Some Causes of Smells Coming From Your Car

5 Things Your Nose Can Tell You About Your Car

Besides that new car smell, there are fairly few odors you experience in or around your car that are pleasant. Your nose knows when something is foul or amiss. Some smells are pretty telltale of a certain condition, while others might present a little more mystery in need of investigation. Here are five odors that are indicators of potential problems with your car.

Hot or Burned Oil

The smell of hot or burned motor oil could mean that a gasket or seal is failing. This lets engine oil leak onto hot engine parts. Additionally, a leaky transmission seal can cause oil to spray all over the engine, including the manifold. These hot engine parts burn off the oil, creating bluish white smoke that wafts from under the hood.

The first thing you should do is check the oil to make sure it is at the correct level and that it’s clean. Small leaks often become bigger leaks, so check under the car, on the pavement where you park, and around the engine for signs of leaks. If your car is running low on oil, the engine can overheat and burn whatever oil is remaining.

If the burned oil smell is coming from the tailpipe (bluish white smoke), it is a symptom of oil leaking into the combustion chamber, which means it is getting into your exhaust system. The oil is burned in the combustion process with the air and fuel mixture, and pushed out through the exhaust system. The exhaust system is one of the hottest systems in your car, dealing with the noxious byproducts and fumes of the internal combustion engine banging away under the hood. If oil leaks into the either the combustion or exhaust system, it is going to be burned. This is usually a sign of an old, worn out engine in need of some serious repair and regular maintenance.

GasolineAAMCO Minnesota Vehicle Bad Smells

If you smell gasoline, like when it’s pumped at the gas station, inside or outside the car, you should take special care to identify the source. It is likely a sign of a gas leak in the fuel line or fuel injection system (if your car has one). A leak in the fuel tank vent hose oftentimes is the culprit behind gasoline odors inside the car, especially after filling the gas tank. At worst, there could be a leak in the gas tank itself.

In older pre-1980’s cars, the smell of gasoline can occur after the car has been turned off due to fuel afterboil. This is often normal and results when a small amount of gasoline continues to burn in the carburetor after the engine is shut down.

Any persistent smell of gasoline, either in the car or outside of the car such as in the garage, should be taken seriously. Any smell of gas fumes can indicate a fire hazard, so it should be checked immediately.

SyrupAAMCO Minnesota Bad Smelling Car

If you detect the scent of maple syrup, it probably means there is a leak in the cooling system. Cooling fluid is leaking onto hot engine parts and being burned away. If there is a leak in the cooling system, you need to check the coolant fluid level, check for leaks in the engine compartment and on the pavement in the areas you park (such as driveway or garage). Left unchecked and repaired, you will risk overheating the engine and causing major damage.

A syrup smell could also mean the engine coolant is boiling after you have turned off the engine. This is due to the inability of the cooling system to dissipate engine heat, so the engine remains extremely hot for an extended time even after it has stopped. If you decide to investigate, wait until the engine has cooled off! Never remove the radiator cap while the engine is running or is still hot. It will cause a massive blow off of superheated fluid that could cause serious injury.

Rotten Eggs or Sulfur

This wonderful stench means your car is in need of a checkup and that the catalytic converter is having some serious issues. The catalytic converter is in the car’s exhaust system and is supposed to convert noxious hydrogen sulfide to sulfur dioxide in the exhaust fumes before they exit the tailpipe. If this is not happening, it means that your engine needs more than just a tune-up, and the catalytic converter could completely overheat and fail, leading to costly repairs.

Burned PaperBad Smelling Exhaust Fumes

If you smell something like burned paper, it could meant that your clutch is overheating. If you’re riding the clutch pedal, it creates excess friction between the clutch facing and slips. The material between these surfaces is made of a paper compound, which gives it its familiar smell.

The smell of burning paper could also mean your brakes are overheating. Riding your brakes, such as when coming down a hill or mountain, creates unnecessary friction and excess heat on your brake pads. You might also have a seized up brake piston, resulting in a “dragging brake.” Or it could be that you just left your parking brake on. In some cars it is easy to forget and actually drive with the handbrake still engaged.


AAMCO Minnesota Can Help Sniff Out and Fix Problems With Your Car

We realize that in order for one to understand some of this, you must know what the “smells like” really smells like. If you’ve never had maple syrup – get thee to a pancake house now – you’ll likely not know what to sniff for. Whatever the smell, if it’s not new car or the scent of that air freshener you just bought to battle the gym socks and mildew in your car’s air filtration and circulation system, then you should come to AAMCO Minnesota for a multi-point diagnostic inspection.

Visit an AAMCO Minnesota transmission repair and total car care center near you. When issues arise and you need affordable, honest auto repair, schedule an appointment with your locally owned and operated AAMCO Minnesota transmission and auto repair center.

If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Minnesota is a great resource for expert automotive repair and maintenance information. Feel free to call or visit your local AAMCO Minnesota transmission and total car care center.

