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

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Car Stuck in the Snow? Tips on Getting Unstuck

Getting Stuck in the Snow

Winter brings with it all sorts of fun and headaches. Driving on slick, snowy roads is not fun. Getting stuck in the snow is even worse – whether you skidded off the road into a snowbank or ditch, or if your car got snowed in while parked. It’s frustrating and it can be difficult to figure out the best way get unstuck, especially without causing any damage to your car.

Some Easy Tips for Getting Your Car Unstuck

Clear the Tailpipe

First, make sure the tailpipe is not covered by snow. Clear any snow away that might interfere with the exhaust from getting out. You don’t want exhaust building up inside the car, plus it could cause the engine to stall if the fumes can’t escape.

Clear Away Snowimage - car buried in snow

If you keep that shovel in your trunk like we’ve advised you to in other articles about preparing your car for winter, you’ll be able to easily dig away all the snow and ice buildup from in front of and behind all four tires. Also be sure to clear snow out from under the car as much as possible. If you can, clear some extra space in front of the car to make a path to drive into. Once your car becomes unstuck and starts moving forward, having a good clearing for your car to move into will help you keep forward momentum and avoid getting stuck again.

Create Traction With Sand, Kitty Litter, or Car Mats

Again, if you’re really prepared you probably have some sand or kitty litter in the trunk for just such a situation as being stuck. Put some under the drive wheels first. If you don’t have sand or kitty litter, you can use car mats – anything rough (or just not as slick as snow and ice) will help the tires get some traction and start moving your car. Car mats also serve to flatten out the snow more evenly, and prevent it from hugging directly around the tires, as the car slowly moves over them. This helps the tires to not sink so easily into the snow. Make sure that the drive wheels are getting as much equal traction as possible. Be careful to apply the gas slowly, gently. Otherwise whatever you put under the drive wheels – sand, gravel, car mats, tree branches – will just shoot out from under them.

Braking and Rocking

If one wheel is spinning more than the other because it has less to traction, try pushing the brakes lightly. This increases the minimum torque that is needed to turn each wheel and transfers some of the power to the other non-spinning wheel so that both are working to pull (or push) the car out of the snow. Be careful not to do this for too long, as the brakes can overheat and end up damaged.

You can also try rocking your car. This method is up for debate, because it can damage your transmission if done improperly or too much. Shifting momentum so quickly is just not good for the transmission and all of its intricate parts and subsystems. Rocking the car should only be done in the most desperate situations. Steadily alternate between first gear, or drive, and reverse as you gently apply gas in each direction. Don’t spin the wheels and make sure you only apply the gas once you are in gear. To help stop from rolling back into the holes your tires dug, apply the brakes between first and reverse as you shift. Ideally, you will build up enough momentum to power out of the ruts and move forward onto better ground where you can get traction again and keep moving. Again, use the rocking method only as a last resort.

Let Some Air Out of the Tiresimage - frozen car stuck in snow.

This should be done with extreme care. By letting some air out of the drive tires, they gain a little more surface area, and are a little softer and more sticky than a hard, inflated tire, which means they have a better chance of gaining traction. But do not let out so much air that they look flat, because that means they probably are, and then you’ve got another problem to deal with. Air shrinks when it’s cold, so be careful with this tactic. The rule is that your tires should already be inflated per manufacturer’s recommendations for the operating conditions.

Turn the Wheels

If you have a front-wheel drive car, turn the wheels in either direction as you gently push the gas. This might expose the tires to that much needed unseen patch of pavement or dirt, or provide just the right angle to gain that little bit of traction needed to get out. Remember that key to all of these methods is to accelerate slowly. Do not spin the wheels, or you’ll just dig yourself deeper.

A Good Old Fashioned Push

If you are not alone, or if you can get someone nearby to help, have them give your car a push as you gently apply the gas. Pushing the car forward with each shift into first as you are rocking the car can also help a lot. It provides an extra surge of momentum forward, if you do have to use the rocking method to get unstuck. Always make sure the person pushing is on stable footing and clear of the drive tires. Debris and ice might fly out from under the tires, which can be dangerous to anyone standing behind the tires or in the path of anything shooting out from under them.

AAMCO Minnesota for a Quick Car Checkup

Now that you’ve gotten unstuck, it’s probably a good idea to come by your locally owned and operated AAMCO Minnesota Transmission and Car Repair Center for a transmission check or multi-point inspection. Whatever you drive, and however you get unstuck, you can count on AAMCO to service and repair your car.

If you have questions about your car’s condition after being stuck or about car repair and maintenance, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Stop by or call a local AAMCO Minnesota repair shop for a Multi Point Vehicle Courtesy Check for your transmission and related systems. We’ll winterize your car and get you ready for the cold, snowy winter driving months ahead. We can handle all your scheduled car maintenance and repairs, from brakes to factory recommended maintenance.

Other Articles About Car Maintenance & Repair

Checklist for Preparing Your Car for Winter

Take the Fear Out of Transmission Repair

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