So, you need to get rid of all the cockroaches in your car. Fast.
No one wants to see one of those things skitter across the driving wheel- right across your fingers as you fidget for the roll of newspaper.
Or how about running across the rear seat when your next Uber group comes in?
Or maybe when you pop the trunk for your next grocery haul at your superstore?
In this guide, you’ll read about:
- Why you have roaches in your evhicle
- How they’re getting into your car
- How to get rid of cockroaches in the car
- How to keep them out of your vehicle for good
- And more
Let’s “drive” them out of your vehicle and send ’em back where they came from.
Last updated: 1/6/21.
Are roaches in your car bad? Is it dangerous?
Roaches infesting your car can be a danger, especially if they start chewing on wires or attracting other rodents.
For example, if you spilled some soda pop on your seat and roaches find their way into your ride, they’ll consume the droplets as a sugar source
Then they start breeding after finding the various other things to eat in your car (crumbs, coffee stains, paper, books, sticky residues, etc.).
Now you have a roach infestation and a nest going on under your hood.
Rats start to become aware of the roach feces, shed shells, and musky scent. And they also get into your car.
The rats start showing your wires up, which can then pose a danger when you drive.
See the chain of events? It all starts with a single roach.
Plus, not to mention that cockroaches can transmit over 30 different types of pathogenic bacteria which can cause some nasty problems like cholera, dysentry, typhoid fever, diarrhea, and more. And let’s not forget the thought of having guests ride in your car.
Whether you’re a real estate agent or ridesharing driver, I’m sure other people don’t want to see roach droppings, shed skins, and even live roaches running across the seat.
How do roaches get in your car?
Don’t be surprised. Cockroaches are EVERYWHERE.
These critters are found all over the globe, from the coldest regions to the hottest places on the planet (some parts of Texas).
Simply finding them inside your car shouldn’t be something you wouldn’t expect.
This thin horizontal profile lets them squeeze right into the various cracks and crevices in your car:
- Air vents
- Electrical outlets
- Weatherstripping around the doorframes
- Damaged seals around windows
- Exhaust vents
- Front grill
- Engine block
The main things you should be asking yourself is:
- WHAT are they attracted to inside your car?
- WHERE are they hiding?
- And WHAT are they eating?
You need to address these first, then you’ll be on your way to getting rid of the roaches in your car permanently.
Let’s go over each one.
Why are roaches in your car?
Roaches are in your car because there’s likely either food, water, or shelter.
That’s pretty much all they need to thrive. They’re not picky.
Assuming you already have them infesting your ride, they’re likely eating something in your car that’s sustaining them.
As you probably know, roaches will eat nearly anything- even the material parts of a vehicle.
Here are some of the possible food sources they’re using in your car:
- Food crumbs on footpads or seats
- Spilled liquids or dried residues
- Dried condiments (ketchup, ranch, etc.)
- Sugar from soda, juice, etc.
- Cardboard, paper, newspapers, magazines (yes, they eat this)
- Water droplets
- Perfumes, colognes, makeup, lipstick, etc.
- Sweat, oil, and skin on your clothing or car seat
- Adhesives, glue, toothpaste, and peeling leather
And don’t forget the source of food in your engine, grill, and exhaust. Bugs, fleas, flies, and even rat droppings are all sources of food for cockroaches.
A simple drive through the country roads will supply a nest of roaches plenty of food for months. A single roach can go 30 days without eating, but only a single day without water.
Keep that in mind. If you want to starve, you should consider trying to dehydrate them instead as this is much more efficient.
Thankfully, most cars will heat up quickly even if the weather outdoors is only slightly warm. This will make dehydrating the nest of cockroaches much easier.
Where are roaches hiding in your car?
Roaches can be hiding anywhere in your car. The typical vehicle provides dozens of hiding places.
Here are some of the most common places roaches hide in cars:
- Around the engine block (provides a warm source of heat)
- Above the footwells
- Within the cracks and crevices all over the cabin
- HVAC system
- Air vents
- Various clutter you have scattered in the car (books, clothes, food containers, hampers, cups, take out boxes, etc.)
- Foot mats
- Rear window
- Glove compartment
Roaches prefer somewhere that’s warm, humid, and cramped.
