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My Car Smells Like Burning Oil After Driving! What Should I Do?

Car Smells Like Burning Oil After Driving

If your car smells like burning oil after driving, you must not ignore it. According to automotive experts, burning oil smell could mean significant problems with your engine.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

A burning oil smell could indicate some oil leaking and getting burnt. A burning smell could also come from other areas around your vehicle and not necessarily where oil is leaking.

As a rule of thumb, if you've smelled something weird, whether the smell is good or bad, you must take immediate action and have your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.

The more you ignore the problem, the more you complicate the issue and make it hard to be fixed. In some severe scenarios, burning oil smell could cause engine self-destruction.

After reading this article, you should understand potential causes for car smells like burning oil after driving. Once you identify the causes, you can start with a narrow list that you can dig further into. Once you identify and pinpoint the real culprit, you can go ahead and get it replaced or repaired. 

Why does my vehicle need oil? 


Did you know that your vehicle's oil is as important as having fuel? Yes! Without the proper amount of oil in the vehicle, you could deal with sacrificing your engine.

Since the engine consists of fixed and moving parts, these moving parts are in touch with each other all the time.

If there is no oil to lubricate between them moving parts, a lot of heat could be generated due to friction, causing your engine to overheat.

The last and worst thing you would want to deal with is engine overheating. Once the engine overheats, it can get damaged very quickly.

Therefore, it's important to keep a regular checkup for your car's oil because it could either leak or get dirty.

Part of the regular maintenance should be replacing the engine oil, or you probably heard about the term oil change. If you fail to change your vehicle's oil, it can get very dirty, and it could also cause engine overheating. 


My car smells like burning oil after driving! What causes that? 

It's very important to understand the different reasons for a burning oil smell in your car. Luckily, there are a couple of potential reasons that usually are the culprit for the oil-burning smell in your vehicle, including: 

  • Oil leak 


Your vehicle's oil should flow through certain tubes and never leaves them. If this oil left the two for any reason, there is a high potential for it to touch very hot surfaces and get burnt immediately.

There are many reasons for the oil to leak, including worn-out parts or just simple cracks in some of the tubes. 

Unfortunately, detecting the actual oil leak location can be a little challenging, and you usually need to get to a professional mechanic who can pinpoint that leak location.

Repairing a problem that has to do with an oil leak cannot usually be done yourself unless you have the required mechanical skillsets and toolsets. 

It is crucial to note that if the burning smell is coming from the oil leak, the problem is very serious, and you must get it repaired as soon as possible.

Did you know that you can't even move your vehicle if the car oil leak is very severe? Yes, once the oil leaks heavily, your engine might generate a lot of heat that could destroy it immediately. The best solution for you, in this case, is to consult a professional mechanic and describe the amount of leak that you see under the vehicle and get some guidance from him about whether to drive a car or just a toy to his repair shop. 

  • A worn-out clutch 


If you are driving a manual vehicle and probably in a new driver, you might deal with your car smells like burning oil after driving frequently.

Usually, if you hit the clutch very hard, you can cause some damage or wear out to the clutches surface. The more you press on it, the more heat can be generated, and the more you'll start smelling burning oil smell.

The best solution for you, in this case, is to ensure following some directions from professional drivers who drive this type of vehicle more frequently and ask them to help give you recommendations on the way you press on the clutch. 

  • A problem with the brake system 


If you have confirmed that there is no oil leak in your vehicle and you're not driving and manual transmission vehicle, your third bet would be to check the brake system.

The Brake system might cause some oil-burning smells, especially if you're driving up the hill and you're pressing on the brakes hard. The more you press on the brakes, the more you are causing friction, which results in heat generation and a smell like burning oil. 

Unfortunately, problems with a brake system causing burning oil are a little complicated and cannot be resolved by yourself.

In other words, you must consult a professional mechanic to check and confirm that the brake system is still in good condition, and it's only your driving habit. Otherwise, you might need to replace the entire braking system or the faulty part. 

  • A dirty heating system 


Sometimes if your heating system was not running for a long time, there's a high chance for dirt and contamination to get stuck to the heating fans or the heating model.

As you start the heating system, you will start smelling this oil-burning smell because of the dirt getting overheated in the heating system.

If this is the case, you might need to clean up the heating system or have it flushed out or cleaned up by a professional mechanic. 


Can I drive if my car smells like burning oil after driving? 


Well, answering the question depends heavily on this source and the root of the problem. For example, if the oil burning smell is coming from a dirty heating system, you might be able to continue driving unless the smell is very strong or indicates a serious issue in the heating system; you might not need to continue driving for long distances.

On the other hand, if you've confirmed that the problem is coming from an oil leak under the vehicle, you must stop the vehicle immediately and consult a professional mechanic before moving your car one inch.

As we mentioned before, low oil can be a significant problem for your engine. It's never advised to drive the vehicle without a sufficient amount of oil needed for proper driving.

Overall, if you are not having any serious situations and don't really need to drive your car, it's recommended that no matter the cause of the oil burning smell, you get it repaired as soon as possible. Even if you have confirmed that there are no oil puddles under the vehicle, an internal leak could be causing the oil burning smell. If that's the case, there is again a significant issue that could happen to your engine, probably not short term but after driving long distances. 

Can I fix the car that smells like burning oil after driving by just changing the oil? 


It could be it. What is your car smells like burning oil or not? If your vehicle is due for an oil change, you must perform it immediately?

A burning oil smell could come from dirty or old engine oil, but it's not always the solution or the main cause you've noticed earlier.

Getting rid of the burning smell is not guaranteed to happen by just changing your car's oil. 

How to fix the car smells like burning oil after driving? 


There is no one answer to this question because it depends on the main cause. In other words, if you're burning oil smells just coming from you pressing very hard on the clutch or the brakes, you can get rid of the problem by being more gentle on using them.

On the other hand, if the problem comes from an external or internal oil leak, it might not be something within your hands with minimum mechanical skill sets or limited tools. In other words, you'd better consult a professional mechanic who can help you to repair the problem. 



If your car smells like burning oil after driving, you must not ignore the problem, and you have to have your vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic.

The oil is very important for the car, and without the sufficient amount of oil, your engine will not run properly, and in some cases of low oil, the engine can get self-destructed.

Many reasons are causing your car smells like burning oil after driving, including issues with the clutch, brakes, heating water, and oil leak.

Whatever the source of the problem is, you must not ignore it and have it repaired immediately. 

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