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How to Stop Condensation and Damp in a Car

Posted on March 31, 2018 – Car Maintenance


New Zealand may be a taste of paradise on earth in the summer, but there is no denying that we have an issue with damp once the warm days are over. It can be annoying in cars where you might have to spend a good 10 minutes drying your windscreen before you can even think about going anywhere. In more serious cases, humidity may start seeping into the seats and giving off a not very pleasant smell which can be very difficult to get rid of.

Condensation occurs when warm humid air meets a cold surface. So if the windshield shows moisture on the inside, there is a source of dampness somewhere in your car. It could be caused by damp shoes or clothes left in the boot; from the upholstery or the carpets; from a leak in the sunroof, the ventilation system, the doors, the windows or the coolant in the heating matrix. It can also come from human breath, but as you can’t stop breathing, you will have to be satisfied with only addressing the other possible issues!

So here are our tips for a drier car.

Ensure good air circulation

Most newer cars are equipped with a defrost button and this will be your first line of defence against moisture. Using air conditioning when it is already cold outside might sound counter intuitive, but it actually works as it removes moisture from the air. Using the air conditioning at least once every other week keeps it in good working order in any case and will prevent pipes from drying out and leaking gas.

What you absolutely shouldn’t do is use the re-circulation system. What it actually does is recycling air from the car so you will just be moving humid air around and feed your condensation problem.

If your car doesn’t have a defrost function or air-con, you have other options such as using moisture absorbers or a de-humidifier. Place them somewhere they won’t fall, like in a door pocket, and empty daily if necessary. It isn’t a quick fix but you will notice a reduction of condensation over time.

Airing the vehicle as often as possible will also help. When you use the heating or air-conditioning, direct the vents towards the carpets and the seats to help them dry out as much as possible.

Check for leaks

Leaks are the most common cause of enduring damp in a vehicle and they usually come from worn-out seals or damaged or blocked vents.

The boot is one of the usual suspects. Inspect its seals for any visible sign of damage and lift the carpet to check whether the rear wheel well is damp or full of water. If it is, empty it and dry it thoroughly and fix the source of the leak.

Next, have a look at the window and door seals. A common misconception is that a leak will come from the top but it isn’t necessarily so. Water can also come in from being splashed up from the road if a door seal is split up.

Another less well-known source of moisture is a leaking heater matrix. A small radiator usually placed under the dashboard, it has warm coolant from the engine running through it. If it leaks, you will have coolant dripping into the carpet. Perhaps even more problematic than a damp problem, the heater matrix will overheat in the absence of coolant and it will need to be replaced – and it can cost almost NZ$4,000!

Blocked pipes can be another source of moisture. Check your windscreen washer pipes as well as the drain holes for the sunroof and the lower windscreen panels.

Low-tech solutions

The next solutions are disarmingly simple yet effective.

- Drive with the windows open when the weather is dry, it will allow air to circulate and reduce the overall moisture in your car.

- On dry days, leave your windows slightly open, even on winter days, as it will give humidity a way to escape. Don’t forget to close them before nightfall to keep nocturnal damp air and morning dew out.

- Keep your windows closed when it rains!

- Clean the windscreen regularly. Water droplets tend to stick better to dirt and grime so a clean screen will reduce condensation inside.

- Remember that lovely day at the beach? Make sure you take any towel and swimming suit out of your car. You would be surprised to see how much damp a single wet bathing suit can create. Ditto with gym kits you sweated in, wet shoes, wet coats or umbrellas.

- If you spill a drink or get the seats wet for any reason, or if your dog thinks he absolutely must shake himself dry inside the car after a good swim, get those car heaters going at once and open your windows to get rid of the moisture. You may need a more direct source of heat like a hair dryer to finish off the job.

- Remove rubbish regularly if not at once. Leaking bottles, leftover drinks in cans and travelling mugs, rotting food will all contribute to creating damp. This also applies to cosmetics, sun creams, moisturising creams, etc… They may not be liquid but they still contain moisture.

- Use your garage. The ambient air will be warmer, which will prevent dampness and you will also be able to leave the windows open.

- Don’t use car covers. They sound like a good idea but even those that are sold as breathable won’t be totally so and they will just create the perfect conditions to let moisture settle in.

If you are looking for a reliable company to transport your vehicle between Australia and NZ, get in touch with us. We have been in the business almost three decades and we pride ourselves on making things easy for our clients. Call us on +64 9 309 1163 or request a free quote online.

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