Why Does My Car Smell Like Burnt Rubber?

Have you been anxiously worried about your car before because it smells like burnt rubber? How would you know if you’re safe to drive your car despite having burning smells? What does this burning smell in my car mean?

These are the few questions you need to ask yourself to ensure that your vehicle’s in good condition and is up and running. In this article, we’ll be tackling why your car smells like burnt rubber, what these burning odors mean, and what you can do to avoid them.

Burning Smell From Car and What It Means

Burning Smell From Car

Everybody who owns a car will know that the burning smell coming from their vehicles is not good. However, they may not know the exact location the odor is coming from.

Many drivers can catch a strong smell of something burning and immediately assume that it’s a problem with their oil storage, or they may even think that there’s a leak in the gas tank. Realistically speaking, there could be many reasons why there’s a burning smell in your car.

See YourMechanic’s video of How to Diagnose Smells in Your Car with Scotty Kilmer to understand better what these car smells can mean.

What part of the car is the smell strongly coming from? Is the smell from the outside? Or on the inside? Can you determine what it smells like? Is there any smoke visible? These are questions you need to ask yourself to know where the burning smell from your car is coming from.

Since different burning smells can come from your car, we’re here to help you break down the common odors you can smell that show a potential problem for your vehicle.

Burning Oil

Oil leaks are one of the major causes of unpleasant odors, and they can happen from a range of different scenarios and possibilities. It’s normal for the oil to cause a smell as it drips from your exhaust pipe.

However, if a high amount drips into your exhaust system due to leaks and cracks, then you’ve got yourself a huge problem. Relative to the situation, an oil leak occurring in your oil filter or oil pan can be caused by many events.

For example, oil leaks can occur due to improper installation, dirt and debris buildup, or standard wear can result in massive burning odors caused by simple oil leaks.

We can go on all day about why an oil leak is severe and dangerous and why they need immediate auto repair because, after time, your gaskets will begin failing as well. If the smell of burning oil continues for long periods, you should go to the car shop and have it checked soon.

Burning Rubber

Smelling burning rubber from any vehicle with tires is already a bad sign. The important thing is, you should know the source of that burning smell, so you know the root of the problems.

There can be few reasons as to why there’s a burning rubber smell in your car. For starters, due to excessive heat, the driving belt can be melted. That’s why it’s generating a burning rubber smell in your vehicle.

The excessive heat can usually cause the burning rubber smell to components such as the water pump, air pump, or AC compressors. To avoid abnormal belt wear, it’s important to do maintenance checkups from time to time from car shops near you.

Another source of a burning rubber smell can come from a worn-down clutch that is being mishandled. You may even smell burning rubber while switching from one gear to another. This is a sign that you should handle your clutch a bit differently to avoid further auto repairs.

Burning Plastic

If you smell a burning plastic smell, then there’s a high chance that it’s coming from the car’s fans and other electrical components. The heater can even cause this burning plastic smell if a large amount of dust accumulates in the vents over time.

Another issue that can arise with the heater is if it breaks, the antifreeze can infiltrate into the vents, increasing the unpleasant aroma of burning plastic.

If the smell persists, then the only solution is to go to your browser, search “car inspection near me” to look for the local car shops to make sure your car gets fixed in no time.

Does Car Maintenance Solve Burning Smell From Cars?

Does Car Maintenance Solve Burning Smell From Cars

Try asking car enthusiasts, ask them, “What’s the best way to keep your cars from having problems,” we guarantee you that they will say, “Car maintenance is the key to keeping the car in good shape or something like that.

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Poor car maintenance is one of the major causes of these burning smells found in cars. Not inspecting your vehicle from time to time may lead to a broken heater, failure to frequently changing the oil can cause burning oil smells, and many more.

We’re not going to dive deep into the rabbit hole of car maintenance, but it certainly helps reduce wear and tear of the engine and the components around it, reduce car problems, and make sure that your car can stay in top shape for long periods.

Overall, do your regular car inspections and maintenance routines. It can solve the burning smells from cars and vehicles because the goal of car maintenance is all about keeping the car in good shape.

You can try watching a video from the IrishMotorIndustry about The Importance of Car Maintenance on their YouTube channel.

Why Does My Car Smell Like Burnt Rubber?

Picture this, you spill food, drinks, and maybe perfume in your car. Give it two or three days then you’ll exactly know what you spilled and where the smell is coming from because it gives off a strong odor after it sticks to your car seats.

