Use your nose to avoid big car repair costs. Your sense of smell can help you avoid car trouble. Simply, paying attention now to strange smells from under the hood or from under the car can be the difference between a quick and inexpensive fix now or a costly repair later, or even mechanical failure – and an accident.
You may be following the story of Ford Explorer SUVs being investigated for carbon monoxide, from the exhaust, leaking into the cabin and making drivers and passengers sick. Model years affected are 2011 to 2017. The situation is serious enough that police departments in several cities have taken their Interceptor models out of service, and Ford reportedly is considering a recall.
Here’s a checklist of car smells and what they mean:
Exhaust fumes – If you are getting nauseous from what’s spewing out of the truck in front of you, add some distance, to keep the fumes from entering your own air intake, and switch climate control to re-circulate to further minimize air intake. If that doesn’t fix the bad smell, it could be that your own exhaust system is leaking. Drive to a mechanic – with the windows open all the way.
Burning plastic – This usually means insulation around an electrical wire has melted, which could cause a short-circuit. Or, it could be as simple as a plastic shopping bag from the highway, driveway or shopping mall parking area which melted itself around the muffler. Easy fix.
Burning rubber – If you haven’t “left rubber on the road” from a bank robbery getaway or a similarly screeching stop, this smell is definitely serious enough to pull over immediately. Tires can get hot enough to ignite inside, and a tire fire can spread quickly to a hot engine. Touch the tires with your palms outstretched. If there is heat radiating on any tire, call your roadside service. If the tires are cool, it means your brake linings are worn and the smell is from your tires sliding on the pavement. In that case, call your mechanic for a check-up.
Burning oil – This smell has several possibilities. It could mean low oil or transmission fluid. That’s easy – check the dipstick and top it off. But if that’s not the problem, it could signal a leak, and the oil is spraying onto a hot engine and burning. That could start a major engine fire. Get the car to a mechanic.
Pay attention to car smells, and let your nose help you avoid big repair bills.