On days when I’m especially tired coming back from a hike, checking all my gear for ticks before getting into my car sometimes slips my mind.
I might check my body and my kids but sometimes ticks can fall off gear or get into your car from your pets.
Ticks are small parasitic arachnids that feed on blood. They tend to live in wooded or grassy areas where they find hosts to climb onto and attach themselves.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors or in the woods like me, there’s a good chance you’ll run into a tick or two eventually, and if you’re not taking proper precautions, they might end up in your car.
So how do you kill ticks in a car? And what should you do when you find ticks in your car?
There are several effective ways to kill ticks in a car:
- Vacuum clean your car to dispose of any ticks on the surface
- Park your car in direct sunlight to drive away ticks with heat.
- Steam clean your car to try and kill any pesky ticks remaining
Ticks are persistent little guys and killing every tick in your car might end up being a challenge depending on how badly they’ve spread into the cracks and crevices.
They can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease (like the sucking blood part wasn’t gross enough), so it’s important that you take action as soon as you spot one.
What Should You Do After Finding Ticks in Your Car?
If you find a tick in your car or discover multiple ticks in your car then your should take immediate action to get rid of them.
There are a couple of things you should do immediately after discovering ticks in your car before you start the actual process of killing them.
Thoroughly Check Your Body and Clothes
If left alone, a tick can stay on your body for several days. They range in color from brown to black and are about the size of a sesame seed (although they can be slightly bigger or smaller).
If you’re driving home or unpacking the car after a busy day and notice a tick on you, your clothes, or in your car, the first thing you’ll want to do is examine your body and clothes for more ticks.
Get a friend or partner to help you inspect hard to reach areas and also make sure to check your children or pets (if you have any).
Vacuum your Car if Possible
If possible, you’ll want to vacuum your car right away after noticing ticks.
If you catch them while they’re still on surface level, it’s going to be much easier to vacuum away any ticks that have found their way into your car.
If left alone for some time, they’ll eventually find their way into tight nooks or crevices making them harder to get rid of in the future.
A vacuum with a rotating head is ideal as this can help to pull ticks off the fabric. Ticks can hold on pretty tight so this can really help.
The stronger the suction the better. Whenever I've had ticks in my car I'll always head down to the local self serve car wash and use their industrial sized vacuum cleaner as the suction is much greater than anything you can get from a home device.
Remove and Kill Any Ticks on Your Body
Before you start killing ticks in your car, you’ll want to remove and kill the ticks on your body (duh).
The easiest way to do this is by using fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool. Grab the tick as close to your skin as your can, and pull upwards. You should be sure to clean the bite as soon as it’s removed.
You can drop ticks in rubbing alcohol or bleach to kill them instantly. I didn’t include these methods in this list since neither do a great job of killing ticks in a wide space like a car, but rather one by one.
These guys can carry multiple diseases, the most common being Lyme disaese, so it’s important that you remove them from your own body before getting to your car.
Now that you’ve taken care of these things, you’re ready to start killing ticks in your car.
You’ll need to spray a thin layer on any fabric surfaces where ticks could make themselves at home, and be sure to reach any nooks or cracks in your seats.
Be advised that Permethrin can be super toxic before it dries (be very careful with your pets and you don't want it on your skin in high doses. But it becomes safe once dry.
But be especially careful with cats as permethrin can be particularly toxic to them and even fatal.
This means that you’ll want to plan ahead for not using your car for up to a day and be sure to leave the windows open for a similar amount of time.
Spraying permethrin on your clothes is also an effective method of killing ticks and repelling them next time you go out or on a hike, but you’ll need to wait at least 2 hours before wearing them.
1. Vacuum Clean Your Car
Vacuuming is a great way to get rid of ticks since it doesn’t introduce any harmful chemicals.
You can use an at home car vacuum like this handheld Car Vacuum Cleaner from Amazon that runs off 12V power, oryou can take your indoor vacuum out into the garage and use the hose to vacuum your car.
But honestly, if I'm dealing with ticks in my car I don't want to take any chances and so I'm going to head down to my local self-cleaning car wash and use their commercial vacuum cleaner which is much stronger than anything I have at home.
It'll cost me a few dollars to give my car a good clean but for peace of mind I find it's well worth the cost.
I’d recommend wearing long sleeves to prevent ticks from getting onto your skin while vacuuming, and to be extra precautious you can also wear repellent like permethrin on your clothing (just make sure it dries before you wear the clothing). I would also wear gloves too just in case.
You should make sure to dispose of any ticks that you vacuum up before they get away. This can be done by sealing them in a bag or container or by using an insecticide.
2. Use A Lint Roller and Keep Checking Yourself To Get Any Ticks Left Behind
Keeping a lint roller in your car is another great way to round up any ticks that you spot while driving or any that get on you whilst driving.
After having ticks in your car you should be regularly checking yourself and your clothing for any signs of ticks.
Don't get complacent and if you have animals be sure to check them regularly as well.
It should only take a few days for your car to be tick free.
3. Leave Your Car in the Sun/Heat
Ticks do not deal well with heat, and parking your car in direct sunlight on a hot day can help to take care of a tick problem.
Ticks cannot survive in temperatures over 120°F/49ºC. Placing your car in the direct sunlight with the windows up can either kill the ticks from heat or over time it can kill them from dehydration.
However, unless you live somewhere where it’s extremely hot, it might be hard to reach this temperature in your car, but leaving your car in the sun can help contribute to driving out a tick infestation.
You could also potentially use a blowdryer to drive out any hiding ticks with hot air, but I don’t believe you’d have a lot of success killing ticks that way.
Using a combination of the methods listing here will go a long way in eliminating the ticks in your car, and you can read here to learn more on how to repel ticks from your clothes while enjoying the outdoors.
A Note on Permethrin and Nuvan Strips
When it comes to using pesticides like permethrin or nuvan strips for killing ticks it's extremely important that you use them according to their labels.
Unfortunately, I don't know of any products labelled for use in cars.
Note that the Directions for Use section on every pesticide product label starts with “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” This is because off-label use can cause adverse effects to human health and/or the environment.
Therefore, a pesticide can be used ONLY on or in those sites listed on the product label.
Make sure you read the directions carefully before using any pesticides inside your car.