6 car smells that could mean trouble

Updated Aug 18, 2018 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

Read on to know which car smells would warn you about potential car trouble.

One of the most important things that you should be aware of is the smell coming from your car. As a car owner or driver or passenger you should always be alert when it comes to odd smells inside and outside your vehicle.

A normal and healthy car should smell good, or smell neutral. If you sniff and smell other than that inside your car then you should have it properly checked.

Let’s dig into this a little deeper with Philkotse.com so we can have more knowledge about the car smells we should be aware about.

1. Smells of burnt rubber

I know at one point in your life, you might have already smelled this one. Remember when your neighbor burns trash through old huge car tires? Yes, that surely smells of burnt rubber. Now, smelling this while using your car is not a good sign at all. It could signal some trouble going on.

A burning wheel

Smell of burning rubber can mean car trouble

Smelling burnt rubber from your vehicle could mean two things – first, possible that drive belts are slipping and or second, there are misplaced loose hoses that are now rubbing against rotating accessory drive pulley and getting in contact with a hot area causing them to burn.

When this happens, it is advisable to get your car checked quickly by your preferred mechanic to avoid more car trouble.

2. Smells of hot oil

If you encounter this, it could potentially mean that there’s an oil leak going on in your vehicle. Either the oil leaks into the exhaust system or the oil goes into another area that has a high temperature. 

What you need to do to check is (if you are parked), move your car to a different location and turn off your engine. Take a look at the spot where your car is parked previously and see if there are any oil droppings on the floor.

You may also see a smoke coming out of the hood. If there is, then it’s confirmed you have an oil leak. Pop up the hood and check for the oil leakage but if you’re not comfortable to do this on your own, bring your car to the nearest auto repair shop.

3. Smells of fuel/gas

This is totally one of the things that freak me out. Whenever I smell fuel anywhere, my mind goes through a lot of things like anytime I may get burned alive. But in reality, this could totally happen.

The smell of fuel or gasoline indicates that there’s a gas leak. Possibly gas is leaking from the fuel line, fuel injector line or fuel tank itself. And you know that when a gas gets in contact with anything that ignites, it could lead to fire and you certainly don’t want that to happen.

Once you smell gas from your vehicle, take your car immediately to a mechanic and have it checked for your own safety.

gasoline smell

Gasoline smell could be a sign of fuel leaks

4. Smells of sweet syrup

Initially this could remind you of pancakes and waffles with lots of maple syrup. Now you can hear your tummy grumping in hunger. However, that is, if you are in the kitchen or restaurant or anywhere near a breakfast place.

photo of sweet syrup

Sweet syrup smell could mean leaking engine coolant

But, if you smell sweet syrup coming from your car – without any pancakes or maple syrup in the horizon, it could mean that your car is losing engine coolant. Most probably your coolant is leaking from your car’s cooling system. Be careful when you are checking this problem and remember to not open the radiator cap when it’s still hot to avoid injuries.

5. Smells of burning carpet

Quite unusual right? But if you smell something like this, it could mean that you have faulty brakes. Brakes are very important as it is responsible in halting your car and ensuring you and your passengers’ safety.

Now if you smell something like burning carpet and you know that it means brake trouble, take your car right away to the nearest auto repair shop and have the brakes checked or replaced as necessary. You surely don’t want to compromise everybody’s safety, so let's learn more about car brakes and tips to prolong its lifespan.

6. Smells of Rotten Eggs

I know it sounds totally disgusting and it totally is. It could indicate a serious problem with your catalytic converter as it is not converting properly the hydrogen sulfide in the exhaust into sulfur dioxide.

It could also mean that you are having engine trouble, meaning your engine runs poorly that causes catalytic converter overload and failure.

Bottom line, when you smell anything unusual from your vehicle, don’t assume or make your own diagnosis. Any foul smell coming from your vehicle automatically indicates trouble and it should be taken to the auto shop as soon as possible.

Taking a comprehensive care of your car requires lots of efforts. Make sure to follow Philkotse.com to equip yourself with essential car tips and advice!

People sniffing inside car

When you smell something odd inside your car, you will automatically sniff and look where it comes from

>>> Must-read: Diagnose your car's annoying smells & How to remove bad odor from your car

Ivy Kristia Padura

Ivy Kristia Padura


Ivy is one of the first Philkotse's content writers. She finds joy in sharing her driving tips, particular for dealing with heavy traffic in Metro Manila, with other fellow drivers.

View more