Why does my car smell of burning rubber?

Stephen Wright, 4 years ago

2 min read

  • Advice
  • Maintenance
  • why

Is there a burning rubber smell coming from your car? Well, it could be one or a number of things all of which should be taken seriously if you want your car to remain drivable and for yourself to stay safe.

Guide to burning rubber smells:

Burning rubber smell when changing gears

Burning rubber smell when driving

Burning rubber smell outside car when driving

Most common source of burning rubber smells

Burning rubber smell when changing gears

The smell occurring when you change gear is normally a sign that your clutch is overheating and that the clutch plate is wearing down. You're most likely to smell it in slow-moving traffic. It can be caused by a multitude of things but it is most typically from 'riding the clutch'.

Burning rubber smell when driving

If you are experiencing this issue, make sure to look under your bonnet as could be a range of problems causing the smell. From a loose rubber hose or head gasket leak to an electrical fault. A leak in the head gasket may mean the whole component requires replacement, although you may be lucky enough just to need the seal replaced.

Additionally, your engine belt may have slipped - overheating the rubber thus causing the burning smell. Make sure to open bonnet once engine has cooled to inspect hoses and the belts.

Another source of the problem may be your coolant leaking. The heater core may be leaking coolant into the heating system or the aircon. Check if your coolant tank has any cracks in it and deal with any coolant loss efficiently to avoid doing serious damage to your vehicle.

Burning smell from outside car when driving

This may be something as simple as a plastic shopping bag becoming stuck in engine bay or rubbish stuck in exhaust pipe slowly melting or burning, causing the unpleasant smell

If it’s neither of those, make sure to look to see if there are any pools of black liquid under car, which would pinpoint the smell as being the result of an oil leakage.

Before testing where the burning rubber smell is coming from always wait until car engine has completely cooled (normally around 20 mins, allow longer if it appears to be overheated). Always inspect the engine block first. Look specifically for leaks.

Any burning smell should prompt you to take your car to a garage as it poses a real risk of danger to your safety and your car's components.

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