Simply, paying attention now to strange smells from under the hood or from under the car can be the difference between a fast, inexpensive fix now or a costly repair later, or even mechanical failure or an accident.
Here’s a checklist of car smells and what they mean:
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.
A relative of mine took his car in for this smell, because he knew that it usually means insulation around an electrical wire has melted, which could cause a short-circuit.
Luckily, it was only a plastic shopping bag which had jumped up from a parking lot and melted itself around the muffler. Easy fix
If you haven’t “left rubber on the road” from a bank robbery getaway or a similarly screeching stop, this smell is definitely serious – serious enough to pull over immediately.
Tires can get hot enough to ignite inside , and a fire can spread quickly to the similarly-hot engine. Touch the tires with your palms outstretched.
If you feel 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.
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.
There are lots of possibilities for the smell of sulphur, or rotten eggs. It could be an engine or computer problem, or the battery. Get the car to a mechanic.
Chemical or resin-like odor
Check your emergency brake. Oops. We all do it. I’ve done it myself.
A helpful resource for diagnosing car troubles — smells, sounds and anything else — website AutoMD.
Pay attention to car smells, and let your nose help you avoid big repair bills.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and guidebook and smartphone app author – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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