Is Your Truck Cab Smelling Fishy?

Learn Why and How to Stomp out the Stink for Spring

The sky is clearing. The sweet smell of blooming flowers fills the fresh Spring air. The warming air serves as a welcoming announcement that the cold closeness that winter demands is slowly fading into history for another year.

As the days grow warmer, a strong fish smell, reminiscent of the fish drying racks in a fishing village, makes itself known in the truck cab for the initial minutes of operation. Then, the effervescent stench filling the cab interior begins to diminish, only to reappear like the last winter gasps, with each restart after the truck sits for a time. Oh, the joys of Spring!

Water is the typical culprit leading to these unwelcome environmental scents. There are four general sources for odors in the cab that we will review:

  1. Stuff and junk – The things people bring into the cab, namely wet clothes, gym gear, food, the fish wrapped in newspaper under the seat, and other assorted items that, well, stink. Thus, an excellent place to start tracking down the unsolicited fragrance is by performing a thorough inspection of the cabin interior. Disposing of trash and removing offensive smelling items from the cabin may not resolve the existing scent problem, but it sure can’t hurt either.
  2. Pets and other critters – Animals can also bring unappreciated odors into the cab. Obviously, pet smells are often the culprit. Nevertheless, pet are not the only critters that find their way into the cab. Rodents have an uncanny ability to navigate through interior air ducting. The air inlet side of the cabin air filter makes for a warm and cozy home, not to mention a ready snack for a hungry mouse. Investigate areas under the dash for extraneous rodent droppings and extraneous nesting materials. Evict any unwelcome guests who have set up house and clean out the contaminated areas.
  3. Leaks and standing water – This will quickly turn the cab interior into a swamp, especially in warmer weather conditions. During the wet Winter and Spring seasons, water will enter through worn or damaged weather stripping and collect in areas such as doors, under the floor mat or carpet padding. The open or damaged weather stripping also allows for debris to pass through and plug up drains in doors and other sheet metal pockets.

The longer these leak issues continue, the greater the potential for unwanted smells to continue. Moreover, moisture in these sheet metal pockets also creates a potential corrosion and rust concern. Of course, when the bottom of the door falls out, the smell will likely be eliminated Better to just check the integrity of the weather stripping and ensure the sheet metal drains are clear and not allowing moisture to collect.

  1. Air conditioning systems – A key task for air conditioning is dehumidifying the cabin air. In some cases, the mildew smell is the result of microbial growth taking place in the condensation developed during system operation and as the temperatures change after shutdown. This odor concern will typically go away within the initial minutes of operation. Manufacturers will often offer sprays that help eliminate this condition. Check available service information to confirm which sprays are available and how they should be used.

Since condensation does form in the air conditioning system, it is important that the system drains be kept clean and open. When these drains are clogged, water is allowed to collect and grow increasingly stagnant. The smell from this condition will likely last longer than the typical humidity condition described above. Still, as the vehicle is operated, the smell may diminish but the collection of water may continue to increase making the problem worse.

Yes, Spring is here and Summer is just around the corner. So don’t let those unwelcome fishy odors deter your enjoyment of warmer and brighter days. In fact, you might consider prepping your fishing gear for the start of Spring so you can truly enjoy the joys of fishing – and with it, the fresh, briny and sweet taste of your catch of the day.

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About the Author

Jake Schell

Jake Schell is the Associate Product Manager for Mitchell 1’s commercial vehicle product line. He has been with Mitchell 1 since 2001. Prior to coming to Mitchell 1, Jake spent 20 years as a technician, with Chevrolet Master certification in the transmission category as well as ASE certifications in both car and truck.