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What's That Smell Coming From My Car's Engine?

A persistent and unusual scent while driving can oftentimes be a cause for concern. There's often quite a distinction between a vehicle smell and a smell of something inside of your car, such as old food or drink. However, smelling something that is seemingly coming from your car's engine is different. 

Strange car smells are typically an indication that something isn't right with your vehicle, and more than likely there is a leak happening. This is why it is important not to ignore the smell, and to get your vehicle inspected as soon as you notice anything weird. 

Here are some of the most common car engine smells and what they can indicate: 

  • Rotten eggs - the smell of rotten eggs means you're sniffing sulfuric acid, which points to an issue with your catalytic converter. This is dire to have repaired as soon as possible. 
     
  • Mold/Mildew - a mold or mildew smell, especially when the air conditioning system is turned on, means just that - you probably have mold or mildew on the A/C condenser. This isn't safe to breathe in, so you should get this taken care of as soon as you can. 
     
  • Syrup - a sweet syrupy scent typically points to a coolant leak, which can lead to engine overheating. 
     
  • Smoke or oil - a smoke or burning oil smell is usually an oil leak, which can be dangerous. It can catch fire and can also severely damage your engine quickly. 
     
  • Burnt carpet - ah, the wonderful smell of burnt carpet. This can be an indication of overheated brake rotors or pads, which can cause unexpected brake fade (temporary loss in brake function).
     
  • Exhaust fumes - this points to an exhaust leak, which can be dangerous for your health to breathe in.
     
  • Burnt rubber - burnt rubber indicates an issue with a rubber belt, such as the timing belt. This is vital to get fixed quickly because a broken belt can damage your engine. 
     
  • Burning plastic - a plastic smell can mean some sort of wiring issue, like short-circuiting. This can be caused by critter damage or worn insulation. 
     
  • Gas - a gas leak smells like it is, and is dangerous. If the gas leak gets near a hot exhaust system, a fire can start. 

These are the most common scents that can indicate an issue, and we recommend getting your vehicle into Bay Diagnostic as soon as you begin experiencing any of them. The quicker you get your vehicle into our shop, the less damage the smelly problem will cause. Give us a call or stop by our shop today! 

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