Follow Your Nose! 6 Car Smells You Should Sniff Out

Woman holding her nose while driving Wake up and smell…your car? Whether it’s musty air coming from your A/C vents or a rotten egg smell in your car’s interior, some car smells are definitely worth sniffing out. Learn how to identify and troubleshoot your car’s smelly hints that something’s wrong.

1. The Car Smells Like Gas

If you smell gas in your car long after you fill up your tank, pay attention! Maybe you accidentally got some gasoline on your shoes or clothing the last time you stopped by the gas station, and the fumes stayed inside your car. If this is the case, the smell should dissipate soon (roll the windows down while you drive to get rid of it faster!).

If the gas smell in your car lasts longer than a few hours, it may not be such an easy fix. Prolonged gasoline smell in a vehicle could indicate issues with your gas cap or a leaky fuel tank or injector. Any of these issues could hurt your car’s fuel efficiency—and your health—so it’s best to head to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care ASAP and let our trusted technicians find the root of the smell.

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2. Exhaust Smell in Car Interior

If there’s one car odor you should never ignore, it’s exhaust fumes inside the cabin. Exhaust fumes in the interior of your car most often indicate a leak in your car’s exhaust system or poor seals on your windows or doors.

This car smell is dangerous, as exposure to exhaust fumes inside a confined space (i.e., the inside of your car) can be deadly to both people and animals. If you smell an exhaust odor in your car while driving, take it to a technician immediately to diagnose and repair the underlying issue.

3. Rotten Egg Smell Coming from Car Vents

Is that last week’s forgotten lunch, or is something wrong under the hood? A rotten egg smell in your car often indicates a malfunctioning part in the fuel system. If the catalytic converter, fuel filters, or fuel pressure sensors are worn out or damaged, a sulfur gas can leak out and make its way into your car’s cabin.

This smell isn’t just unpleasant—like the other ones we’ve highlighted, it can be dangerous if left unaddressed. But sometimes, the issue is as simple as replacing transmission fluid (old fluid can produce that same rotten egg smell in cars).

4. Burning Rubber Smell in Car

Unless you’re a racecar driver out for a spin on the track, the smell of burning rubber in your car could spell trouble. The smell of burning rubber in your car can indicate that a rubber hose or belt under the hood has loosened. When this happens, these parts can move around and come into contact with hot engine parts—hence the burning rubber smell.

Sometimes, a burning rubber smell could be coming from an oil or fluid leak, or even a damaged or worn out drive belt. If you smell burning rubber, head to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care for diagnosis and expert engine repair. Loose belts and hoses don’t get better with time.

5. Other Burning Smells From Your Car

Maybe it doesn’t smell like rubber, but you’re almost sure something is burning under the hood. A burning smell in your car could be caused by several things, including a burned-out electrical fuse, an overheating A/C compressor, or worn out brake pads that need to be replaced.

If your car smells like burning plastic, or you can’t quite put your finger on the scent, it’s best to let a trained technician take a look under the hood to determine if you just need a simple wiring fix or if you might need a brake check and repair to keep you safe on the road.

6. Sour or Musty-Smelling Car A/C

A musty smell from the A/C vents could mean that excess moisture has accumulated in your car’s air filter or drain lines. Your health could suffer if you breathe moldy air for long periods, so don’t let this issue linger.

If your car A/C smells like vinegar or dirty socks, bring your vehicle in for top-notch A/C service that’ll help keep allergies and offensive odors at bay while also preventing further damage to your car’s components.

Car Smells and Their Likely Causes
Car SmellPossible Causes
Car smells like gas– Leaks in fuel tank or fuel injector
Exhaust smell in car– Poor door and window seals in car
– Leak in car exhaust system
Rotten egg smell from car– Malfunctioning fuel system
Burning smell from car– Burning rubber smells: loose, damaged,
or worn out belts or hoses
– Plastic or other burning smell: worn out brake pads,
burned out electrical fuse, overheating A/C compressor
Sour or musty smell from car A/C– Mold or mildew in the A/C system caused
by excess moisture buildup

Whether it’s a strange smell or offbeat noise, signs of trouble shouldn’t be ignored. Let the friendly technicians at Firestone Complete Auto Care sniff out your car problems. We might not be able to revive that new car scent, but we can give you a free inspection and repair quote—now that smells like victory!

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