Troubleshoot Smells Coming from Your Car’s Engine

How to Troubleshoot Smells Coming from Your Car’s Engine

Most of our cars are no stranger to odours, we might spill our coffee or add a new air freshener. Many of us will have a good idea of where the smell is coming from after a quick inspection of our cars but if it is not so clear it could be a smell coming from the car’s engine.

If that is the case, it is time we put our noses to work and put our troubleshooting caps on. I am going to give you a few tips that can help you diagnose what the issue might be with your car’s engine based on the smells you might be picking up on.

If Your Car Smells like Rotten Eggs

If your car smells like rotten eggs, then you should look at the catalytic converter. A sulfer smell usually indicates an imbalance in your engine’s air-to-fuel ratio. If you have a fuel-injection problem, the unburned fuel can plug up your catalytic convertor, and the exhaust will have no where to go. The result? Your car will not work.

If Your Car Smells Like Mould or Mildew

If your noise is putting on a mouldy or mildew kind of smell than the culprit could be your air-conditioning system. Your cars air-conditioning works by pulling moisture out of the air; the extracted water goes into a box behind the dashboard, which has a drain. Leaves or papers can work their way into that box and block the drain.

Because the water has no where to go it will turn mouldy, which is an expensive problem to fix. The water will often find another way out of the box as well, ending up on your carpets and floor mats. Mould-spawning moisture can also build up in your duct system unless you often use your air-conditioner.

If Your Car Smells Like Maple Syrup or Fruity Candy

This is probably one of the more pleasant smells to discover in your car so far but that does not mean you should leave it unchecked. It could be that your rotors or brake pads are overheating. If you are going down a steep hill and keep your foot on the brake, even just a little bit, this smell may indicate that the brake pads or rotors are overheating. This can cause excess brake wear or, in extreme causes, brake failure.

The smell could also be caused by dragging or sticking brake calipers, or brake pads that are too thin (in which case you may feel like the brakes are “spongy”). If you smell persists and you have not been driving in stop-and-go traffic or on long downgrades, have you breaks looked at as soon as possible. In addition, be aware that if you have just replaced your brake pads, it is normal for them to release a second for the first couple hundred miles.

If Your Car Smells like Burning Plastic

This can be one of the more alarming smells because people have assumed that something plastic in the car has melted. While that is not the case, the issue might be in a short circuit in the wiring. When the plastic insulation has worn down or chewed off by some animal going at the engine, the exposed wires will eventually rub together and produce a short, which can cause a fire. Other types of shorts can melt or burn the plastic away directly. However, it may be as basic as a plastic bag that has landed on the exhaust and melted from the heat.

Ultimately, If you find any unusually odour, you should report it to your local mechanic as soon as possible. But doing some quick troubleshooting yourself can make the mechanics job a lot easier and will probably save you so money if you are working with the right mechanic. Diagnosing these kinds of smells quickly can also reduce long term damage because you can prevent a lot of damage before it seriously affects your car.