Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating – What’s Wrong?

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating – What’s Wrong?

When you notice that there is a burning smell from car but not overheating, this usually indicates that there is some sort of oil leak issue or even an overheating problem.

Furthermore, a more intense burning rubber smell could show there is an issue with the drivetrain.

One thing that you should always keep in mind is that there are several possible causes for a burning smell and often to diagnose the problem, you will need to identify where the smell is coming from. This is what we aim to explore in this post.

Keep in mind that the main factors that could cause a burning smell include slipping of the belt or clutch, faulty engine parts, leaking oil, and even clogged vents. It could also be a result of wear and tear that occurs prematurely or due to a lack of good car maintenance. Other times it is the driver’s habits that could be behind the burning smell.

Burning Rubber Smell From Car

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating

You may notice unpleasant odors inside the car. This could cause you to spend large sums of money trying to fix them. If you notice such odors, there are a couple of things that you can do.

Sure it may be cool to watch a car causing smoke or even fire. We’ve seen this in action movies. But in real life, this is a serious sign that something is going wrong. You want your car to be in the best shape if you are planning on making a trade-in in the future.

If you are dealing with a situation where there is a burning smell from car but not overheating, you must have the problem looked at by a qualified mechanic to find where the issue may be coming from.

Let’s take a look at the reasons in closer detail.

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating #1 – Oil Leak

The engine comprises various parts which also translates to multiple gaskets and seals. These help to keep the engine oil from leaking and coming into contact with other components and parts of the engine. This could also result in a fire.

If the gaskets and the seals are faulty or damaged due to many years or miles of driving, they could cause the oil to leak. If the engine oil comes into contact with parts such as the exhaust pipe, it can result in a bad burning smell.

Sure the engine oil itself will not smell as if there is rubber burning but to someone who hasn’t experienced the problem before, it can result in a rubber-like burning smell.

Be wary of the engine oil reaching the exhaust as this can result in a fire.

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating #2 – Coolant Leak

Another cause of a burning rubber smell is a coolant leak. The coolant is often contained in a sealed system which also has gaskets. These gaskets could also fail due to wear and tear.

Again the coolant will not create a burning rubber smell but if it comes into contact with rubber hoses it could result in such a smell.

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating #3 – Serpentine Belt Slipping

There are several reasons which could cause a burning smell from car but not overheating. One of these is the serpentine belt. Other related issues such as the air conditioner compressor jamming could result in a serpentine belt slipping. This could create friction resulting in a burning rubber smell.

A problem that is also more common is a failure of the automatic tensioner or even a lack of tensioning the belt manually could cause slippage of the serpentine belt. After all, the belt is built out of rubber.

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating #4 – Brakes That Are Sticking

This is also a common cause of the burning rubber smell. When the brakes are sticking, they result in friction on heat. The temperatures can go as high as to cause a fire.

The reason behind the burning rubber smell is that there are rubber components in the brake pads. Often the sticking brakes are a result of brake calipers that stick or even sticking brake pads.

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating #5 – Slipping Clutch

This is often a problem with manual cars that have a clutch system.  These use the clutch to help in the shifting of the gears. Many people will fail to press the clutch all the way while also pressing on the gas pedal.

One thing to keep in mind is that the clutch works by matching the speed of the transmission to the speed of the engine. It does this by coming into contact and locking with the flywheel. Sure there will be some friction involved.

However, by not pressing the clutch pedal completely inside the clutch and the flywheel does not fully engage and there is a lot of friction as the clutch grinds against the flywheel.

The result is excessive heat which will then cause the clutch to start burning. And since the clutch is made of a compressed paper mesh, the friction cause heat which causes the clutch to produce a burning rubber smell.

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating #6 – Electrical Short

This isn’t the most common reason behind the burning rubber smell but one that could happen nevertheless. An electrical short will then create the smell of burning rubber.

You can start by checking the fuse box both inside as well as outside the car and see if this is where the burning rubber smell is coming from.

Heater Smells Like Burning

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating

Let’s assume you are busy driving and you notice that the inside of the car’s cabin is getting cold. When you flip on the heater, you notice a burning smell.

Often drivers will panic and instantly turn off the heater. This then causes the burning smell to disappear. If you turn on the heater, you again notice the burning smell. What could be the cause of the heater smelling like burning?

Here are a few causes.

1. Dirty Air Vents

Whenever you take a look at the car owner’s manual and you go to the maintenance section you will notice that the manufacturer will recommend that you do a regular service of the air conditioning system.

