My Car...Why Does It Smell Bad?

December 1st, 2016

Suddenly, you notice a weird smell in your car and it is NOT very pleasant. Coolant Leak in Boulder CO It’s important to know what might be making your car smell…because it could be an indicator of something more serious than leftover food under the seat. Here is a list of common car odors and what they could mean. 

Maple syrup: A maple/chemical smell often means there’s a coolant leak somewhere. It has a sharp and unmistakable sweetish twang to its odor…and if you’re leaving puddles of coolant around, you could easily poison a dog or a cat, as they love the taste of the stuff.

Burnt toast: Transmission fluid burning on a hot surface has an entirely different smell from hot oil. Look for puddles of magenta-colored lubricant under the vehicle.

Musty, “gym socks” smell from the vents: This is almost always just old-fashioned mildew in your A/C vents. There’s not much that can be done for it, except to open the windows and blast the A/C for the first few minutes to try and evacuate the odor out of the system.

Sulfur: Could be a rear differential leak. Differentials and axles use a heavy lubricant that is high in sulfur content, and it gets a pretty nasty odor to it once it’s been in there for several years.

Burning paper: If you’ve got a manual-transmission vehicle, a burning paper smell is likely to be the facing of the clutch surface, as it’s actually a pressed-fiber composition anyway.

Rotten eggs: If you notice this smell when the vehicle is fully warmed up, it could be the catalytic converter. Catalytic converter failure is pretty rare, they usually last for the entire life cycle of the vehicle. Try switching gas stations – if you use a rarely-trafficked station, the fuel could have impurities that are interfering with the converter’s function.

Burning plastic: Not good! You might have something under the hood, like wiring or connectors, that’s short-circuiting or overloading for some reason.

If you’re noticing any of these problems, don’t put it off…make an appointment with us at Boulder Tire. Even if it’s something minor, you don’t want to drive around in a smelly car, do you? 

  Posted in: Auto Repair 101