Diagnosing whether a bad odor is due to mechanical or environmental issues, however, takes some practice. Just as some experienced mechanics have an “ear” for knowing where a car squeak is coming from, there are also those who have a “nose” for diagnosing what problem it is. We can’t promise you’ll become an overnight expert here, but we’ve taken a page from the experts’ guidebook by spilling out some of their secrets.

What it smells like: Sweet

A car that smells eeringly sweet might mean that your coolant is leaking somewhere. Coolants are made from toxic ethylene glycol, and they smell really sweet like maple syrup. When you vaguely smell it somewhere, then chances are your coolant is leaking from a radiator cap, a heater hose, a malfunctioning cylinder head or an intake manifold gasket.

What it smells like: Pungent, Sharp, Acidic

If you smell something like burnt paper, then you’ve probably burned your brake or clutch. Or another reason might be that your clutch is slipping or in need of adjustment. The simple solution is to stop riding the clutch pedal too hard, or have your clutch replaced.

What it smells like: Burnt Oil

This indicates that oil is leaking on your car’s exhaust system. When oil drips on any of its parts, it burns. You’ll easily know it because the smell is really bad. Another indicator: you’ll notice a lot of thick blue smoke. The solution here is simple: plug that leak.

What it smells like: Sulfur Smell

If it smells like rotten eggs, then it’s probably a bad catalytic converter.

What if it smells like Raw Gas?

Some gas smell is normal, but if you have a strong gas odor , it indicates something really wrong with your car. Many different reasons: It could be a damaged fuel pressure regulator, stuck injectors, or a leaking fuel-tank. We highly recommend getting the car to a good mechanic.

What it smells like: Musty or Moldy Smell

This smell usually means that water is probably getting inside your car(been there for sometime). Check window seals, or look for leaky doors.  Or it could be moisture that condensing inside your air con evaporator—almost like gym socks that haven’t been washed in a very long time.

After getting the problem fixed in the next blog I will talk about ways to get rid of the smell.

Ricks Auto Service Front


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