Clues were forthcoming. The first hint was quite curious. The grated air vent, at the bottom of the windshield, suddenly was missing a few little pieces plastic here and there. Were they gnawed away? One afternoon, a burst of fine pieces of foam rubber flew out of the blower fan like confetti on New Years’ Eve. The mystery had only just begun.
In time, I became very used to the hay smell. It slowly began to weaken. Maybe this olfactory oddity was coming to an end? The smell changed for the worse. It began to smell…reeky. What started as a reminder of stinky sneakers turned, day by day, to increasing misery. One morning, I started the car and death filled the air literally. Something had passed away and it was now decomposing.
The reek was loud and unbearable. I had to dismantle the air system as soon a possible and discover what was going on. One of the places I work at had both a large and small shop vacuum cleaner. I first opened the large air filter compartment tucked under the hood. There could be no doubt a nest had been made! Mice are good at four things: gathering, eating, nesting and making a fecal mess. My car’s new residents were skilled in every way!
The air filter had become only part of their nest. They collected hay, shreddings of cloth and wool, pieces of leaves and sticks and everything else they could find to create a fluffy mess (and good insulator.) Several handfuls were pulled out before I could vacuum it out. But wait…there was more! I opened the vent cowl right under the windshield. Another nest was found, but no mice! More cleaning but no carcass!
Finally, I went to the cabin air filter behind the glove compartment. The second I opened the black slotted door I saw the filter edge, once white, was now a grayish black. I pulled it out slowly and found a dirge of mice droppings and odiferous horror along with a small mouse now demonstrating rigor mortis. Satisfied with my findings, I drove off to my other office stopping to get a new air and cabin filter on the way.
Disappointment took only seconds! There was still something dead in the car. The only place I had not cleaned was the fan mechanism itself. I stuck my hand into it and felt tons of spinners from a maple tree. Then, eek! I felt something small, furry and still a little wet. It was mouse two (the sequel.) I borrowed another shop vac, with a very narrow hose and managed to snake it into the fan housing to clean it out. I heard the spinners get sucked into the vacuum. Twick-twack, twick-twack and then a big flump! Mouse two had been sucked away. I continued to vacuum until the last spinner was gone. Hopefully, this was the end!
Ninety-five percent of the stench was now gone, but odeur de souris still filled the air. It had become a combination of foul aged dust, familiar to anyone who has ever cleaned a heating duct, combined with the memory of decomposed vermin. Garaged, with windows wide open, I dream of the day the smell will cease. Sorry, no pungent green cardboard Christmas trees for me! Patience is a virtue and I will clean and polish until I find satisfaction. Oh, mon Dieu! What I would do for a breath of fresh air!