Most of the time, cars offer a safe and comfortable ride from place to place, but you may encounter problems from time to time, as I have. When something smells different than normal, I usually start to look at the tires or under the hood to find out what’s going on.
The smell of burning rubber could be explained by a number of things going on with your car, including tires, leaking fluids, hoses, and belts. The air from outside the car cabin can get inside the car and start to indicate there’s a problem with your car.
If you do smell burnt rubber, never ignore it, and try to figure out what is happening or ask someone to check it out for you. The faster you take action when your car smells like burning rubber, the better for your car. Repairs may be costly if you ignore them for too long.
Does Your Car Smell like Burning Rubber?
Do you smell a burning odor coming up from under the hood of your car? Such symptoms are noticeable after the engine has become hot or operated for a long duration. When your car smells like burning rubber, it may be a sign of a problem that may get bigger if not treated.
Some other smells may be strong as well. Try to identify the odors and where they may be coming from. Whenever you get a smell of rotten eggs, burnt toast, burning carpet, sweet syrup, or burning oil, raise your attention level to be high, so you can solve these issues as well.
Precautions & Tips
As a thumb rule, keep in mind the following precautions and steps to take when you smell any strange odor from your car.
- Turn the car off. Inspection under the hood to identify any fluid leakage.
- Let the engine cool. You should be extremely cautious while working with hot or rotating engine parts.
- Perform any checks where hands are required only when the engine has cooled completely.
- Do not smoke while checking for a fuel leak or inspecting your car battery.
- If you smell a gasoline odor, even if you just filled your tank, get it checked immediately.
If you can’t figure out what is wrong by yourself, ask for help or rake your vehicle to the car mechanic.
Why Does Your Car Smell like Burning Rubber?
The following possibilities could be reasons why your car smells like burnt rubber.
1. Lose Hose
When one of the rubber hoses under the hood is loose or pressed against a hot part of the engine, the rubber may start to burn after a while. If you installed something that caused a hose to move, this might have exposed it to a hot surface.
Solution: Move the hose and replace it if needed. Check the condition of the clamps as well if they seem loose.
2. Melting of Drive Belt
If one of the devices that use the drive belt, such as the alternator, air pump, water pump, or AC compressor, is locked up, the drive belt will spin but not the device. This friction on the belt creates heat and causes a burnt rubber smell. This smell is also accompanied by a squealing noise.
Solution: The faulty drive belt must be replaced, and the device that stopped working should be replaced or repaired. It is highly recommended to check the drive belts for proper operation every six months.
3. Motor Oil Leak
If the motor oil starts to leak onto the hot engine exhaust pipe, it may give rise to a burnt rubber smell. This is a dangerous scenario and can lead to a car fire.
Solution: Stop the engine, wait 30 minutes, and check for leaks. Once you find the leak, clean up any oil that has spilled and determine your next course of action.
The best course of action, though, would be to replace any damaged parts or take them to a mechanic. If you continue driving with an oil leak, you are sure to cause more damage and more money to repair your car. Oil leaks need to be corrected as soon as possible.
4. Accidental Plastic Bag
A plastic shopping bag can sometimes get stuck to the exhaust pipe under your car and slowly melt or burn, producing a smell of burning rubber.
Solution: Wait until the muffler has cooled, and carefully remove the plastic bag from beneath the car. While driving, try to avoid contact with plastic bags lying on the road or flying around. Plastic bags can also cause other problems if they get caught near the engine.
5. Leakage of Coolant
The heater core could be leaking coolant into the heating system or air conditioning system, causing a burning rubber smell. This causes significant coolant loss and also sufficient damage to your car. Solution: Check if your coolant tank has any cracks in it.
If the coolant is leaking, you may smell a sweet-smelling odor. It could smell like burning rubber if it leaks somewhere very hot. Unfortunately, these coolant fumes are unhealthy to breathe, so get it checked out or fixed right away. Loss of coolant can cause significant damage to your car if not replaced.
Solution: Check your coolant tank for any cracks. Coolant hoses can also crack or become loose. Replace or reattach as needed.
6. Electrical Problem
If a fuse is blown or a short circuit occurs. The odor could smell like burning rubber. The odor then enters your car through the AC duct.
Solution: Check all the wire connections for melted areas and loose connections, and check fuses to see if any of them have blown. Once you identify the problem, replace the fuse, wire, connector, and secure connections. Use the owner’s manual or do some research for the correct replacement parts for your vehicle.
7. Heating of AC Compressor
When the refrigerant levels have been reduced, there may be a lack of sufficient lubrication for the AC compressor. It will get overheated and may produce a burning rubber smell.
Solution: During the maintenance inspection of your car, have the mechanic check the AC. Notify the mechanic of the smell and any associated issues. The AC compressor may need to be replaced, or you may just need to add refrigerant to the AC system.
8. Oil Leak from Gasket or Seal
When oil leaks from the gasket or seal, it can cause a burnt smell when it comes into contact with the exhaust manifold.
Solution: It is highly advisable to replace the gasket or seal. Sometimes a gasket leak sealer can be bought over the counter (Amazon Link) for a temporary fix. However, some don’t recommend it.
Another temporary solution is to tighten the coupling surface of the gasket and seal it. But this method can also worsen the scenario, as the leak tends to worsen if the gasket is heavily saturated with oil.
If you smell burning rubber, it’s important to take steps to avoid any major issues with your car. Have your vehicle inspected by a professional technician, or do it yourself. as soon as you recognize any burning rubber smell coming out.
We hope that this article has helped you to identify the reason behind the burning rubber smell from your car. Pass on your feedback and comments below.