You might be quick to let down the window when you smell something strange in your car (not just when someone lets one go on a long car ride..), but it’s a good idea to know what these smells actually mean. They are indicators of neglect or regular wear and tear on the vehicle and should be addressed when they arise.
This smell comes from overheating brake pads, some brakes being metallic or semi-metallic, but many brakes are being made with ceramic compounds. It’s commonly caused by a brake calliper that won’t disengage properly, causing dragging, or an e-brake that accidentally wasn’t disengaged. Either way, if you smell this odour, make sure you get your brakes looked at and replaced, as well as the callipers inspected for looseness.
The smell of burnt rubber can either be satisfying or worrisome. If you haven’t been doing any burnouts lately and this smell arises, it is generally caused by burning rubber components such as a timing belt or a hose. Make sure to address this issue as quickly as possible because a snapped timing belt can destroy many other components around it should the worst-case arise.
The smell of burning oil is most often caused by an oil leak dripping onto hot components or the engine overheating. This smell can be caused by many different fluids in your vehicle, but most commonly, the engine oil. Make sure to check your oil levels and condition and replace them as needed. If there is a leak, contact your mechanic.
This is caused by moisture buildup in your A/C vent system, creating mildew and mould. The first thing you can try is to run your fans without any A/C to dry out the vents, but if the smell continues or returns quickly, consider getting it cleaned professionally by your mechanic.
Your car’s exhaust comes in the form of hydrogen sulphide when fuel is burned and then normally processed by the catalytic converter into odourless sulphur dioxide. If you’re smelling rotten eggs, it’s because your catalytic converter isn’t processing that hydrogen sulphide properly, having it released into the air. This issue can be harmful to your health and the environment, so contact your mechanic as soon as possible if you smell this odour.
A coolant leak most often causes this sweet odour. Car coolants contain ethylene glycol, which gives off a sweet smell; however, it is actually toxic to inhale. Most often, these leaks are due to a damaged manifold gasket or a burst hose in the coolant system.
Trust your senses, and don’t let these smells go unnoticed. The best way to prevent any of these smells from occurring is to schedule your vehicle’s regular maintenance.