. Do not eat inside your car
4. Vacuum clean your car at least twice a month
5. Use smells that repel ants and bugs
6. Keep ant baits inside the car if you’re going to leave your car for longer periods
Ants in the garage will move inside the car. It’s a common phenomenon when the ant colonies increase.
Ants can also move inside the house from your garage.
So, keep your home and garage ant-free.
Don’t park your car near ant mounds or on organic wastes like leaf litter. Ants are always present in these areas, especially in spring and summer.
Avoid parking your car underneath trees during the ant season. Ants can use the tree branches to reach your car’s exterior and, from inside your car, through the gaps.
Eating inside the car causes food stains on the steering wheel, car seats, and dashboards.
Food crumbs also fall on the car floor and the car seat. And they attract ants.
So, refrain from eating inside the car.
The food waste inside the car can attract different types of bugs, including carpet beetles and cockroaches.
The presence of bugs like ants, roaches, and beetles inside the car can draw their predators, spiders to your car.
Vacuum clean your car regularly, especially in the summer and spring, which are bug months.
Use essential oil sprays like peppermint sprays inside the car. Ants hate the peppermint smell, and so do many bugs and pests.
Keeping cedar balls inside the car also keep bugs away.
Keeping an ant trap or a sticky bug trap on the car floor and inside the car trunk is handy to entrap any hiding bugs inside the car.
Food stains, crumbs and waste inside the car attract ants. Some ant species can be accidental intruders to your car.
However, the weather outdoors can also force the ants inside the car.
This guide revealed a seven-step guide to getting rid of ants in the car.
Keeping your car clean and making your car repellant to bugs are the keys to preventing ants inside the car.
Nang Chen is an Entomologist and Arachnologist who is associated with Vienna’s museum of natural history. He’s also a consultant with real estate groups, insecticide conglomerates and law enforcement groups as a forensic entomologist. Nang Chen holds an M.S. from South China University and he’s a regular contributor to our site.