The car vent could get dirty in much the same way that the vents in your house get dirty. This dirt could cause a burning smell as the dirt and the debris burn away. Furthermore, keep in mind that there are things that could get inside the vents and get stuck such as leaves, small sticks, branches, and pine needles.

Whenever the heater starts to blow the hot air these will start and burn.

2. Debris In The Engine

When something is stuck inside the engine, it could result in a burning smell. The leaves, as well as pine needles, for instance, could be stuck in the engine, which could be a result of them getting pulled through the car’s front grille.

People and drivers have reported strange things getting stuck in the engine such as plastics and even dead animals. If you notice that there is a burning smell that is coming from the engine, the best thing is to pull over and turn on the hazard lights, pop the hood and do a trough check.

3. The Heater Core

Another cause of the burning smell is a heater core that runs out of steam. You may also notice that the heater is failing if you start to see the fog in the windows or you notice that the car is starting to overheat.

One of the checks that are done on the climate control system during the service includes checking the heater core. If the heater is damaged the cost of replacing it with a new one could be anywhere from $600 to $900.

It is best to have the climate control system serviced before the onset of the cold season so that you are always ready to deal with driving in the cold.

Burning Oil Smell Car

A major component of your car and one which can often be leaking is oil. The oil can leak and reach other engine components and then result in a burning smell.

Oil leaking should always be approached with seriousness as it could result in other potentially hazardous situations. Fixing the problem will also help avoid future repairs and help your car last longer.

Also, consider the seals of the spark plug tube. You will find these at the center of the valve cover in certain vehicle models. These will help prevent the oil from leaking from the valve cover and causing the contamination of the spark plug.

If the oil managed to leak into the tube seals, this could result in damage to the spark plugs. As well as the coil boots, you could be looking to deal with more costly repair if it was to happen.

Remember that any oil leaking from the engine as well round the engine is a potentially dangerous situation. A lack of oil could also result in significant damage to the car.

Exhaust Smell In Car

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating

Many people often do not think about the car’s exhaust system. However, once it starts to produce an odd smell or if you notice an exhaust smell in areas that it shouldn’t be coming from such as the car’s cabin, then you should be concerned.

It is important to exercise caution when you are trying to decipher where that smell may be coming from. One thing to also note is that if you notice an exhaust smell in the car then you should take your car to a mechanic.

There are four different types of smell that can come out of the exhaust. Let’s find out.

1. Normal Exhaust Smell

Often the exhaust will smell kind of smokey or musty. While it is difficult to decipher, you can very easily tell that the smell is normal. During this time, you shouldn’t be concerned or worked as long as it is coming from the end of the car that it should be coming from.

However, if the smell of exhaust is reaching into the car’s cabin, then this is a sign of an exhaust leak. As the exhaust will contain carbon monoxide, it could result in a potentially dangerous situation and you must address the problem immediately.

In this case, simply pull over and pop the hood then call in a tow truck.

2. Gasoline Smell

If you notice that the exhaust has a gasoline smell then this could be due to a high fuel ratio in the exhaust system. This could mean that there is too little air or too much fuel that is reaching the combustion chamber of the vehicle.

This could be a result of issues such as leaking fuel injectors or even a clogged air filter. Another cause could be a mass airflow sensor that is faulty. Other than having a gasoline smell, there could also be black smoke from the exhaust.

3. Rotten Egg Smell

If you notice a rotten egg smell that comes from the exhaust system then this is an indication that something isn’t going quite right. It is caused by sulfur and often is a result of a faulty catalytic converter.

Whenever there is combustion inside the car engine, harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide are formed. These are then taken by the catalytic converter and are then converted into less harmful gases. If the catalytic converter is faulty, then this could cause a rotten egg smell.

But a bad sulfur smell is only one part of the problem. You will begin to notice that the car’s performance drastically drops. There will also be more pollution and the car may easily fail emission tests.

4. Sweet Smell From Exhaust

If there is a pleasant and sweet smell that is coming from the exhaust, this isn’t to say that things are going extremely well with your vehicle. It is also a sign that things could be going wrong.

One of the causes of the sweet smell is a head gasket that is blown. As a result, the coolant is burnt inside the car’s combustion chamber which causes the sweet smell of the antifreeze. If there is a leaking or blown gasket, there will also be billowing white smoke clouds that come from the exhaust.

Clutch Burning Smell

Engine high temperature

The unfortunate part is that you will eventually experience clutch problems with your manual vehicle at some point.

The clutch is one of the most important components of your car as it allows for the smooth functioning of the vehicle. It is crucial therefore to check the signs of wear and tear.

The process of replacement or repair however isn’t the most simple to perform and is not like changing the car’s tire.