Other Articles About Car Maintenance & Repair

Sounds Your Car Makes When It Needs Repairs

My Car Rolls When I Put it in Park

Reasons Your Ride is Bumpy and Rough

Signs Your Battery Needs to Be Replaced

Slow Engine Crank

It takes a lot of power to get your car started, and all that power is produced by the battery. Once the car is started, the alternator keeps the car battery going by replacing the power used to start the engine and run your vehicle’s electronic accessories. When you put the key in your car’s ignition and turn it, the battery alone starts the engine. If the battery is weakening, you may notice that the engine turns over slower than usual. It’s important that you pick up on that warning sign, you may be stranded if it takes more than one crank to get the engine to fire. If the engine does not crank at all, the vehicle will often just make a rapid clicking sound, this indicates that the available power is too low to crank the engine. Bring the battery in and have it check at your Local AAMCO.

Issues with electrical components

In addition to powering the engine, the car battery also needs to produce enough power to operate the other electrical components in your vehicle. Modern cars have many electronic accessories including power windows, power seats, radio, windshield wipers, dashboard lights, headlights and more. All of which require electricity supplied from your vehicle’s battery.

If you start to notice that your electronic components are not operating like they used to, this may be a sign that the battery is wearing out. You may want to check for power loss due to dirty battery terminals. If it appears clean, it might be time for a battery replacement. Pay special attention to when you use more than one component at a time. For example, if you switch on the radio while using the headlights and the headlights go dim, the battery might not be as young as it once was.

Dashboard Warning Light

Most cars have a dashboard warning light, usually in the shape of a battery. This will illuminate if the battery is not being replenished properly or if there is an internal problem with the battery. Like the Check Engine light, the battery warning light might also mean that something is wrong with the alternator or some other part of the electrical system. If the light comes on, the best course of action would be to have your vehicle’s electrical system inspected by your local AAMCO.

Swollen Battery Case

When a car battery is exposed to excessive amounts of heat or cold, the flat sides of the battery case may swell or bulge. If for example the battery sits in a vehicle that is not driven for some time in the winter, the battery may freeze. Freezing and swelling from excess heat often results in an electrically “dead” battery that cannot be recovered and will require replacement.

Old Age

On average, a car battery lasts about five years. This average lifespan will fluctuate depending on extreme temperature exposure, number of deep discharges and whether it goes through full charge cycles. That being said, five years is how much life most batteries have so once you hit the 4-year mark, it might not be a bad idea to get it tested by your local AAMCO to see how much life it has left. If you are not sure how old the battery is, you should be able to find the manufacture date on the battery case.Jumper cables and car battery.

Weird Smell

When a battery has been frozen, overcharged or is shorted internally its case may vent gas. If you happen to detect a rotten egg scent under the hood of your vehicle, have your battery inspected as soon as possible because in addition to possibly needing a replacement battery, the sulfuric acid can eat away at other engine parts, causing corrosion, which is something you want to avoid at all costs.


If you are experiencing any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your local AAMCO

CLICK HERE to read more about the battery services that AAMCO offers.

Come to AAMCO Minnesota for All Your Car Repairs & Maintenance

You need an experienced automotive technician who can diagnose the problem and honestly tell you what needs to be done when something is wrong with your car.

If you have questions about your car’s exhaust, engine, transmission, repair or maintenance needs, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Stop by or call a local AAMCO Minnesota repair shop for a Multi Point Vehicle Inspection of your transmission and related systems. We can handle all your scheduled car maintenance and repairs, from brakes and oil changes to factory recommended maintenance and full transmission replacements.


Other Articles About Car Maintenance & Repair

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Find a Location Near You

AAMCO Minnesota Transmission shops are locally owned and operated.

AAMCO Minneapolis

5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429

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Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty at AAMCO Minneapolis, MN. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO. Our expert technicians use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle. From automatic and manual transmission repairs, clutch service and replacement, and more, we know all vehicle makes and models. We back our work with the best nationwide warranty. AAMCO of Minneapolis, MN is your one-stop transmission rebuild and total car care center.

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AAMCO West St. Paul

1571 S Robert St | St Paul, MN, 55118

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AAMCO Transmissions West St. Paul is your Twin Cities one-stop shop for transmission repairs, rebuilds, and car maintenance. Our certified technicians can handle any transmission repair or rebuild, as well as auto repair and maintenance service for your vehicle. You can rely on our mechanics for automatic and manual transmission problems and rebuilds, clutch service and replacement, and more. We use modern computer diagnostics to identify transmission and engine issues so we can repair your car quickly and get you back on the road. We work on all makes and models, including 4x4s.

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AAMCO Fridley

940 Osborne Rd NE | Minneapolis, MN, 55432

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At AAMCO Fridley we believe in performing honest and affordable transmission and auto repair services. We do the job right and get you back on the road safely and reliably. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO Fridley, MN is your one-stop auto mechanic. Trust AAMCO’s expert auto technicians to use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle, and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO of Fridley, Minnesota we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care specialists.

