Instead of trying to mask objectionable odors from a vehicle interior, an attempt to actually eliminate the odor is obviously preferable.
An ozone generator (also called an ozone machine) is, as the term implies, a unit that generates ozone. Ozone (O3) is sometimes referred to as “activated oxygen.” Ozone is simply three oxygen atoms linked together, as opposed to O2 (oxygen), which is two oxygen atoms linked together.
Ozone is a natural air cleansing agent found in nature (ozone is created during thunderstorms, created by waterfalls, etc.). By generating ozone within a vehicle interior, odors are eliminated at the source. When ozone encounters another compound, one oxygen atom will break away, attaching itself to the compound and oxidizing it. In other words, ozone breaks down odor-causing compounds, thereby removing the objectionable odor.
Putting it to the test
Ozone generators are available from a number of sources and are offered in a variety of shapes and sizes for removing odors and allergens from small enclosed spaces, up to servicing large rooms. For purposes of removing odors from a vehicle interior, I chose Malco’s Uvonaire Ozone Machine, part number 800035. This unit is specifically designed for automotive interior applications.
The unit is AC powered. Simply position the machine in the vehicle interior, in a relatively centered location (for example on a front seat, raised up on a cardboard box to place the unit approximately even with the face of the dash. The unit does not generate enough heat to damage the resting surface, so it’s safe to place it on the dash or directly onto a seat.
Raise all windows, leaving one window down about two inches and close the doors. The unit will create O3 (ozone), which will neutralize odors such as tobacco smoke, mildew, etc., and also will neutralize allergens.
Leaving one window cracked open (which also provides a path for the electrical cord) assists the process, since the machine feeds from oxygen in the air to create ozone.
The run-time will depend on the size of the vehicle and the intensity of the odors, but on average, allow the unit to run for approximately 15 to 30 minutes.
Upon entering the vehicle after running the ozone machine, you’ll notice a metallic odor/taste, but this will dissipate quickly.
Ozone generators are very successful in removing otherwise stubborn odors. An ozone machine can be used with repeated applications if the first attempt hasn’t eliminated the odors.
For this sample test, I used my personal 2002 Ford F-350 truck (dually crewcab diesel), which is routinely exposed to tobacco smoke. After treating the interior for about 20 minutes with ozone, I turned the machine off and re-entered the vehicle.
A slight metallic taste was evident, which disappeared in about another five minutes. I then asked a friend (who constantly complained about the smoke odor in my truck) to drive my truck to the local parts store to pick up a few items that I had ordered. When he returned, he asked me what I had done to eliminate the smoke odor, noting that he immediately noticed the difference. After I told him about the ozone machine, he was skeptical, insisting that I must have performed some additional odor-removing process. Still suspicious, he asked to borrow the ozone machine to try at home, since he was having trouble getting rid of a mildew odor in one of his vintage cars. A week later, he returned the unit, claiming that he used the machine twice over a two-day period, and the mildew stink had vanished.
As an additional example, I once loaned the same ozone machine to a friend who owns a nearby body shop. A customer bought a flood car, and even after replacing all carpet and insulation, a nasty mildew smell persisted.
While the body shop needed to run the ozone machine about 10 times over the course of a few days, the objectionable odors were nearly eliminated, to a point where the vehicle owner was satisfied and thrilled that he could drive the car “without a noticeable stink.” ●
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