5 Car Smells You Can’t Ignore

5 Car Smells You Can’t Ignore

We’ve all been there – you’ve started your day, driving along in your car and you notice something smells off. You’re able to decipher it isn’t a smell from inside the car from forgotten garbage, it’s more concerning than that. Although you are unaware where it’s coming from, you know this smell means that something is wrong with your car’s engine.

Drivers can tell a lot about the source of the issue by walking around it. Because our vehicles require a range of fluids, electrical system, and a motor, the likelihood that you discover a scent you can’t discern is high. So, what are the most common engine-related car odors, and what do they mean?

If you’re looking to diagnose your ride and get rid of that scent, here is our list of the most common car odors and what they mean in order to get your ride back in tip-top shape.

car smells like burning oil

Car smells to not ignore

Rotten eggs.

One of the strongest scents you can’t ignore is when it’s a bad catalytic converter smell. Commonly associated with rotten eggs or having a sulfur tinge to it, this odor is the result of damage to your catalytic converter. The catalytic converter houses your vehicle’s fuel system. Thus, if it’s been worn out or damaged, a sulfur gas leak isn’t far behind it. If this scent has matriculated into your car’s cabin, it’s crucial to get your ride checked out by a mechanic. Not only is this an unpleasant smell, but it can also be very dangerous if it’s left unaddressed.

Sour or musty.

If you’ve turned your car on and are greeted with a sour or musty smell throughout the car, you can bet these are car air conditioner smells. This type of scent means that excess moisture has accumulated in your car’s air filter or drain lines. To ensure that you don’t breathe in moldy air, it’s imperative you bring your car in to get this fixed.

Hot oil.

If your car smells like burning oil, this unpleasant aroma may indicate that your car is leaking oil. This could mean that your engine is overheating or that you’re running out of oil. If you believe this may be the issue, you’d be able to see it on the pavement beneath your car. The scent is not one to wait around on. To ensure your engine doesn’t take further damage, it’s necessary to get this looked at by a mechanic.


This sweetish aroma is the coolant leak smell. Although its aroma isn’t as bothersome as the others, it is signaling that you have a leaky radiator or that you have a leak in the car’s overall heating system. Either way, this scent is not one to be ignored. It’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible before the heating system fully breaks down, leading only to a costly repair to replace it.


If you’ve noticed that your engine oil smells like gas, it can mean a few different things. If it’s just a light scent and you’ve recently gotten gas, it can simply be distinguished as sloppy refueling and will disintegrate in a day or less. However, if that isn’t the case, then it could mean you have a leak in your fuel injection line. If you haven’t been to the pump recently, your best bet is to get this checked out as soon as possible.

The bottom line.

When it comes to these five aromas, the nose knows something is amiss in your ride. If you are experiencing any of these worrisome smells, it’s best to take your car to a mechanic to get it examined. Not only are these scents signs that your car needs assistance to run smoother, but they are also odors that could impact the health of the driver as well.

Understanding how to discern foul odors from your car and what they mean is crucial to keep you and your car safe while on the road. It’s no secret that wintry conditions can wreak havoc on your engine, and with spring just around the corner, it’s a great time to check and see if your car’s engine requires a tune-up.  During these trying months on the road, please drive safe and stay warm!