How to Diagnose Common Car Problems by Smell


We all agree that driving can be quite an adventurous affair. You’re never sure what will happen next. Sometimes it’s a fun adventure, and sometimes it’s not so fun. One thing that can be harmful to your car is having a bad smell coming from inside it. This article will explain how to diagnose some common problems with cars so that you can avoid costly repairs and save money in the long run.

Battery Leak

A battery leak can be detected by the distinct smell of rotten eggs. The odor is a result of sulfuric acid, which has a strong pungent scent. In addition to being unpleasant to breathe in, this chemical also damages your car’s paint job and interior materials over time.

If you notice an unusual odor coming from under your hood or undercarriage after driving for a while, it may be time for a professional inspection by a mechanic or auto parts store owner who specializes in diagnosing automotive problems like this one.

Bad Brakes

It is a distinct smell of burning rubber or hot metal. If you notice a burning metal odor after driving your vehicle, it could mean that there is fluid leaking from the brakes or that you have some kind of brake pad material stuck in between the rotors and pads.

A strong smell of hot brake fluid coming from under your hood will indicate a leak at either an attachment point or on top of the caliper itself if it’s mounted upside down.

Burning Oil

If you smell burning oil, it could be a number of things. The most common cause is a leak from your engine’s valve cover or oil pan. This can also happen if there are loose or damaged valve stem seals, as well as worn camshaft bearings and crankshaft bearings.

If you have an older car without computerized diagnostics, this could mean that your car has multiple leaks—meaning that there are several places where oil is leaking out and causing problems with performance and drivability.

Burning Fabric or Plastic

Burning fabric or plastic is a sign of a wiring problem. If you smell burning plastic wires, it can mean that your car’s wiring has been fried by moisture or other factors. This can happen when the battery is too low for the alternator to provide enough juice for charging up everything in the system. It could also be caused by damage from overheating components due to bad connections or wear and tear on your vehicle’s electrical system over time.

Coolant Leak

If you notice the smell of coolant in your car, it could be a sign that there’s a leak somewhere. The sweet odor is usually strong and overpowering—but not always. Sometimes, when you open up the hood to check for leaks, it won’t be as strong as you’d expect; this is because the source of the smell may be coming from under your hood instead of around it.

Exhaust Leak

Exhaust leaks are one of the most common causes of a stinky car. If you’re driving around with a bad exhaust leak, it’ll be obvious by the smell.

First, check your engine compartment for any signs of leaking exhaust gas. Check underneath your car as well if you notice that there is something beneath it that looks odd or like it could be leaking hot air into your cab (like an AC duct).

Fuel Leak

It’s easy to overlook the smell of fuel in your car, but it’s actually a common problem that can cause delays and problems for drivers. Fuel leaks are often caused by cracks in the hose or line, but they could also be due to faulty wiring or even a broken pump. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your mechanic immediately so he can inspect your vehicle’s system and repair any issues before they get worse!


If you’ve got a car problem and your first instinct is to call the mechanic, don’t. It might be more affordable for you in the long run to do some research about how to diagnose car problems by smell instead of spending money on repairs that aren’t necessary.

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