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I have a sedan that's been sitting in a parking spot since before Covid. It initially laid idle because of a battery drain. It killed 4 batteries in a year. Multiple service calls were unable to diagnose the issue, other than just "electrical". The last call was able to narrow it down to somewhere in the audio/trunk open fuses (they share a connector, not sure what it's called, but pulling one requires pulling both; also affects keyfob usage). Removing both fuses stops the battery drain, but the dash doesn't illuminate, so driving in certain lighting makes it impossible to see what's on the display.

Since it's been exposed to the elements for so long, a significant amount of mold has developed on the inside, covering nearly every surface (it has fabric upholstery, so the seats, carpet, dash, steering wheel, everything except the ceiling fabric). I've scrubbed the surfaces with a couple different brands of mold cleaners every few months, but it pops back up pretty easily. I've also tried using different types of moisture removers, without much success.

I have a couple thousand dollars saved up now, and I'm looking to restore my car to the daily driver it used to be. While I can drive it (with the fuses removed, depending on the weather), I'm wondering what the correct order of operations is.

Should I take the car to be detailed (mold removal/cleaning) before taking it to have the electrical repaired, so that the technician doesn't have to worry about inhaling spores; or should I not worry about it, and have the electrical work completed, and seals replaced (or whatever the cause of the water damage is), before worrying about cosmetic damage?

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    Welcome to the site! Unfortunately I'm voting to close this as it's opinion based, there's no evidence based answer here as it depends on the severity of the mold and other factors. You need to ask why you have mold in the car, it's not typical even if a car has been left out a long time, so you may have water ingress. You don't know the source of your electrical problem or what it will take to fix. I'd suggest you figure out what's wrong in both cases before you spend money on your car. – GdD Jul 21 at 8:28
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    How much is the car worth? Would the $$$ saved up be better spent on cutting your losses? Who knows how much it will cost to fix, and permanantly eliminate the mold. – Weather Vane Jul 21 at 9:15
  • The cheapest way to get rid of the mold might be to scrap the car. You can't remove most of the moldy surfaces for proper cleaning (e.g. high temperature washing) and chemical treatment (e.g. bleach) will probably damage them. – alephzero Jul 21 at 14:10
  • @WeatherVane KBB has it at $3500 in Fair (and this is certainyl not fair. It's a 2011 Kia Forte, 78k miles. – Zymus Jul 22 at 0:40
  • @GdD Thanks, I wasn't sure. I'd like to have it diagnosed more, the previous attempts haven't been very fruitful. Getting further diagnosis would require another technician to look at it more, and so the question also applies for diagnosis. Before diagnosis, should the care be safe to be in (free of mold spores) or should the electrical be diagnosed, regardless of interior safety. – Zymus Jul 22 at 0:43
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You can't clean the mold. The mold is caused by something else. FIX THAT.

The "something else" is water leaks into the car body. You HAVE to resolve those, or the mold will simply come back the next time it rains.

The water leaks are causing 100% humidity inside the car body. That is causing mold, but it's also causing rapid corrosion of the electrical connectors.

Stop the leaks FIRST.

The car will dry out pretty fast when you do, and the mold will stop.

Then, and only then, can you evaluate whether the car is worth saving.

You'll know when the leaks are fixed because the car will dry out and the mold will stop.

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  • I hadn't considered that option. I was lumping in seal repair with electrical repair, having the options be (clean or (repair seals and repair electrical)). – Zymus Jul 23 at 1:46
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The steps I would take:

  1. Remove all the interior, including the headliner, and dispose of it at a hazardous materials site. It's not salvageable. Now you have actually removed the mold and have little that can easily act as a substrate on which mold can grow. (Note that mold grows very well on leather too.)
  2. Fix the source of the mold, which is likely excessive moisture caused by physical leaks.
  3. Fix the electrical.
  4. Add a new interior.

Depending on your jurisdiction, exposing someone to mold and mycotoxins will likely place you in civil jeopardy. Doing it intentionally may place you in criminal jeopardy.

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