Before we go deeper into the more technical reasons why your car may smell like burnt rubber, keep in mind that it may come from the wheels of your tire whenever you suddenly step on the brakes, and the tire leaves a mark on the concrete is entirely normal.

However, we shouldn’t ignore that your car smelling like burnt rubber can also possibly mean that it needs immediate auto repairs and inspection.

If you’re sure that it’s not the smell of your tire that’s creating this obnoxious burnt rubber smell, then we advise you to pull over somewhere safe, inspect your tire and try to determine where the odor is coming from.

The First Thing to Do When you Smell Burnt Rubber

The best thing you can do in the meantime is to pull over somewhere safe, inspect. Check the exterior part of your car, and see if any visible damages around it are causing the strong scent of burnt rubber.

Check to see if there’s smoke coming out of the vehicle, check if your tire’s causing the smell, you can even turn off the engine and make a call to your local car shop so you can get help and get your car towed if it seems that you don’t know the reasons why it’s smelling that way.

Possible Reasons for the Burnt Rubber Smell

If you think there are other reasons other than you suddenly stepping on the brakes making the tires create the burnt rubber smell, then there could be other multiple reasons why your car creates this burnt rubber smell too.

Here’s a short video by A-Z Tech Automotive explaining the Burning Smell from Your Car: Common Causes and Solutions. Check it out if you have the time to see why your car smells like burnt rubber.

So, let’s see and discuss some of the reasons that cause a burnt rubber smell in your car. Who knows, the solution to your problem may be here. Here’s a detailed list of the possible reasons:

  • Loose Rubber Holes

A car has many rubber holes to ensure the engine is running on the optimum performance and standards it’s supposed to run. Having loose rubber holes will significantly degrade the performance and create a burnt rubber smell afterward.

If you want to inspect yourself, start inspecting under the hood for any loose rubber part that may have been in contact with the engine wall.

  • Radiator Coolant is Leaking

There could be many reasons and causes why the radiator coolant is leaking. However, this is incredibly dangerous because when the coolant leaks and lands on the engine walls, it creates this burnt rubber smell.

Regardless of whether you smell the burnt rubber, a leaking coolant can harm the engine because it manages the optimum temperature range. Without it, the engine can burn off motor oil, leading to even more significant problems.

  • Motor Oil’s Burning

When the motor oil is leaked onto the exhaust pipe, it can create a burnt rubber smell that can irritate the nose if you smell it for long periods. However, excessive leaks in the exhaust pipe can also be dangerous because that means there’s lesser oil in the oil pan.

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Lesser oil in the oil pan means not enough lubrication to circulate the engine and its components. It will lead to more significant problems such as excessive friction in the machine, increasing its wear and tear.

  • Heater Odor

If your heater’s giving off a burnt rubber smell after you turn off your vehicle for some time, there’s a possibility of dirt and debris build-up in the vents. Hence, giving off the burning smell.

  • Brakes are Burnt Out

If you’re the type of person that suddenly steps on the break, not giving any allowance of slowly stepping on it to make sure you slow down at a fair speed, then this may be one of the causes of the burning rubber smell in your car.

Your brakes might bind to the rotor because high temperatures cause the metal to expand, and when there’s not enough cooling time for the brakes, it produces smoke and a bad smell.

  • You’re Clutching too Hard

Clutching too hard while switching gears can also be one of the possibilities why your car smells like burnt rubber. The job of the clutch is to smoothen the transition between changing gears.

It helps the car to have a better transition between gears from a stationary position to a rolling motion by matching your car’s engine to that of the transition. If you miss the timing and don’t do a clutch well, it creates excessive friction, leading to the burnt smell.

  • Short Circuit in Electrical Components

The interior parts are mainly composed of plastic, metal, and rubber parts that keep everything sorted inside the vehicle, hidden from the view outside. Since these wires are covered with plastic and rubber, how is a short circuit possible?

The wires are specifically designed not to have them short circuit. However, short circuits in the vehicle happen because there’s too much load on the electrical wire, causing the exterior rubber coating of the wires to burn off, making this burnt rubber smell.

It’s also essential for you to replace the damaged exterior coating on these wires because you don’t want to cause corrosion to your battery terminals, drain the battery overnight, damage your car’s central controller, or even worse, start a fire.

My Car Smells Like Burnt Rubber – Should I Take It to the Car Shop?