You will not get manual instructions that inform you of the best time to replace the clutch. This will depend on how much your drive as well as the environment in which you drive. Think of off-road driving.

You could experience a need to replace the clutch after 25,000 miles while other times you would need to replicate the clutch after 100,000 miles.

So where does the burning smell in the clutch come from?

First off the burning smell from the clutch is a sign that there is a lot of friction and thus the overheating. You make even notice smoke that is coming from the clutch and often comes from under the car.

Riding the clutch could also cause a burning smell from car but not overheating. It often happens when slow driving in traffic.

The other signs that you have a faulty clutch include:

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating #1 – The Gears Slipping

If you notice that the clutch often slips out of gear whenever you are driving the car whether regularly or otherwise then you must have the clutch replaced. This is an indication that the clutch has experienced wear and tear.

This could also show that there is a potential leaking that is coming from the crankshaft and is lubricating the clutch plate.

Burning Smell From Car But Not Overheating #2 – A Soft Or Spongy Clutch

When you notice that the clutch feels soft when you press the pedal, this is a sign that wear and tear are taking place in the clutch. One way you can be sure is by driving the car for a short while and then focusing on how the clutch feels.

Try and notice how long and how far you will require to release the clutch before you feel the gear engage.

Burning Smell From Brakes

Engine high temperature

It’s no secret that it’s fun to drive fast. But this can accelerate the wear on your brakes. If you notice that there is a burning smell that comes from the brakes, it is not always a sign that something is wrong. That said often it is a sure sign that there is something that is not quite right.

Some of the reasons why the brakes can be causing a burning smell include:

1. Brake Pads That Are New

If you have changed your brake pads recently, then this could be causing the smell. New pads come coated with resin. When exposed to the friction of the brakes would cause a burning rubber smell.

This is not a bad sign since the burning rubber smell tells you that the resin is curing and the pads are getting tougher.  The only time that the brake pads should be a cause for concern is if they are not performing as they should.

You should also be concerned if the smell lasts for several days.

2. Engaged Emergency Brake

One of the more common reasons behind a burning smell coming from the brakes, especially the rear brakes is if you have engaged the emergency brakes.

This smell will come from the rear brakes since the emergency brake often engages at the rear. If you leave your emergency brake on, you may notice that the car is a bit slow and sluggish when driving and this could cause overheating. You may also notice squealing or grinding when driving.

To avoid such a situation always ensure that you release the hand brake after you engage a gear. Look at the dashboard as this will tell you if you have an emergency brake before you can begin pressing on the accelerator. If you do this a few times then you will be able to turn it into a habit.

3. Overworking The Brakes

When the brakes are overworked or when you are driving fast and aggressively, this could cause the brakes to overheat.

Let’s say that you live in a mountainous region. You may need to engage the brakes for a long while when driving downhill. This could result in friction and a burning smell from car but not overheating.

If you leave the brakes engaged for a while, there will be continuous friction which will result in a burning rubber smell. This could also cause the brakes to begin to feel soft. This is due to the heat causing the brake fluid to boil and could also result in smoke.

At this point, you may also experience brake fade. This is where there is soaking of the brakes which causes reduced braking performance.

4. Worn Brake Parts

Both the brake pads as well as the brake rotors will dissipate the heat through the materials used to build them.

When the brake pads wear out this means that they are unable to dissipate heat. This could then result in a burning smell. This is because the pads will be heating up much quicker even under normal driving.

The heat will then go to the brake fluid which will then cause the boiling point to drop over time. This then makes the brake fluid less able to resist the heat. Under excessively hot conditions the brake fluid could start turning into gas.

The result is that the hydraulic pressure from the brake fluid will drop. To get the brakes to work, you will find that you need to step on the brake pedal a lot more which then results in wearing out of the brake parts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Car Smell Like Gas

The vehicle burning too much gas causes this. As more fumes are released from the exhaust. These will then find their way into the car AC and the cabin

Why Does My Car Smell Like Rotten Eggs

The rotten eggs smell is a result of the sulfur gas from the combustion chamber. When the vehicle is running, the burning of the fuel releases gases that are broken down by the catalytic converter. If the catalytic converter is damaged, then it will not break down these gases. This means that hydrogen sulfide will not be broken down resulting in a rotten egg smell coming from the exhaust.

How To Get Gas Smell Out Of Car

If you spilled gasoline inside the car, the smell can be hard to remove. This is why you need to act quickly and soak up the gasoline with towels. Next, take equal parts white vinegar, hot water, and baking soda and clean up the area. This will help remove the gasoline smell leaving your vehicle smelling clean and fresh.

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