They feel safest when their hard shell and abdomen are both touching a surface (above and below). In other words, roaches like to sandwich themselves between objects to feel safe.
How do you know if your car has roaches?
Some common signs of roach infestations are the following:
- Shed old shells
- Roach droppings (specks of pepper that’s black or brown in color)
- Roach egg cases (AKA ootheca)
- Shed eggs
- Active roaches running around
- Dry, foul odors
What is the fastest way to get rid of roaches in a car?
Here are some proven and effective ways to naturally remove cockroaches from your vehicle. Try a few of them out and see what works for you.
Note that you won’t likely find success with just one or two methods.
You’ll often find yourself using a bunch at the same time and seeing what works. For the fastest results, use multiple methods simultaneously to see what works best.
Feeling lost? No time? No energy?
Consider talking to a professional at Terminix- one of the largest pest control companies in the US with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and alternative green control.
They'll keep coming back (at no charge to you) for additional treatments until the pests are fully eliminated.
New customers get a $50 discount off select pest services at 888-984-4396.
Call operators are available 8AM-Midnight Monday thru Friday, 8AM-8PM Weekends (All times Eastern).
The single tool you’ll need is a vacuum cleaner.
This is the most powerful and effective tool to rid your vehicle of roaches you can get- much more effective than bug foggers.
So put on your google, gloves, and face mask. It’s time to do a deep clean of your car.
Get your car situated and open all the doors and windows. This will help circulate the air because your car is likely extremely dirty to house roaches.
Opening all the doors/windows will allow any panicking roaches to escape and help clean the air faster than using a single door.
Use a handheld vacuum (preferably with a HEPA filter) and start going to town in your car.
Vacuum EVERY single area of your car. This isn’t some quick one hour job. Expect to take at least 2-3 hours doing every single crevice.
Vacuum all sources of food and get inside all gaps, crevices, cracks, seats, vents, mats, trunk, cup holders, side holders, etc. Use the right vacuum tool to suck up any debris from hard to reach areas.
If your car is super cluttered, REMOVE all that junk.
Pack it up into crates and store it or just toss it out. This will remove a lot of potential food sources for the roaches and make your car that much cleaner.
Don’t skimp out on the seat gaps.
Everything gets caught here- food, dirt, coins, hairpins, skin, nails, bottles, and possibly french fries. This makes it a plentiful food source for cockroaches and other common bugs found on cars, like ladybugs, mosquitoes, or stinkbugs.
And don’t forget the hood. There are bugs, spiders, droppings, leaves, and other gunk that’s likely wedged between your engine block and window washer fluid bottle.
Clean it up. Thoroughly.
Wash it down
Next, get a bucket of soapy water and a sponge. It’s time to clean.
Start by cleaning the interior of your ride first.
Clean the cup holders, handbrake, pedals, wheel, cluster, dash, glove compartment, and any other dirty surfaces. Focus on high touch areas that you come into contact with a lot.
Wipe up any sticky soda residues, food stains, crumbs, smears, and all that other nasty stuff.
And don’t forget about coffee stains. Roaches love coffee.
Clean up all spills on your seats and footpads. Get under the seat also.
Next, do the same for the trunk. Use a new sponge. Repeat for the engine block.
By the end of this step, you should have a bucket full of dirty water. Don’t be afraid to refill it with a powerful soapy solution as you clean your vehicle.
Apply boric acid
Boric acid is the number one home remedy for completely wiping out their entire nests.
This stuff works and does wonders.
You can buy pure boric acid at most hardware stores or just find a bag online. Make sure it’s pure with no additives.
Get a bellows or some other duster and start sprinkling the boric acid all over your car.
Use it in areas that you don’t touch so you don’t disturb the powder.
It’s a very fine white powder, so it goes airborne quickly. Make sure you wear gloves, goggles, and a face mask when applying it- plus other PPE as necessary.
The trick is to get this fine white powder everywhere in your car, but only a small layering of it.
If you put so much powder that it’s clumping, roaches are smart enough to avoid it, so you want to make it invisible to them by using just enough. When roaches touch boric acid, it sticks to their body.
They clean themselves frequently, believe it or not, and they’ll eat it. The boric acid proceeds to cut them up internally and they leak out precious fluids like water.
