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Author Diagnose strange smells
Premium Member

Registered: 24th Dec 99
Location: West Midlands
User status: Offline
21st Oct 11 at 21:57   View User's Profile U2U Member Reply With Quote

... car smells that is!


If you smell petrol inside or anywhere near the car, there may be a leak. Inspect the petrol tank for any leaks underneath the car. If there are no visible leaks, there may be a leak from the fuel injectors, fuel rail, or another part of the fuel delivery system.

Burning Plastic

The most common cause of this smell is a plastic bag stuck to the exhaust. If you smell burning rubber, check if the handbrake hasn't been accidentally engaged. Driving your car with the handbrake on can cause a burning smell due to excessive surface friction of the brake pads. Electrical shorts may result in overheating and burning of the insulation material giving out a strong smell of burning plastic. In this case, disconnect the battery leads immediately.

Mould And Mildew

It is an unpleasant smell that comes from your car upholstery, carpets or air conditioning system. An accidental liquid spill, rainwater seeping or car flooding can cause the affected area to accumulate moisture and remain damp over time, giving a chance for mould formation and strong mildew to develop. This can lead to serious problems like rust and weakening of your car's body. Check for the source of the odour. Dry the affected areas thoroughly, by blowing hot dry air with a hair dryer to evapourate the moisture. Take care that the dryer does not heat up or is held too close to the upholstery fabric. Open the windows and let the air escape out. If these ideas fail, then either get your car valeted at a professional car cleaning facility, or in the case where the source is from the air conditioning system, get the system cleaned by an air conditioning specialist.


Exhaust fumes, especially inside the cabin, can be very dangerous as they contain traces of carbon monoxide which are quite harmful. It may be the result of a leak in the exhaust system and needs to be attended to immediately.

Hot Or Burning Oil

This is generally a result of oil or fluid leaking on to a hot surface such as hot exhaust manifold. Leaking rocker cover gaskets are a common cause of this problem.

Burning Coolant

The burning of coolant produces a sweet smell, which may indicate a faulty inlet manifold gasket.

[Edited on 29-02-2012 by Ian]

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