The Sniff Test: What's That Odor Coming From Your Car?

When it comes to maintenance and auto repair of your car, did you know that you can identify warning signs of problems with your nose? Different smells may help to identify particular problems with your car and being aware of these smells early on can save you from problems while on the road or prevent even larger repairs from happening. Here are 4 of the most common odors that can alert you that something is mechanically wrong with your car.

Burning Rubber

Smelling burnt rubber may be a sign that a hose in the engine has a hose that is loose or slipped out of place and is rubbing against the drive pulley. A burning rubber or burnt toast smell may also be a sign that the engine is highly overheated, which may be causing components, such as plastic parts or hoses to melt. An engine that is extremely overheated may also cause damages to the wiring, which could lead to an electrical malfunction. If this happens, it may result in a chain reaction; the engine gets hotter and hotter until completely seizes. If you notice this smell, you should immediately stop driving, leave the engine running and raise the hood to allow the engine to cool. Once the engine has cooled, you should have the car looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.

Burnt Carpet

The odor of burnt carpet is serious problem, because it generally indicates a problem with the brakes. In this situation, you will notice the odor when you have had to use the brakes a lot or hard. It is normal for the brake pads to get slightly overheated if you have are riding the brakes while coming down a steep hill. But if you notice the odor under normal driving conditions, the brake caliper piston may be seized up and causing the brake to drag. For your safety, you should avoid driving the car until your mechanic has inspected and repaired the brakes.

Sweet Syrupy Smell

If you smell a sweet syrupy smell (like maple syrup) after the engine has been warmed or for a few minutes after shutting it off, it typically means the coolant is leaking somewhere. If the leak is in the head gasket, it will allow the coolant to mix with gasoline in the engine and you will see a thick, white colored smoke coming from the muffler, which will smell like syrup. The smell could also be coming from a leak in the heater hose, the radiator or a cylinder head. If the smell is strong inside the passenger compartment (glove box) it may mean you have a bad heater core.

Rotten Eggs

The smell of rotten eggs or sulfur while your engine is running may be a sign of a problem with the fuel injector, but it usually means the catalytic converter may be defective. This is caused when the mixture of air and fuel in the catalytic converter is not properly converting hydrogen sulfide into sulfur dioxide. Smelling this odor is a sign you should visit your local mechanic as soon as possible to prevent the risk of even further damage to the exhaust system.

You should never ignore odd smells in or outside of your car. An unusual odor isn't normal, so you should consult a licensed automotive mechanic right away, especially if the smell occurs while driving under normal conditions. When talking with your mechanic describe the odor and any problems you are aware of as clearly as possible or take a test drive with the mechanic to point out the problem. For more information, contact companies like Leo's Automotive.