When Good Cars Smell Bad

What’s That Smell?

Oftentimes there are warning signs before something goes wrong with your vehicle like odd sounds, changes in handling, or warning lights. While not as immediately apparent, smells can also clue you in on potential problems; as long as you know what to smell for!

Unpleasant odors may lead to costly repairs or increase your risk of causing an accident, so if you notice a peculiar or abnormal odor, don’t ignore it or spray more car freshener. Instead, bring your car into an expert mechanic like those at AAMCO CO to get an informed opinion and recommendation.

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8 Car Smells to Watch Out For

Sweet Syrup Smell

While you could be smelling that pancake house you just drove past, it’s more likely that you’re smelling ethylene glycol, which is a key component of engine coolant. The odor may be due to a leak in your radiator or hose, which is allowing the odor to spread into your cabin. If you’re smelling syrup, bring your vehicle into an expert mechanic – it may be as simple as a new hose or heating core, or as intensive as replacing the radiator. If left unchecked, your radiator may run dry or your heating system will break down.

Gasoline Smell

You could be smelling gasoline due to sloppy refueling, or you could be smelling a leak in your vent hose or fuel injection line. Due to the extremely flammable nature of gasoline, make sure you get the smell checked out sooner rather than later.

Burning Rubber Smell

Burning rubber smells can be expected during hard and sudden braking or when spinning out your tires. If, however, you’re noticing this smell regularly, it could mean you have a shifting drive belt, a belt about to break, or a loose hose rubbing against another under-the-hood component. If you’re unsure, it’s best to take your car in to have an inspection performed as these objects can cause major damage.

Related Article: All About Tiing Belts and Chains

Burning Carpet Smell

If you use your brakes heavily while driving or forgot to disengage the hand brake, you may notice a burning carpet odor. If the smell is fleeting, it’s a normal and perfectly okay occurrence. Should the smell linger, it may be a sign that your brake pads and shoes are having an issue. You’ll want to ensure they aren’t sticking, or that they don’t need replacement.

Hot Oil Smell

Less appealing than homemade French fries in the kitchen, smelling hot oil may mean oil is leaking onto the hot exhaust manifold. You could see oil spills on the pavement underneath your car if it’s a leaky crankshaft, or you may notice smoke from the exhaust if it’s a leaky valve cover.

Dirty Gym Sock Smell

It’s an unmistakable smell, and certainly not one you’d want in your vehicle. That quintessential sweaty sock smell is a result of mildew forming in the air conditioner evaporator. Sometimes it’s as easy as running your fan on high with the A/C turned off, other times it requires a full cleaning by a mechanic. Ignoring the smell can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivities like watery eyes, sneezing, headaches, and difficulty breathing.

Rotten Eggs Smell

If you’re certain you haven’t forgotten part of your groceries in your trunk or been pranked by neighborhood kids, a rotten egg smell can be the first sign of serious mechanical issues. Oftentimes this odor will emanate from under your car and could be caused by something as benign as a faulty fuel injector or as serious as a failed catalytic converter.

Burning Newspaper Smell

This is specific for manual transmission vehicles and oftentimes indicates issues with the clutch. Persistent burning newspaper smells are the result of the clutch face being burned off as the clutch slips. If reducing your clutch riding doesn’t eliminate the smell, you may need to have the clutch replaced.

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