Car Cabin Smell? Here are 8 Potential Causes.

Does your car cabin smell? If your vehicle emits an unusual or nauseating odour instead of the smell of the new car, follow your nose and find the source of the aroma. Odours can cause costly repairs or health risks and should not be ignored.

Below are 8 common smells inside your car cabin and their possible causes:

1. Electrical

Smells sort of like toast? This could be a short circuit in an electrical component or overheated insulation. Take electrical odours seriously, as short circuits and overheated components are common sources of fire. Switch off the engine and call an auto electrician immediately, if a fire abrupts call 000.

(All electrical issues should be taken seriously. Do not continue to drive the vehicle.)

2. Gas

It is normal to feel a little gas when a cold engine starts due to incomplete combustion. However, if you smell gas from a hot engine, the gas cap could loosen or contain the evaporative emission control system, fuel vapours recycled through the engine, leaks or obstacles.

Even worse, gas could escape from the tank or another part of the fuel system. Always check for gas odours when parking your car before starting the vehicle and turning on the fuel.

3. Burning

The oil can be spilt on a hot part of the engine or on the exhaust system. It could also come from brake pads and/or overheated rotors, whether due to aggressive braking, brake pads that do not shift when the brake pedal is released or when the emergency brake is released when of driving.

In a vehicle with a manual gearbox, the clutch plate could be worn or overheated by the clutch pedal. Leaves or other materials in the engine compartment, sometimes imported from nesting rodents, can also burn on hot surfaces.

4. Musty

If the ignition of the air conditioner produces a musty smell, mould and/or mould may have formed in the air conditioner. Moisture naturally accumulates in the evaporator of the cold air conditioner (a small radiator that transports coolant to the dashboard of the car) and may contain mould. If the fan only runs at high speed (with air conditioning off), the evaporator may dry.

However, this does not guarantee that the problem will not reoccur, especially if it is caused by a blockage in the drain tube that drips water under the car. A musty smell can also be caused by carpets that are wet when water seeps into the interior.

5. Sweet

Antifreeze has a sweet, syrupy odour, and feeling it in a car usually means there is a leak somewhere in the cooling system. The source may not be easy to see. For example, the leak could come from a corroded heat exchanger (also called a heating core), usually located behind the panel.

The leak could take the form of steam entering the cabin, creating odour and possibly fogging the windows. Have you solved this problem, because inhaling antifreeze is not good for you.

6. Rotten Eggs

If you can smell rotten eggs or sulphur, your catalytic converter may have gone bad. The main cause could be an engine or transmission system problem that caused the converter to overheat.

7. Rubber

The smell of burnt rubber may be a drive belt that slips or bites when a pulley or pipe breaks against a moving part. An overheated clutch disc may also smell like burnt rubber.

8. Decomposed Foods

It happens, sometimes you forget you had a banana or dropped food scraps in the car if you smell something like general waste, that’s exactly what it is. Look under your vehicle seats and in your boot to find the rotten food source.


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