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How to de-stink a Volvo

Note: Before following these instructions, be sure to read the first comment on this entry, from the Head Lemur.

We recently managed to pour a full half-gallon of milk from the front passenger seat in our 2001 Volvo S60 (“The Car that Cluetrain Bought”) on to the floor. Here’s how to de-stink your car:

Use main force to remove the end caps from the four ends of the two runners on which the seat sits. They snap on onto either the front or the inside edges. Yanking hard with a screw driver did the trick. (Ah, yanking hard…what can’t it do?)

Get out your ratchet set. The seat is held in by four 14mm bolts. Once you break the lock-tight seal, they should come off pretty easily.

Try not to let all four bolts roll down a storm drain. If you put them in four different places, you are more likely to preserve one as a template, although you are also just about guaranteeing that you’ll be making a trip to the hardware store with the template bolt in your pocket.

Tilt the entire seat forward in order to scrape your knuckles mightily. Yank the back carpet out from the molding into which it’s been neatly tucked. You will have to pull the rear seat up. It unsnaps, but so does everything if you pull on it hard enough.

Remove the driver’s seat the same way. Yank the rest of the carpet out from underneath it.

Rock the passenger seat back and remove the front carpet. You will have to undo a plastic, slotted turn-y thing under the glove box.

Repeatedly hose down the carpet and the molded foam underneath it, squeezing soapy water through it by stamping on it. That may or may not get enough of the stank out of them. It will, however, make you feel better.

If the stank remains, purchase new Volvo carpets. Our local dealer sells the right front carpet for $167.38 and the rear carpet for $222.59. Consider visiting your local junkyard. (Hint: Use your other car.)

Close up the car for an hour. If when you open the door, you are pushed back two feet by a smell that is on the verge of achieving self-awareness, the spilled milk was also absorbed by the passenger seat.

You can replace the passenger seat’s bottom cushions for $232.24 and the upper backrest for $274.30. The foam padding for the right front button cushion is $75. Or, you can go on ebay and find an entire Volvo S60 seat for $150 (including shipping).

If you need to replace the seat itself, you will need a torx (sp) wrench — the ones with star tips. Our Volvo has heated seats (“The Warm Ass that Cluetrain Bought”), so you have to remove some electrical bits first. On the bottom of the seat are two black boxes, each held on by a single torx screw. Remove and deposit at the bottom of a storm drain, just to teach yourself a lesson. The big black box has wires going into it that you’re going to want to detach by pulling out the plug. DON’T. Instead, pop up the entire back end of the box — it has a hinge on one side that you should keep attached. The entire assembly detaches that way. That just leaves the seatbelt. For that you’ll need a big torx screwdriver. I didn’t try it.

Read these instructions backwards to reassemble.

Throw the left over parts down the storm drain.

Note: I am an irresponsible moron. It is entirely possible that if you do what I say, you will hurt yourself, destroy your car, or make your car unsafe by wiring the seat heater to the airbag or by not tightening the seat bolts so the next time you come to a stop sign, the rear carpet replaces your brain pan. In short, if you hurt yourself or destroy your car by following these directions, you are a moron for listening to me.

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6 Responses to “How to de-stink a Volvo”

  1. Yes the moron badge has some validity but not for the reasons you state.

    Usually on volvos when you disconnect the seat, the wire harness is tied into the seat belt retractors and into the Supplemental Restraint System.
    Here is a link to airbag info I posted a few years ago
    In your car there is
    dual-stage front airbags, side-impact front seat airbags, side-curtain airbags, side-impact door beams, 3-point front seatbelts with adjustable anchors, front seat Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS), rear seat ISOFIX child restraint anchors.

    The systems affected are side-impact front seat airbags, side-curtain airbags and 3-point front seatbelts.

    The front seat airbags contain an explosive (rocket fuel) as the propellent to deploy them in a crash. Same deal with the seat belt. It has an explosive belt tensioner, to keep you in place when a collision occurs.

    If you are real lucky you did not turn on the car while you were doing this. Listing to the radio or going for parts.

    The SRS system in modern cars work like your computer in terms of doing a POST or power on self test. When you turn the car on, the SRs computer polls the connections to all the safety devices. If nothing has been displaced, or broken like wires rubbing or a connection that has not been fully plugged back in, an error code gets set. You usually get a message on the instrument cluster telling you that the SRS system needs service.

    Take it to the dealer and explain what you did with the seat and he can clear the error codes for you. Yes he will roll his eyes.

  2. 2002 n-turbo s60. When purchased for my 16yr old had a funky smell. have done frigi fresh, bio zap on carpets, frebreeze. HAs the afterblow installed on the A/c blower. Don’t think it is the infamous moldy stank in the evap.
    Want to get the rear seat out, to have a look under it. Only place I haven’t. Smells kind of like wax or something similar. Very $#%@%&^& puzzling.My daughter is in love with the car and wife and I sleep better knowing she is driving it.
    Thanks in advance for any and all assist.

  3. My 1999 crown vic seat is killing me. Can I possibly get a volvo seat put into the car?

  4. I have the same funky crayon/wax smell in my 2002 S60 that I believe may be the same that L.B. posted on Dec 5, 2006. Has anyone been able to determine the origin? I’m getting ready to yank out the carpets and try to clean them and underneath. I’m I wasting my time? Any other possible solutions out there?

  5. Most smells can be removed from your vehicle simply by placing (CAREFULLY) a bowl of bleach on the floor of said vehicle.
    At the end of your driving day, place the bowl in the car, roll up ALL the windows and close the doors. The next day (or tow if its the weekend) when you come back the colour should have turn a “brownish/black” and the car will smell slighty of bleach. Yuor odors are in the bleach and the slight smell will vanish quickly!

  6. My husband just bought a 2002 Volvo S60 for our daughter. The overwhelming smell of melted crayons inside is sickening. I’ve poured over so many forums on this subject and am desperate for a solution that will actually work. We live in Florida so from what I’ve read so far it obviously isn’t to our advantage that we live in a very hot state. Our daughter loves the car but not the fact that her hair & clothes smell horrible after being in it. Definitely not good for a teenage girl. I’m going to try the bleach idea, but realistically I have a feeling the only true fix is to gut the interior & remove whatever glue/sound proofing liner etc. they put in it when it was built. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

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