Car Smells

If you have a bad smell in your car, it can be off-putting when it comes to driving it. Having a vehicle that smells nice is a lot more enjoyable and you’ll have less anxiety when it comes to letting people in your vehicle. If there’s a bad smell in your car, it’s a sign that it’s trying to tell you something. This is the same as your car giving off white smoke to tell you there’s a leak or a knocking engine to tell you that there’s a loose piston ring. It’s important that you pay attention to those hints so that you can diagnose the problems with your car. Failure to do this may lead to further.

Before you look at the different smells and the component that could be broken because of them, you’ll need to try and diagnose the problem in your vehicle first. When there’s a problem in your vehicle, a signal is sent to a diagnostics unit and this Is stored as an error code. You can use a professional OBD2 scanner (View on Amazon) to find out what the meaning of this error code means. This could give you further inside as to what the problem is in your vehicle.

Faulty Brakes or Clutch

Smell: Acrid

If your vehicle has an acrid smell while you’re driving, then you’ll know that there’s a problem going on. This smell is prominent when you’re braking or pressing the clutch. The reason you’re able to smell this because your brake or clutch has been burnt and this means that you’ll need to get the system replaced. If you leak the parking brake on or you’re riding your brakes, then your vehicle is going to smell like this. If your parking brake cable is frozen or a caliper is stuck, then this can do the job for you.

Important: If you want to save $100s in servicing, diagnosis, and repair costs, improve your car's performance significantly and increase its value by 1.2x with little effort, download our Beginners Auto Maintenence & Repair Manual now. 

You may also smell a burning clutch or brake pads when they get too hot and this can be caused by riding the clutch. If your clutch is slipper either because it’s been worn or adjusted, this can also be the cause of the smell. If your system has a hydraulic clutch and your clutch is slipping, this can be an indicator that there’s a problem with the hydraulic system.

Heater Core Leaking

Smell: Sweet

If you’re smelling a sweet smell when your heater is turned on or the engine has been running for some time or even after you’ve turned off the engine, there’s a chance that the heater core is leaking. Antifreeze is the component in your vehicle that helps to cool it down as well as other components in the car. Antifreeze has a sweet smell to it and it also has a bittering agent to prevent people from consuming – this bitter taste means that it’s very unpleasant to consume so pets and humans won’t be able to consume it. Although it smells like delicious candy, I’m sure that you haven’t got any laying around your car.

Chances are that your heater core is leaking and you’re smelling it strongly inside of your car. This is also prevalent if you can see a filmy fog on the windshield of your car. Another way that you can tell antifreeze is leaking is that you’ll see it on the floor of your car. If this is the case, then you need to make sure that you’re getting your vehicle checked out because having leaking antifreeze isn’t something that you want.

Water isn’t Where it Should Be

Smell: musty

If you can smell a musty smell while you’re chilling in your car or after it’s just finished raining, it can be a sign that there’s mold somewhere. This mold or mildew smell indicates that water is getting into your vehicle and it’s pooling in there. If there are unknown passages in your vehicle, water can get in and this can leak to parts like the floor or the seats soaking. Another common reason for this mold smell is the A/C evaporator. If you’re able to smell this, you’ll need to get your car cleaned or get the A/C checked out.

Oil Leak

Smell: Burning oil

If you’re able to smell a burning oil smell when your engine is hot or even when you’re not driving, it can be a sign that there’s been an oil leak. When there’s an oil leak, it could mean that several components in your vehicle is broken. This can be because of a broken valve seal, broken piston rings or more. When there’s an oil leak, the heat of the engine will burn the oil, and this will give off a burning oil smell.

If you can see thick white or blue smoke coming out of the exhaust, it can be a sign that there’s an oil leak in your vehicle. If you do find out that there’s an oil leak, you’ll need to get the source of the oil leak checked out. Having oil leaking means that your oil consumption is increased and that you’re wasting money on oil. This is something you want to avoid so you need to make sure that you’re getting this checked out if this is the case.

Broken Cat Converter

Smell: Sulfur

If you can smell sulfur when your engine is running, this is a sign that there’s a problem with the catalytic converter. The job of the cat converter is to make sure that the toxic gases are being removed from the vehicle so they can exit the tailpipe cleanly. The cat converter needs to be able to get the nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide out of the gases from the engine. This all needs to be converted into carbon dioxide and water before it leaves the engine. If your cat converter is damaged, this is a sign that you need to get it fixed because if it’s not working properly, you’re going to have bad emissions and you’ll fail an emissions test.

If you use lubricants in your manual transmission and transfer cases, they can sometimes give off a sulfur smell as they age. You may notice that it starts leaking all over the place. If this is the case, then you’ll need to make sure that you get the lubricant out and you figure out where the leak is coming from.

Gas is Leaking

Smell: Raw Gas

If you can smell unburnt gas when the engine is running or the vehicle is just hot, then this is a sign that there’s gas where it’s not meant to be. The strong smell of gas in your car should be there and if this is the case, it means that something has gone from. If you’ve just topped up your gas, it’s okay to smell some raw gas but this should be a common thing. If your car is carburated, this isn’t a problem.

If you have leaky fuel likes, stuck injectors, or bad fuel regulators or another issue that could leak to a fuel leak, then you’ll need to get this problem checked out as this isn’t good for your vehicle. If you have a fuel leak, it can cause raw fuel to be burned in the cat converter and this can cause you to fail an emissions test. It’s best that you head down to the mechanic to get the problem checked out.

Groceries Under Seat

Smell: Whatever your groceries are.

If you’re smelling disassociated smells and it doesn’t smell like anything toxic when you’re in your vehicle, you could still have some groceries left in your car. Most of the reasons that your car will smell is because of a leak or other mechanic reason so before you head down to the mechanic, it’s important that you check under the seats for any food or other items that could have rolled under the seat.

Smoking in Car

Smell: Smoke

If you’re able to smell the smell or cigarettes while you’re driving, then there’s a chance that someone has been or is smoking in your car. This one is a little more obvious which is why It’s last but if you’ve had people in your car that you didn’t know to well and they felt like that had to smoke discreetly, then this can cause the smoke smell that you’re smelling right now. It’s important that you know who’s getting into your vehicle so that you can prevent smells like this in the further.

If your windows weren’t rolled down, then this can make the smell more prominent. Once you have found the source of this bad smell, fixing it can be an annoying task. Sometimes the smell can remain etched into the carpet and the seats and this can make it a night make to clean.

How to Fix Bad Smells in Your Car

If you have bad smells in your car, then the best thing to do would be to find the source of the problem and get the smell out. If you’ve been failing to maintain parts of your vehicle, this can cause leaks which will ultimately lead to bad smells. Failing to maintain things like the fuel injects, cooling system, or the cat converter and cause the bad smell you smell now and it can be costly to repair. The key to making sure that your vehicle stays healthy is to maintain it often. Failure to maintain your vehicle can lead to problems in the long run and this is something that you need to avoid.

If you want to avoid bad smells or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.

A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.