Why Does My Car Smell?

Cars aren’t exactly fragrant. But a vehicle will typically exude a ‘new car’ smell for a few weeks or months after purchase, depending on how well you take care for it. If you use an air freshener, then expect your car to have the same scent. Both of which are normal. But if you detect any funny odors that leave you scratching your head, then something is definitely wrong.

Ignoring bad smells can cost you a lot in maintenance and repairs. Not to mention, it would drastically lower the resale value of your vehicle. Besides, who wants to ride a stinky car anyway? So we prepared a quick guide to some of the most common odors you can smell in your vehicle.


The 6 Most Common Car Odors and How To Get Rid Of Them

Here are five ‘bad smells’ you’re likely to pick up from your car. Find out what they are and how to remove them.

1. Musty

There’s probably mold or mildew collecting in your air conditioning system. If you want to get rid of the musty smell, you can try to run your fan on high speed for several minutes with the air conditioning turned off. This can help to dry out the evaporator and clear the mildew collecting in the radiator.


2. Burning

A burning smell in your vehicle can be several things. It could be oil leaking into a hot part of your engine or exhaust. It may also be coming from overheated brake pads, rotors, or clutch plates in cars with manual transmission.

In some rare cases, there may be small animals barbecuing in your engine compartment (yikes!). Another potential cause is that some electrical component in your vehicle had recently short-circuited. Whatever the reason, be sure to do a thorough checkup and cleaning of affected parts.


3. Sweet

If you smell a sickly-sweet odor in your car that’s similar to sugar or maple syrup, your antifreeze is likely leaking. While it can be difficult to trace, it’s important that you address it immediately since antifreeze is dangerous if inhaled.


4. Burning rubber

The scent of burning rubber inside your vehicle could be an accessory drive belt that has slipped or degraded. It could also mean that your clutch plate has overheated (that is if you’re on manual transmission). Both need to be replaced immediately or there’ll be an accident waiting to happen.


5. Rotten eggs

The smell of rotten eggs or sulfur suggest that your catalytic converter has failed or is about to fail. An overheated converter may also cause the rotten egg smell.


6. Gas

When you start a cold engine, it’s quite normal to smell some gas. But if you continue to pick up on the scent well after the engine has heated up, then something more dangerous is brewing.

It is highly likely that your gas cap is loose. Or maybe the control systems which contain combusted gas vapors are either clogged or leaking. Alternatively, there may be gas leaking from your tank and flooding other parts of your fuel system. Whichever it is, the smell of gas requires immediate attention since it can lead to an explosion.