Use Your Nose: Six Warning Smells of Auto Trouble

The Car Care Council recently came up with a list of signs that car owners can use to identify potential problems—even blindfolded. If immediate and proper attention is paid, motorists can often avoid the cost and expense of a complete breakdown and the required repairs that follow. When it comes to our cars, many of us are used to paying attention to things we hear or see, like unusual noises or visibly worn tire tread, but the Council suggest that our noses are excellent trouble detectors as well.

First, a burned rubber smell can let you know a belt or hose needs replacing or has come loose. The rubbing of the faulty belt or loose hose against moving parts can cause the smell. Be sure to let the engine cool before reaching into the engine compartment, or let your mechanic take a look.

Also, oil can leak onto the exhaust system of your vehicle, causing a hot oil odor. You may also notice smoke coming from the engine area or oil stains on the pavement. Gasoline can also leak from different areas of your vehicle, producing a very noticeable smell. Any oil or gas leak suspected should be given immediate attention to avoid breakdowns and fire hazards.

Additionally, a syrupy sweet smell may mean coolant is leaking from somewhere in the car’s cooling system. Again, if you are checking for this problem yourself, always be sure the engine is cool. Do not open a hot radiator cap.

Another important warning of potential trouble is the odor of burning carpet. If you are noticing this during normal driving conditions, have your brakes checked immediately.

Finally, a “rotten egg” smell can be caused when the car’s engine runs poorly and causes the catalytic converter to become overwhelmed, leading to meltdown and failure.

Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council, says, “When you smell any peculiar odor, you should not ignore it. Instead, bring your vehicle to a professional service technician that you trust to get an informed opinion on the nature of the odor.” In other words, better safe than sorry.

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