Car Has a Strange Smell? Your Car May Be Sick

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When you get a new car it smells good but after a few days the novelty wears off. The smell of perspiration, pets, smoke, shopping bags, food etc. may take over. If you are looking forward to a long drive then a stinky car may put you off. The bad odor may be any food or pet waste. Or, something more serious, could be from your car itself due to some mechanical reasons.

Paying close attention to odor changes in your car may help you avert a dangerous situation in the long run. If the odor is not too bad and you choose to spray an air freshener and ignore it then it may turn out to be a costly mistake.

Ways To Diagnose Car Smells

When you sense an unusual smell in your car it is important that you try to check where it is coming from. Is it when you enter the car, under the carpets, front seats, hood or the back seats? You may diagnose the smells in your car by using various methods and avoid potential trouble.

  • First of all, you need to check which area in your car has the strongest stench
  • Try to check if the smell is only while driving or when the car is parked too.
  • Open the glove box and check
  • Get a good look at the engine and various parts
  • Check the fuel filter, exhaust system, carburetor, insulation wire and catalytic converter
  • Look under the carpets and seats

List Of Strange Smells And Causes

Different types of car smells may have their own cause and problems. Ideally, if you left something smelly inside your car; like an old sweaty sock! When it smells like anything else then sharpen your nose and take corrective active.

  1. Burning rubber under the hood: It is possible that one of the hoses loosened up and is lying on your hot engine. Remove that hose fast before it melts.
  2. If your car hood smells when closed:  Check the wheels, touch them to sense if it is hot. Maybe a pad or brake shoe came off loose and is dragging. Or, you may have forgotten to pull off the parking brake. A clutch that is overheated in a car with a manual transmission could also be the culprit.
  3. A thick acrid odor of burning oil: First of all look at the oil dipstick. Maybe the engine is too hot or there is not enough oil in it and the temperature gauge is broken. If none of this is the cause then look for oil leaking in the exhaust manifold or engine block. When oil levels are ok then check the dipstick for transmission fluid. Even if it is low then it might burn as it could be very hot and as there is less lubrication in the gears.
  4. Exhaust fumes or oil smell in passenger area: Maybe the burning oil in the engine or a defective exhaust pipe under your car is the reason. Those exhaust fumes could get into your car through the floorboards. Carbon monoxide fumes are very dangerous and you need to open up the windows to let it out. This kind of problem needs a fix urgently.
  5. Sweet and steamy smell: Make sure it’s not a forgotten doughnut and look at the lights or temperature gauge to ensure the engine is not too hot.
  6. Rotten egg smell: Most probably the catalytic converter that is a part of the exhaust system may cause this smell. If the converter is not functioning properly then it may cause an engine problem too.
  7. Mold or mildew smell: When rotten food, wet stuff or spilled drink stays that may give off a musty moldy odor.
  8. Burnt toast smell that is sharp and light: A wire insulation that is burning or an electrical short circuit may be the cause under the hood. This is very hazardous so don’t continue to drive and ask for roadside assistance or service personnel to come over.
  9. Gasoline smell: When you did not have a smooth start it may seem that the engine is flooded. Wait for a few minutes and give it a try again. If you get the same smell under the hood then check your carburetor or fuel injection system for a leak. Also look at the fuel pump if it is outside the fuel tank. When gasoline leaks then it will cause a clean streak that you can easily see. Check all the hoses and fuel lines leading to the fuel tank that is visible. If they are disconnected or rotten then you may smell gasoline vapors and there may be no visible leaks. After you park your car overnight take a close look under the car as gasoline evaporates fast and there could be some stains.

Car Odor Removal Tips

Car Odor

Some tips may be handy to remove some car smells when there is no mechanical or engine fault. If you suspect a mechanical fault then you may get the help of a mechanic to fix the problem and not experiment yourself.

You may get rid of burnt toast smell sooner than later as it could be unsafe to not repair it. Ask for professional help to get rid of the smell by fixing any insulation or electrical circuits that have damage. To get rid of a sulfur smell, you may fix the catalytic converter either yourself or ask a mechanic. The process would be to cut the damaged part of the converter at both ends once you ensure the engine is cool. After you cut the old one then you may replace that part with the new converter and seal by tac-welding. For a brake or clutch problem, you may look at the thermostat and if needed replace it with a new one.

Tips To Remove Car Odors When There Is No Mechanical Fault

  • Check the car interior thoroughly and wipe the interior properly
  • Remove the carpet and give a thorough cleaning
  • Vacuum the interior of the car thoroughly
  • Steam cleaning can work wonders
  • Use a deodorant to neutralize the odor
  • Ozone shock treatment is a final option if you have tried everything and failed
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