Over time, they’ll dehydrate. Other roaches cannibalize the dead ones and they eat it also. So this can effectively kill an entire colony of roaches.
Whatever you do, do NOT sprinkle boric acid near your air vents. This will get the powder everywhere and make a mess of your vehicle.
Be careful about this. Don’t apply it anywhere where it may disturb your driving. If you’re in doubt, consult a professional for assistance.
Use diatomaceous earth
Just like boric acid, diatomaceous earth has the same effect on bugs.
You can sprinkle pure, food-grade DE around your car where you suspect roaches. Take warning not to use it near air vents or other places where it can disturb your driving.
Use proper PPE. Sprinkle it into crevices, cracks, under the seat, in the trunk, or around the cup holders and side doors.
DE is safer for pets and kids (use the organic DE), but you should still stop them from disproving the powder so it stays effective against the pests.
Try herbs and plants that repel them
Some strong-smelling herbs can help keep roaches out of your car.
Consider placing some basil, garlic, bay leaves, onion, and cucumber pieces in your car. You can use a nylon sock or parchment paper to hold the herb or plant.
The scent alone being trapped in a small space traps the roach repelling power and keeps them away from your vehicle.
Consider spraying your car’s interior with a light misting of essential oils that roaches hate.
Essential oils can be diluted with water and sprayed on surfaces that roaches frequent.
Be careful not to use it where it may distract your driving, as it is an oil and it’s slippery. Never use it on driving mechanisms.
Some of the best essential oils for repelling cockroaches are peppermint, eucalyptus, cedar, lavender, rosemary, cypress, clove, mint, tea tree, and more.
Use catnip plants
For some reason, these buggers hate catnip.
You can get a small catnip plant and place it somewhere secure in your car overnight. The scent from the plant keeps them away and out of your vehicle.
Remove during the day so it can get some sunlight. Catnip is easy to care for and you can just put it by a windowsill for sunlight during the day.
Give it light watering here and there. It’s also cheap so your non-green thumbs should be OK if you ever need to replace your plant. Catnip has proven roach repelling properties and is found everywhere for next to nothing.
You can even plant it around the home where you park your car.
Does baking soda kill roaches?
Yes, baking soda proves to be an effective natural roach pesticide.
But they won’t eat the powder alone.
You need to combine equal parts baking soda and sugar to lure them to eat it. Then the baking soda enters their body and reacts with the acid and explodes them from the inside. Awesome.
Of course, you don’t want to get this stuff all over your car’s carpeting, so place it inside a bottle cap or aluminum “boat” and stick it somewhere secure.
Baking soda is cheap to buy in bulk and you can easily set up these DIY bait stations all around your car’s interior, trunk, and parking space.
For roaches that don’t take the bait, add more sugar to the mixture.
You can also use some flour, boric acid, or peanut butter. There are dozens of recipes online for making roach bait.
Here are a few that seem promising:
Use sticky traps
Sticky traps can be an extremely helpful tool that you have in your car. It’ll catch these critters passively without requiring you to be present. You can buy these at most hardware stores. Just use as directed.
Place them on the foot mats of your car to catch roaches that walk across them at night.
The next day, you’ll want to check on them and see if any roaches were caught.
- If so, then you know it’s working.
- If not, leave the traps there. Just make sure you can drive without distraction and that they’re secure.
You can also use them around your parking space.cSticky boards rarely eliminate roach problems, but they can be a very handy tool to measure roach activity.
When you start your treatment plant to get rid of them, you’ll probably see a lot of roaches stuck to the glue boards. Over time, you’ll see fewer and fewer. The size of the trapped suspect also matters.
If the roach is big, you know that you’re dealing with a current infestation. And once you get rid of them, you shouldn’t have any more to deal with. Or there isn’t a sustaining nest of them.
But if you see smaller, baby roaches, that’s a sign that you have roaches breeding. They breed when food and water are present, so you have more work to do. Time to clean up!
Repair any damage to your vehicle
If your ride is damaged, you’ll want to get it fixed ASAP.
If it has some kind of damage to the door jamb, frame, trunk, or grill, these are all gaps and crevices that roaches can use to get inside.
Of course, not everyone can always afford repairs. There are some other, cheaper DIY alternatives to patch up your car’s exterior depending on what needs to be fixed.
