5 Strange Car Smells and What They Mean

One of the best ways to know if something is wrong with your vehicle is to use your five senses. If you see steam rising from your hood, hearing a clinking noise, or touching an unusually warm surface can all be warning signs that something is wrong. But what about strange car smells? Many drivers notice these smells after a collision, even if they didn’t think their vehicle was damaged in the crash. Read on to learn about five strange car smells and what they mean when it comes to vehicle safety.

#1 Burning Carpet

Picture this: You’re driving down the road and smell a strong burning odor. Not only does it smell like something is burning it in your vehicle, but the odor also seems to be related to fabric or carpet. Although this is not a normal occurrence, it isn’t unheard of. The culprit? Overheated brake pads. The first thing to do is check to see if you’ve left the handbrake on. If not, get your brakes checked out right away.

auto stiegler team photo
car smells from spinning out, smoking

#2 Gasoline 

Smelling gasoline after you filled up is common, but getting a whiff of gas randomly while you’re driving suggests a bigger problem. Usually, there is a leak in an injector line or the gas tank. The first step to take when you smell gas is to try and find the source. With a fuel-injection line leak, you’ll probably notice the smell right after driving. If your interior smells like gasoline, the issue may be irregular fuel pressure. Regardless of the source, a gas leak can leave a puddle of fuel under your vehicle. This is a fire hazard and makes it important to seek repair help right away.

#3 Rotten Eggs

There are a few different reasons your vehicle may smell like rotten eggs. This is one of the more unpleasant car smells.  But if you didn’t leave leftover lunch in the backseat for a few days, you probably need to have your vehicle checked for a catalytic converter issue. When your catalytic converter heats up, it can burn deposits of sulphur and hydrocarbons that have  been building up. This is what produces that egg-like smell. If this is only happening when you ‘rev’ up your engine every once in a while, no biggie. If the issue is more frequent you may have a catalytic converter sensor issue.

#4 Maple Syrup 

Not all strange car smells are foul. In fact, number four can be described as sweet. If you smell an odor that reminds you of pancakes permeating from your vehicle, your engine is probably involved. The smell of leaking anti-freeze coolant is often described as maple syrup-like and points to a heater core leak (think pin-size hole). Other clues: a wet spot on your interior carpet, your heater isn’t warming as well, and the inside of your windshield has a sticky film after you use your defrost.

#5 Burning Rubber

The smell of burning rubber is a unique odor that most drivers notice right away. It’s common after collisions in which the driver didn’t think there was a need to take their vehicle to a repair shop. Unfortunately, this can cause major issues in the long run. If it’s not a tire care issue, other parts might be at play. Two major reasons for this rubbery smell are a drive belt that has slipped or a hose that was knocked loose and is now rubbing. Thankfully, this is an easy fix. All you need is to do a little tightening!

Still, if you have a strange car smell that you’re concerned about, you should have it checked out. Just make sure it’s a body shop you can trust. If you feel like your issues may be connected to a prior collision or crash damage, feel free to call Orlando Auto Body at 480-351-1734 so that we can check out your vehicle and provide you with a free estimate, strange smell free!