Should I Stop My Car if It Smells Like Burnt Rubber

Here’s the question everyone might be wondering. Should I take my car to the car shop if my car smells like burnt rubber? Well, if you’re an experienced mechanic and are confident with your car fixing skills, why bother going to the car shop?

However, this is not the case for everybody. For example, what will you do if you know the cause of the burnt rubber smell and know how to fix it, but you don’t have the tools to fix it? Obviously, you should call the car shop for repairs, right?

How about what if you don’t know where the smell is coming from, you don’t even know what’s causing it, then the best call you should make is to call the car shop, right?

We get it, you’re on a tight budget, and you don’t want to spend extra money to repair your car. Nevertheless, repairing your vehicle is for your safety. It’s dangerous to drive a vehicle that has a burnt rubber smell, especially if you don’t know the source of the smell in the first place.

Getting your car repaired in a car shop may be expensive rather than doing it yourself, but think about it, they will offer you car inspections (to prevent future problems), remove the burnt rubber smell, and make sure your car is well and working again.

To the general public, we highly recommend you to take your car to the car shop. If you think there’s an abnormally bad odor coming from your vehicle, get it checked out for your safety.

Should I Stop My Car if It Smells Like Burnt Rubber?

We admit, the smell of something burning in your car, regardless if it smells like rubber or not, will be utterly distracting and disturbing to find out. Immediately, one would think, “This car’s going to blow up” if they get a whiff of that burning odor.

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Nonetheless, you must take some precautionary action if you are in this situation, smelling something burning in your car.

First of all, you’ll probably be panicking and be in confusion about what to do if you smell something burning in your car. It’s not something that happens every day. However, it’s essential to do the following if you smell this odor:

  • Find a Safe Place to Pull Over and Inspect the Car

Make sure that you’re not on the road while you’re checking out your car. If you’re on the highway, you should stay off the road where there are fewer vehicles nearby to make sure you don’t cause traffic.

  • Make Sure the Engine’s Off and Has Time to Cool Down Before Touching Anything

The engine and all the car’s other components will be scorching hot because cars operate at high temperatures. After pulling over, give some extra time for the vehicle to cool off.

  • Check for Other Signs. Smoke, Strong Scent of the Smell, and Visual Signs of Leaks Are Great Indicators on Where You Should Start Inspecting

Make sure you know where the source of the problem is. For example, if you see smoke under the hood, there’s a high chance that it’s a short-circuiting problem. However, if the smoke coming from underneath the vehicle, it may be an oil leakage causing the problem.

  • After Cooling Down, Open the Hood and Inspect the Engine Compartments Where Burning Is Likely to Occur

If you think that the smell is coming from the hood or the front part of the car, you better open it up and try to check what’s up in that part of the car that’s causing all these burnt smells. This step is IMPORTANT. Make sure your engine has cooled down before touching anything.

  • Don’t Forget to Check the Tires

Check the tires. They might be the cause of that burning rubber smell after a driver suddenly steps on the break. It causes friction between the asphalt and the tire, creating so much heat that it chips off a little rubber on the tires, creating that smell.

  • Last Resort, Call a Towing Service

Tow service, car service, car repair shops, whatever you call it. If you’re confident that your car has problems that cannot be fixed by yourself and need a professional to look into it, by all means, do it. We never know the car might be dangerous to drive after the burning smell.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Most Common Cause of Burning Smell in Cars?

The typical burning smell might be the burning rubber smell found in cars. The most common cause of this smell is suddenly stepping on the breaks and clutching too hard.

Is Fixing the Burnt Smell in My Car Expensive?

Depending on the damage your car has endured, it’s hard to say the average cost of repairing the burnt car smell. However, the average price of a car inspection is $150-$250, depending on how much the shop charges.

Although you have the inspection price, you’re bound to spend extra money replacing parts and the service fee.

How Soon Should I Repair My Car With a Burning Smell?

If the burning smell is nothing that can break/completely stop the engine from working, then you could probably be okay with driving for at least 2-3 days. However, we don’t recommend you to wait that long to get your car fixed.

Usually, broken parts of the vehicle can cause other components to be broken as well; hence, you’ll be spending more on repair fees. If possible, get it fixed immediately to avoid paying more money in the future.

What Does It Mean When Your Car Smells Like It’s Burning?

There are many reasons why your car can smell like it’s burning. It could be a broken heater, oil leakage, short-circuiting parts, etc. The best way to find out is by spending at least $150-$250 on getting it inspected in your local car shop.

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