A Cheap Ozone Generator Might Help You Get That Foul Smell Out Of Your Car

A Cheap Ozone Generator Might Help You Get That Foul Smell Out Of Your Car

Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at a fluid transfer pump that’s crucial for fluid changes in some vehicles, a magnetic drain plug remover that helps you change fluids without getting you covered in stinky gear oil, and a silicone tray that saves you time (and a few swear words) by keeping your tools easily within reach. This week’s cool tool is an ozone generator that supposedly helps to get bad smells out of a car.

This suggestion comes from the comments of the wild story about a non-smoker hit with a $US400 ($513) smoking fee from Hertz. Several readers recommended using these to clear odours out of cars and entire houses.

Smells can make or break a car. You could find a car with the perfect colour, engine and transmission then sit inside and want to cancel the whole deal because it smells way too much like someone else’s farts. Or perhaps the car has been smoked in. Daily drivers can also get a bit stinky when you have kids and pets leaving behind all sorts of odours.

If you go off-roading, it seems some smells will never get out of a vehicle no matter how many times you clean it. The interior of this Dodge Dakota always smelled like a farm no matter what we did.

Photo: Mercedes Streeter

This is where an ozone generator could save your nose. These machines are for that last step in the cleaning process of a car after you get all of those nooks and crannies. Put the ozone generator into the car, close the doors and windows, then let it rip. You should come back a few hours later to a car that smells a whole lot better.

What does an ozone generator do?

These machines use an electrical discharge to break oxygen molecules into single atoms, which then combine with other oxygen molecules to create ozone. That ozone then reacts to pollutants in a car and is meant to breaks them down through oxidation. In theory, this means that your vehicle becomes free of stink.

Looks like our readers aren’t alone and some YouTubers have tried these to success. Here’s a review and how-to by milanmastracci:

Use these generators with caution. Keep yourself, other people and pets out of the vehicle or room when using the generator. Also let the vehicle air out after you’re finished using it. These can get dangerous, so follow the manufacturer’s safety recommendations. The EPA has specifically warned that ozone is harmful and that claims about “controlling indoor air pollution” have been refuted by health professionals “for almost a century.” Moreover, the EPA explains that ozone doesn’t remove odor-causing chemicals at concentrations that are safe:

There is evidence to show that at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone is not effective at removing many odor-causing chemicals.

  • In an experiment designed to produce formaldehyde concentrations representative of an embalming studio, where formaldehyde is the main odor producer, ozone showed no effect in reducing formaldehyde concentration (Esswein and Boeniger, 1994). Other experiments suggest that body odor may be masked by the smell of ozone but is not removed by ozone (Witheridge and Yaglou, 1939). Ozone is not considered useful for odor removal in building ventilation systems (ASHRAE, 1989).
  • While there are few scientific studies to support the claim that ozone effectively removes odours, it is plausible that some odorous chemicals will react with ozone. For example, in some experiments, ozone appeared to react readily with certain chemicals, including some chemicals that contribute to the smell of new carpet (Weschler, 1992b; Zhang and Lioy, 1994). Ozone is also believed to react with acrolein, one of the many odorous and irritating chemicals found in secondhand tobacco smoke (US EPA, 1995).

Lastly, some manufacturers make absolutely bonkers claims like these will practically clean your car or your home for you and remove 50 years of stink from all surfaces. They aren’t magic. Keep your expectations realistic.

Ozone generators come in a wide variety of price ranges and designs and can be purchased online. Ones with a lot of good reviews cost about $US60 ($77).

Do you know of a weird or unique but must-have tool that every wrencher should have? Do you want to see us put a type of tool to the test and see how it performs? Shoot me an email or drop it down in the comments!