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AAMCO Hopkins

10921 Excelsior Blvd #117 | 10921 Excelsior Blvd #117, MN, 55343

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At AAMCO Hopkins, MN we believe in the value of good, honest work and giving you and your family the peace of mind a safe, reliable car provides on a daily basis. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, auto tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO of Hopkins is your one-stop shop for car repairs and maintenance. Trust the transmission experts at AAMCO of Hopkins transmission repair to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO Hopkins transmission and car repair we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care and repair specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

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AAMCO Maplewood

1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109

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People come to AAMCO of Maplewood, MN because we care about making sure you car is running safely and reliably. You can count on us for all your automotive repairs and maintenance. From transmission repairs and rebuilds to brakes, radiators, air conditioning, check engine light and tune ups. AAMCO Maplewood transmission and auto repair technicians use the latest technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time - and we back it with the best nationwide warranty. At your local Minnesota AAMCO of Maplewood we know all vehicle makes and models - we're your one-stop total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

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Don’t Get Stranded by a Dead Battery

Car Won’t Start?
Battery, Alternator, or Starter – Which is the Problem?

If you have ever owned a car, there is a good chance that at some point you’ve experienced a dead battery. It almost always happens at an inconvenient time, with virtually no one you know anywhere nearby, during the week you cleaned out your trunk and removed the jumper cables… It is an awful feeling. But could it be your alternator, or starter, and not your battery?

Discovering Why Your Car Won’t Start

Check the Battery

When your car isn’t starting, it makes the most sense to start by checking your battery. An average car battery typically lasts 4-5 years, but may be shorter in warmer extreme climates. In cold weather, it is relatively common to find your battery has died, see our blog article about Winter Battery Tips.

You can check the battery gauge on the dashboard of your vehicle to determine if the battery is sending a charge, even if the car is turned off. If there is a dim, flickering light, it means something is drawing power. Check your commonly used connections to see if they’ve been accidentally left on, like the automatic window, wipers, or lights (dome and head lights should be checked).  Once these connections have been shut off, try the battery once again.image - applying jumper cables to battery

Sometimes, your vehicle may require a jump. If you can jump your car and get it running but then it dies again when you shut it off, this is a sign that your battery is the problem. When checking over the health of your battery, you should be sure to look at the battery cables. These can get worn and damaged over time and may be contributing to the battery problems you’ve been experiencing. Typically, a car battery will be located under the hood, toward the front of the car on either the driver or passenger side, though so vehicle models store the battery in the trunk of the vehicle. Consult your manual for the exact location.

If you have a voltmeter (a device used to measure electrical differences between two points in an electrical circuit) you can check the integrity of the battery. If it reads between 14-15 volts, then the battery is normal. If the voltmeter reads over 15 volts or less than 13 volts, then there may be a problem with the voltage regulator, the wiring, or the alternator.

Check the Alternator

A dead battery can be one of the first signs of something being wrong with the alternator. If the battery is working properly and has no damage, then the issue is more than likely with the alternator. There are a couple of simple tests you can perform to check the alternator.image - car alternator

Turn your car on and let it run, unplug the positive connection from the battery, if the car stops, then your alternator is not working properly. The positive connection from the battery is red, while the negative connection is black. (Note: DO NOT attempt to test the alternator by unplugging the negative battery cable while the car is running. This can cause damage to your vehicle’s electrical system.)

Another way to check is by monitoring the dashboard lights. If the lights come on, but then slowly start to fade, this also indicates an alternator issue. There are a few signs to be on the lookout for should you suspect that your alternator is failing:

  • You will hear a growling sound before it goes out.
  • You may smell burning rubber or hot wires coming from your alternator overheating.
  • Your headlights (dash lights, dome lights, etc.) flicker, get dimmer, or are especially bright.

Check the Starter

Your starter has arguably one of the most important jobs to do. The battery sends a burst of electricity which the starter uses to turn the engine over and start! If you turn the key, but you’re only hearing a click, there is a chance that your starter is not working properly. A starter that is failing may crank the engine slowly, or may not crank at all. This sound is very similar to the sound the car makes when the battery is dead, so make certain to confirm the battery health first.image - starter

If you have ever had a starter go out on you before, and you’re familiar with the old “hit it with a hammer” trick to loosen the solenoid to get the motor started, this may well work to get you on your way. We’d like to discourage you from opting for the hammer to the starter method, and encourage you to schedule an appointment at one of our AAMCO Minnesota locations for a FREE multi-point courtesy vehicle inspection.

Figuring out why your car is not working can be an extremely frustrating and isolating feeling. At AAMCO Minnesota, we want to help you diagnose and fix the issues you are concerned about to help get you and your vehicle safely back on the road.

Other Articles of Interest

Sounds Your Car Makes When It Needs Repairs

Car Maintenance on a Budget

Watch this video and see just how many parts are in a transmission.