Detecting the Source of Odour in the Car

Car odour means trouble. But you can use them to diagnose mechanical problems. The only odours allowed inside your car should come from foodstuff that you’ve in. If the odour is from any of the items in the following list, take immediate action to correct it:

  • A smell of burning rubber from under the bonnet: One of the car’s hoses may have come loose and landed on a hot part of the engine. Rescue it before it melts through.
  • You smell something burning with the bonnet closed: Feel your wheels. If one is hot, a brake shoe or pad may be dragging. If none of these problems are the cause, an overheated clutch in a manual transmission car may be the cause.
  • You smell oil burning: First, check the oil dipstick. You may be running out of oil or your engine may be overheating. Your temperature gauge may also be broken. If neither is the case, look for signs of oil leaking onto the engine block or exhaust manifold. If no oil is not leaking check the transmission fluid dipstick. If the transmission fluid is very low, it can be burned in the gearbox because the gears aren’t lubricated enough and are getting very hot.
  • You detect the smell of oil or exhaust fumes in the passenger compartment: The cause could be burned oil from the engine area. Another cause is a faulty exhaust pipe under the car, which lets exhaust gases into the car through the floorboards.
  • You smell something sweet and steamy: Check the temperature gauge or light to see whether your engine is overheating.
  • You smell burned toast: It may be an electrical short circuit, or the insulation on a wire may be burning. Check around under the bonnet. Driving is a bit risky, so get to the nearest petrol station, or have AA roadside service come to you.
  • You smell fuel: If you have trouble starting the car, the engine may be flooded. Wait a few minutes and try again. If the smell comes from under the bonnet, check your fuel injection system and make sure that it isn’t leaking fuel. Check all visible fuel lines and hoses that lead to the fuel tank. If they’ve rotted or are disconnected, you’ll smell fuel vapours without seeing any leaks. Taking a look under the car after it has been parked overnight may help, but remember that fuel evaporates quickly, so the clues may be stains rather than wet spots. Don’t smoke while you check for a fuel leak! Fuel ignites easily, and its vapours can explode. If you smell fuel, and you haven’t just filled your tank, find the source of the leak and have it repaired immediately.
  • You smell rotten eggs: The smell is probably coming from the catalytic converter, which is part of the exhaust system. The converter may be malfunctioning, or you may have a problem with your engine.

Remember: If you detect any problems with your car that you can’t fix, take it to the nearest mechanic for servicing and repair. We recommend a visit to one of our member garages for the best diagnosis and repair.


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