6 car warning smells your nose can recognize

Your sense of smell can not only help you with your day-to-day life but it can also help you identify problems with your car. A human’s nose is able to recognize over one trillion different scents as we have 400 smelling receptors. With that in mind here is a quick guide to help you identify smells that are warning signs given off by your vehicle to tell you that something is wrong. These six common smells are only for general diagnostics and as such it’s still best to bring your vehicle to a service center as they can better identify the root cause of the problem and fix it properly. 

burning rubber

While one could associate the smell of burnt or burning rubber with your tires, it could also mean that something else is wrong with your vehicle. The smell could indicate that one of the belts in your vehicle’s engine bay is rubbing against something or that an accessory drive pulley isn’t rotating with the belt just slipping around it. If you notice this smell it is best to pull over to figure out which of the belts is stuck. Make sure to not reach inside your engine bay area when it is still hot, give your motor time to cool down before you proceed. 

Once you have a general idea of what is wrong it is best to call a tow truck and bring your car to a service center. If a belt snaps in your vehicle while you are driving, it could lead to a dangerous situation leaving you stranded. With that in mind, not driving is still a better option than continuing on your journey. 

engine oil

If you smell the scent of hot or burning oil in your vehicle it could mean that motor oil is leaking onto your exhaust system. If this is the case we highly recommend pulling over and turning off your engine as the oil could set your vehicle aflame. To verify the leak, look for oil on the pavement or smoke coming from your engine area. If possible have a fire extinguisher at the ready as where there is smoke a small fire could start soon. As a possible fire hazard, we do not recommend driving your vehicle any further once you have established that oil is leaking onto your exhaust system. A tow to the nearest service center is a small price to pay instead of having a possible fire in your vehicle. 


In the event that this smell starts to come from your vehicle, it could mean one of two things. The first being that your car’s fuel to air mixture is too rich hinting at a problem with your engine or that you have a gas leak somewhere in your vehicle. While the former isn’t as alarming as a fuel leak, both should be dealt with immediately. Usual places leaks can occur are with the fuel injectors, fuel lines, or with the fuel tank. The latter isn’t as common now as the technology used in fuel tanks for cars has improved over the years. 

overheating radiator

The sweet smell of syrup isn’t one to be taken lightly as it could be a sign that your car is leaking coolant. Engine coolant actually has a sweet aroma to it thanks to the additives used, while this may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, this smell shouldn’t be taken lightly. This means that a part of the cooling system in your vehicle has been damaged and is in need of attention. If the leak is small you can still keep your car going by checking on the coolant level regularly and by topping it off. However, if you find that the leak is major, it is best to call a tow truck to avoid further damaging your vehicle. 

burning carpet smell

While this is an unusual smell it could point to brake trouble for your vehicle. In the event that you do smell this scent make sure to have your brakes checked right away especially if the scent comes out during normal driving conditions. As these are related to your car’s brakes it can come from a number of different sources, as such, it is best to bring it to a service center for further diagnostics.

rotten egs

If you notice a foul odor coming from your vehicle while it is running it could be that your catalytic converter is on its way out. Part of what a catalytic converter does is convert hydrogen sulfide in the exhaust to sulfur dioxide. If this fails this means that your exhaust is no longer capable of doing this process properly and thus will need to be fixed. You can still run your vehicle despite the smell, but it's still best to have this addressed at the soonest possible time. 

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