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What’s Causing That Smell in My Car? 7 Common Causes

What's Causing That Smell in My Car

If you've ever asked yourself, “what's causing that smell in my car?” Here are the top weird car smells along with their causes:

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  • Rotten egg: bad catalytic converter
  • Maple syrup: coolant leak
  • Burning carpet: bad brake pads
  • Fire: oil leak
  • Weird locker room: bad AC unit
  • Burning newspaper: bad clutch
  • Gas: bad fuel line or fuel tank vent hose

The more you own your vehicle, the more you'll be able to notice any weird smell. Automotive experts recommend never to ignore any weird smell, whether this smell is good or bad.

Weird smells are always linked to internal issues, and these users might range from very minor and can go up to very major issues. Therefore, ignoring the weird smell is never a good idea because it can easily lead to thousands of dollars in repair.

However, inexperienced drivers may not be fully aware of all the weird smells they could experience during the lifetime of their vehicles. Therefore, one of the first things that could come to their mind is, “what's causing that smell in my car?”

This article will walk you through seven common weird car smells that internal alert issues. We will also highlight the main issue and some recommendations on repairs and repair costs.

odd car smells

What's causing that smell in my car?

When your car starts making weird smells, you need to consult your mechanic immediately. However, some of these smells might not be very critical, and they could be resolved by doing certain simple things.

Therefore, to differentiate between critical situations related to bad smells, it is important that you familiarize yourself without coming in weird car smells that we will summarize below:

1.    Rotten egg: bad catalytic converter

The first and most common weird smell that you might experience is a rotten egg smell. This rotten egg smell is typically linked to a specific chemical called hydrogen sulfide, which your fuel includes.

In difficult scenarios, you shouldn't notice any of this smell because the catalytic converter should convert all the bad smells and the bad gases into something less harmful that could go safely to the atmosphere. However, when the catalytic converter goes bad, that's where you will notice that the byproducts are not cleaned, which you'll see in the form of a weird rotten egg smell.

How to fix a rotten egg smell?

You'll have to replace the catalytic converter immediately to get rid of this smell. Your mechanic will be able to tell you whether you can either fix the existing catalytic converter, install a used one, or install a brand new one.

How much does it cost to get rid of the rotten egg smell?

Unfortunately, fixing a catalytic converter is an expensive repair, and that's when many drivers decide to give up on their vehicles, especially when the Catalytic converter goes bad. Catalytic converter cost ranges from $1000 to $2500. Of course, this price climbs significantly if you are driving a luxury car. Therefore, before making a purchase decision, you must evaluate your vehicle situation and see if it's worth fixing the catalytic converter or not.

2.    Maple syrup: coolant leak

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes the smells you might notice might not be very bad. In other words, you might experience a Maple syrup smell that sounds like somebody had breakfast recently in your vehicle.

Unfortunately, this smell is linked to a very critical problem in your car: a coolant leak. Coolant is responsible for cooling down the engine as it gets hot, if you don't already know. If the coolant starts leaking, your engine will not receive the right level of cooling down, and that's where you will deal with digit overheating.

Engine overheating is a serious problem, and it can damage your engine in a very short time. If you have a very severe current, you might not even be able to drive your car, and you'll have to tow it to the nearest repair shop.

How to fix the Maple syrup smell?

The first thing you have to do is consult your mechanic and make sure that you can drive your car. After that, you can describe what you're experiencing and let him know whether you can move the car or you'll have to consult a towing service to get your car to the repair shop.

Once your car gets to the repair shop, your mechanic should thoroughly inspect the leak's location. Sometimes detecting a coolant leak can be very challenging, and that's why it's not something you can do on your own to save on labor costs. Instead, your mechanic should have certain tools that allow him to find the leaks in every certain area in your vehicle and prevent further leakage.

After fixing the leaks, your mechanic needs to measure the coolant and top it off to the optimum level before you can drive your car again.

How much does it cost to get rid of the Maple syrup smell?

Fixing coolant leaks might cost you as low as $50. However, in some scenarios where the coolant leak is very severe, you might end up paying somewhere between $300 and $900, if not more. Therefore, if you're looking for an accurate answer, you'll have to have your mechanic provide you with a quote.

Unfortunately, no matter how much it will cost you to fix the coolant leak, there is no way you can run without it or save on cost because it is something critical that you have to solve immediately.

Rotten Egg Smell in Cars

3.    Burning carpet: bad brake pads

Sometimes you might get into your car, turn it on, and then as you hit the brake pads, you will notice some weird burning carpet smell. That is typically a common symptom of a worn brake pad.

The brake pads work by creating friction to stop your vehicle, and as they go, the friction might get very severe, causing a lot of heat which might burn some of the rubber components around the Braking system. So obviously, you're not going to deal with fire, but it will be a strong burning carpet smell.

