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.
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.
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.
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.