You just need to be aware that this gaping hole can be a possible entry point for roaches, wasps, bees, rats, mice, spiders, and other bugs and rodents getting inside your car.
Keep your windows shut
Next up is to simply close your sunroof and windows when you get out of your car. Leaving them open allows all sorts of bugs to get inside.
Spiders, silverfish, beetles, wasps, and roaches are all just a few of the pests reported to be found in a car. Even if it’s hot outside or in your garage, shut all accessible windows to your ride.
This will help eliminate the possibility of them getting in through easily accessible entry points.
Plus, the heat buildup from having your windows shut just may drive the roaches out of your car.
Keep your parking spot clean
Even if your car is spotless, roaches may still hang out inside it because of the dozens of possible places to hide inside. Everything from under the seats to the trunk to the rims are all places roaches love to hide.
Cockroaches feel safe when they’re tucked between things that are both above and below them. Your car offers this in abundance.
So the next logical step would be to clean up your garage.
The garage provides ample hiding places, food, and water for roaches to build up vast numbers. It’s dark, moist, and possibly humid if you have water heaters or plumbing problems there.
There are also a lot of appliances like laundry, fridges, and more that provide heat for them. So the garage proves to be a haven for them. And if you clean your car 100%, it doesn’t keep them out because your garage is infested with pests.
So you need to clean the garage also for a roach free environment:
- Apply diatomaceous earth (food-ffooffffgrade) around the edges, cracks, and crevices
- Sprinkle boric acid everywhere you suspect roach activity in your garage
- Put down sticky traps to monitor roach frequency
- Get rid of ALL food sources (this include pet food, food storage, cardboard, paper, books, glue, adhesives, sugar, dry goods, etc.)
- Put valuable and other storage items in plastic containers with secure lids
- Fix any water problems or leaks (plumbing, water heater, condensation, etc.)
- Add a DEhumidifier to reduce the overall moisture in your garage
- Add box fans or air circulators (this disturbs them as they hate strong winds)
You can also check out this guide on keeping roaches out of your home.
If you park in your driveway, your options are limited because it’s likely a neighborhood pest problem.
No matter what you do to clean up your property, roaches living in your area will continue to infest your car.
You can try using a combination of roach repellents, essential oils, sticky traps, catnip, and simply keeping your car sealed and clean to keep them out.
Additionally, if you have an HOA, try complaining to them and letting them know about the roach problem. They may hire a professional pest control company to fix the problem for your entire neighborhood.
Get it professionally cleaned
When you gotta get it clean, you gotta get it clean.
You can hire a professional to clean it for you. They can use the right tools to clean every single crack and crevice in your car.
Plus, they have special cleaners that can fully remove the stains in your car’s carpeting, mats, doors, and seats. Leave it to the pros if you don’t know what you’re doing or you simply don’t have any time to clean it.
They’ll use a combination of detergents, steam cleaning, and professional vacuuming to get your car free of crumbs and sticky spilled drinks. This should help keep the roaches out because they have nothing not eat.
Get cockroach removal
If you can’t get rid of the roaches in your car, then consider getting it professionally restored.
This isn’t your basic detailing or cleaning service- this is a professional service aimed at specifically removing roaches and other pests.
You can find a business that does locally on your favorite search engine.
Just search for something like a “pest removal car” and you’ll find some results. Read some reviews and call for some quotes.
How to get rid of small roaches in your car
If you see small roaches that are about half an inch to one inch in total length, they’re probably German ones. American and Oriental roaches are large (American ones are sometimes called palmettos). German roaches are considered to be much harder to get rid of compared to American roaches.
If you have smaller roaches or you see a ton of tiny ones, you’ll want to get your car deep cleaned and add repellents, roach pesticides, and all the other home remedies to keep them out.
Use a combination of essential oils, boric acid, herbs, plants, and sticky stations to control the infestation of german roaches in your car.
Apply the methods discussed above and see what works for you- note that different pest problems have different solutions. Just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for you.
So it’s best to experiment with the different techniques and remedies and see which are effective for your vehicle.
Don’t just do one at a time. Use multiple for a powerful combo of roach killer and repellent. If you want to get rid of those small roaches, this is the best way to do so.