How to fix a burning carpet smell?

To get rid of the smell, you'll have first to inspect the brake pads and see if the problem has to do with a worn brake pad. In other words, sometimes you might hit very strong on the brake pad, causing more friction and resulting in this weird burning carpet smell.

However, if your mechanic confirmed that the brake pads are in a situation where they are due for replacement, your only solution would be to replace them. Typically, you want to inspect all the brake pads at once because if one of them goes bad, it might indicate that the other ones are also about to go bad, which is better for you to fix them all at once to save on labor costs.

Brake pads replacement costs go by the axle. In other words, it doesn't come at every single brake pad. Typically, it should cost you about $150 to replace both brake pads on the same axle, which means that the total price would be $300 if you're planning to replace the four of them.

Note that this price range is just a rough estimate air it can differ significantly depending on your vehicles type. Sometimes it might cost you more, especially if you're driving a luxury car.

4.    Fire: oil leak

Another familiar smell that you might notice when driving your car is fire. This smell is typically linked to something that has to do with an oil leak. If the oil gets very hot and drips on the hot components around the engine compartments, it will cause this fire-like smell.

It's important to note that an oil leak is a very severe scenario, and it's more critical than all the mentioned issues associated with weird car smells. Therefore, whenever you notice any fire smell, you must stop your car and allow it to cool down for a little bit before performing a thorough visual inspection to see what's going on. Sometimes you might notice oil dripping on the floor, which means that your car is in a critical condition, and you might not be able to drive it.

How to fix the fire smell?

Getting rid of the fire smell requires fixing the oil leak problem. Unfortunately, oil leak problems are also challenging because it can be very hard to find where the leak is located. Therefore, your mechanic needs to perform a thorough inspection and use certain tools to find the leak's location. In addition, sometimes your car might be leaking oil from different locations, which means that these locations also need to be identified and fixed.

How much does it cost to fix the fire smell?

Fixing oil leaks is not easy, and that's why repair costs will be much higher, and the range of repair costs will be very wide. For instance, expect to pay as low as $150 to as high as $1200, depending on the severity of the leak.

exhaust leak repair DIY

5.    Weird locker room: bad AC unit

Have you ever got into a vehicle and realized that it smells like a weird school locker smell? That is typically a problem with the AC system.

How to fix the locker room smell?

Getting rid of the locker room smell requires a thorough inspection to confirm what's going on with the AC system. Unfortunately, it can be hard to detect this smell, so you should leave it to professionals to confirm the issue.

How much does it cost to fix the locker room smell?

Fixing the AC issues is very expensive and can range from $1000 to $5000 in some cars. Therefore, it is one of those situations where you have to evaluate whether you should fix the problem or sell the car instead.

6.    Burning newspaper: bad clutch

Burning newspapers smell is always linked to a bad clutch here this is a common problem in vehicles equipped with a manual transmission.

How to fix the burning newspaper smell?

Your mechanic needs to inspect the vehicle and check whether you have to replace the clutch or fix it. If he decides that you need to replace it, he'll have to decide between a used clutch or a brand new one, all of which come with pros and cons.

How much does it cost to fix the burning newspaper smell?

Cultural care costs range from as low as $500 to as high as $2500.

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7.    Gas: bad fuel line or fuel tank vent hose

Finally, you might get into the vehicle and notice that the vehicle smells like gas. So again, this is a critical situation, and in some scenarios, it can be a very dangerous hazardous condition.

How to fix the gas smell?

Your mechanic needs to detect the main culprits causing the gas smell. Typically, it would be one of two common things a bad fuel line or a faulty fuel tank vent hose. Whatever is causing the issue should be fixed or placed paired

How much does it cost to fix the gas smell?

Getting rid of the gas requires fixing the root problem. Typically, bad fuel tank vent holes should cost you about $120. However, if you're having a problem with fuel lines, it can be hard to tell the total it costs you because it depends on the severity of the issue and whether you have to replace the entire align system or just a couple.

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Final thoughts

Bad smells in your car are never fun, and they're not a minor issue. They can be linked to a very severe problem if you ignore them. Therefore, every driver must familiarize himself with the familiar car smells and their causes and solutions to stay on the safe side and prevent pricey repairs.

This article walked you through seven common weird car smells along with their causes, repair options, and repair costs. It's important that before you spend a penny fixing these smells, you'll need to evaluate the overall situation and confirm whether it's worth fixing the problem or not. Sometimes, repair costs to get rid of some weird car smells might be thousands of dollars.

If that's the case, you'll need to compare the total repair costs to the value of your vehicle before making a purchase decision. If you would realize that repair costs are piling up and getting close to 75% or more from the value of your vehicle, then it's never worth the repair, and you should sell your car instead and buy a better vehicle.

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