6 Ways Car Smells Telling You about Problems

Who doesn’t love the fresh leathery smell of new cars? But, car odors are nothing like that. When the unexpected assault on our nose can’t be fixed with a fabric deodorizer, you should prepare to face an engine issue. Strong, lingering car smells could be the warning signs of many serious problems.

6 Types of Car Smells You Shouldn’t Ignore

A vehicle is like a good dog that’s always trying to tell you something. A strange smell is a tell-tale sign of future car trouble. You should keep your nose on alert to pick up these odors:

Pancake Syrup

A sweet scent does not always bode something good. If you’re smelling pancake syrup, it must be a problem with the cooling system. The coolant/antifreeze used in automobiles has ethylene glycol, which is the source of that aroma.
It could be a defective water pump or a radiator hose, and ignoring it will result in a failed engine because of overheating.

The Smell of the Exhaust

A problem with the exhaust system could be the reason, and the repercussion could be dangerous because it leaks carbon monoxide that is a highly toxic gas. The leak can happen due to decaying interior parts or a hole in any of the system components. Whatever it is, you should check the vehicle by a technician without any delay.

car odors
The exhaust smell could be dangerous for health. (photo source: Getty Images)

The Stink of Rotten Eggs

The presence of excessive hydrogen sulfide in the exhaust is the culprit in this case. That chemical compound is supposed to transform into odorless sulfur dioxide. It will not happen if the catalytic converter, where this conversion takes place, is deteriorated. Another reason of such car smells could be the broken fuel pressure regulators. In any case, you have to replace the converter or the fuel filter.


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Raw Gasoline

You should be worried if you have parked the car somewhere on a warm day and it suddenly smells like a gas station. The fuel is never supposed to leak from any part of a vehicle. You should immediately take it to a service station if anything such happens. It typically occurs because of a hole in either the fuel tank vent or fuel injection line hose.

Burnt Rubber

Smelly brakes are normal if you whiff it after a hard stop. However, it’s not good news under normal driving conditions. It happens when the brake pads get overheated. So, if you get the odor when everything else is normal, you have something legit to worry about. You’ll probably need to shell out a big figure for replacing the pads and might be the rotors too.

car smells
Smell of burnt rubber indicates brake problems. (photo source: Premier Honda)


It’s not pleasant if you have to sniff sulfur every time you finish a long drive. Don’t confuse it with the rancid smell of rotten eggs because it is pungent and earthier. It indicates the degraded condition of the high-pressure gear lube. Replace it, and everything will be fine.

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Knowing about the car smells will help you to identify the red flags. Taking necessary action on time will remove the possibility of future breakdowns from the equation.