There’s no shortcut excel tip to clean up your vehicle and apply some kind of natural repellent to drive them out.
Can you bug bomb a car for roaches?
I’d advise against this. Bug bombs are only somewhat effective for roach control.
There are many more DIY home remedies that control them much more effectively (and safer) than using those pest foggers. You may think that because your car is sealed and releasing a bug fogger inside will kill everything.
But this just does damage to your upholstery, fabrics, headliners, and adds a toxic fume that’ll hang around inside your ride. Plus, many bug bombs don’t even work to kill the cockroaches or whatever they’re intended for. So I’d say avoid using them and stick to the safer ways.
Use home remedies to control, manage, and eradicate cockroaches for good. Bug bombs do more harm than good, especially if your ride is expensive.
What is the most effective way to get rid of cockroaches?
The most effective way to get rid of roaches from your car is to simply get rid of their food and water source.
Cockroaches can’t go for a day without water to drink, but they can go for weeks without any food.
But if you get rid of both, they have no reason to stay in your car, unless they’re eating from your garage or the outdoors where you park your vehicle.
They could be eating and drinking from an external environment and then taking refuge back in your car.
What can I put in my car for roaches?
Although some people say you can use poisons like Raid or bug foggers, I’d avoid doing so just because they’re harsh and can damage your car.
They also may pose a threat when you drive (imagine a bunch of bug spray coming out of your vents into your face). So that’s why I suggest using minimalist, clean, and natural approaches to rid roaches when possible.
Start by using the various DIY remedies on this page and move up the ladder as necessary to eradicate the infestation:
- Thorough cleaning
- Sticky traps
- Diatomaceous earth
- Boric acid
- Herbs and plants
- Essential oils
There’s no need to resort to compounds to get rid of cockroaches. Although if you need to use them, you’ll want to look for something that contains an IGR (insect growth regulator). Some of the most popular applications are Advion Cockroach Bait and various products from the Combat brand.
Do you research and use as directed. I’d suggest using an IGR combined with a roach bait. The bait lures them to eat it, but doesn’t kill them immediately. They bring the food back to their nest in their stomachs and eventually are killed by it.
Other roaches in the area (read: cockroach nest) will eat the dead roach that still has the poison.
Then they’ve ingested it also. And the cycle repeats. A single application can wipe out an entire nest of them.
How to never deal with roaches in your car again
The key to getting rid of them permanently and preventing future infestations is simple: keep your car spotless.
Avoid having any drinks, food, or other edible items in your car. Always do regular vacuuming and take it to get detailed if you need to.
Keep your windows rolled up when you’re not inside. And clean up your parking space if possible. This is the best way to keep roaches out of your car for good.
Although these home remedies are basic, it’s often the simplest things that work best.
Can roaches live in a hot car?
Believe it or not, cockroaches can be eliminated by heat.
If your car gets to even mild temperatures when all the windows are shut, this can be enough to drive roaches out or kill them entirely. Heat can kill roaches quickly as long as the temperatures are hot enough.
A single cockroach can withstand a temperature of 115F for about 60 minutes.
So if you leave your car out in the sun and it warms up to that temperature consistently, you can effectively kill all the roaches.
Use an indoor thermometer for good measure. The hotter your car gets, the less time is needed to eradicate them. When adding just 15 degrees to 130F, you only need 7 minutes to kill a roach.
Plus, the hot temperatures also kill some of the bacteria and viruses they leave behind.
Of course, this only is effective if it gets hot enough in your car depending on where you live. That’s why you need a thermometer to check accuracy.
Heat can also kill their eggs and any baby roaches (nymphs) that have hatched.
Here are some additional references you may find helpful on your quest to rid these pests:
Did you get rid of the cockroaches in your vehicle?
You should now have all the knowledge you need to control, manage, and eradicate cockroaches in your car.
Your vehicle is no place for them to take shelter. Get them outta your ride and send them back to where they came from- the outdoors!
Depending on the number of cockroaches you have, the solution may be a simple as few sprinkles of boric acid or you may need to get a bit creative and use some more “unique” home remedies. DIY style.
Did you get rid of the bugs? Do you have any tips to tell other readers? Post a comment and let me know.
If you have any feedback or found this page somewhat useful, please let me know as well!
Thanks for reading!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.