2012 Honda CR-V has a fishy smell

We picked up a used 2012 Honda CR-V in the winter (2019) and now this summer (July) it has a fishy smell that is really strong. We’ve replaced the interior cabin filter which seems to have been home to a rodent/nest, and had it detailed on the inside and the stink is still there. Sometimes the smell is strong, and sometimes it’s not noticeable. The car is parked outside. I don’t suspect it’s from the heater since it’s not on. Maybe A/C or vents? We have faux leather seats that can be wiped down from any spill, so that is not the source. The smell is on the inside and not on the outside, so I don’t suspect the brakes. How do we isolate and resolve the smell?

Remove the cabin air filter.

Open the hood.

Turn the ignition on, set the fan speed to high with the setting set to outside air.

With all the doors open, take a can of Lysol disinfectant spray, and spray it into the air intake at the base of windshield on the passenger side of the vehicle until the entire can is gone.

If that doesn’t kill the smell?

Then the next step would be is bring it to a detail shop with an ozone generator.


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Fishy? Probably rodent urine. When the cabin filter came out, were there holes in it? If so, the rodent got into the air handling system. Even if it didn’t, the rodent pee in the cabin air filter Could have dripped into the blower motor. You could take the blower motor out and see if you smell anything at the entrance or exit holes.

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