Some of us take our own health for granted; therefore, we tend to treat our cars the same way. If you have a headache – you can take two aspirin. Well, you can’t do that with your car – but, your car might be trying to tell you something depending on the way it smells.
While any number of things can go wrong mechanically with your vehicle, knowing to recognize a particular odor at the first sign of trouble can save you some money or prevent a crash, if you catch it early.
The best prevention is routine auto upkeep, according to the Car Care Council (CCC), but keep your nose at the ready if you smell one of the following:
1. Rotten eggs
If your engine is running poorly and you smell rotten eggs, your vehicle’s catalytic converter could be the reason. It may not be converting the hydrogen sulfide in the exhaust to sulfur dioxide properly – in which case you want to have it checked right away before it has a “meltdown” and so does your wallet.
2. Burning carpet
The burning carpet smell could mean brake trouble. Because your brakes are a vital safety issue, you want to address the odor as soon as possible. It could be something minor or something that can put you at risk of an accident.
3. Sweet syrup
One of the most neglected items under the hood is the coolant level. Should this smell become noticeable, you may have a cooling system leak involving the water pump, a radiator hose or the radiator itself. If left unattended, it could result in the engine overheating and a catastrophic breakdown that will make you wish you had checked it sooner. Note: Never remove the radiator cap unless necessary and only when the car has cooled down, advises the CCC.
4. Burning rubber
This could be several things. From slipping drive belts, to loose hoses rubbing against rotating accessory drive pulleys, to leaving the parking brake on. If you smell burning rubber, pull over where it is safe, turn off the engine, and check when the engine has cooled. Note: Do not open the hood if what appears to be steam is visible.
5. Hot oil
If you notice a hot oil smell, it could indicate that oil is dripping or leaking onto the exhaust system. When you stop, check for oil drops on the pavement or small amounts of smoke from the engine compartment. If you just had the oil changed, the odor can occur if the mechanic was messy and spilled oil on the engine while removing the oil filter.
A common smell while filling up at the gas station or if there is spillage on the ground and you drive or walk through it. However, should you smell it frequently when not pumping gas, it may be indicative of a gas leak, possibly the fuel injector line or gas tank. You shouldn’t ignore the smell of fuel as it can result in a fire.
7. Musty gym locker
While some describe it as a gym locker smell, it is far from hazardous. It’s usually associated with turning on the air conditioner or the heater, and is often the probable result of mildew growing inside the a/c evaporator from moisture condensation. Simply shut off your a/c a short distance from home, and then run the fan on high for a couple of minutes. This will dry the system out and lead to a more favorable smell.
Many of these smells are related to parts of your car that are often covered by your vehicle’s extended warranty. If your car or truck is still under warranty, stop by your dealer and have him check the problem before it gets worse.