Home Diagnosis and TroubleshootingRadiators and Cooling System Car Smells Like Burning Rubber: Is It A Cause For Worry?

Car Smells Like Burning Rubber: Is It A Cause For Worry?

by Jordan Harris
Car Smells Like Burning Rubber

Cars offer safe and comfortable rides from one place to the other, but as a car owner, you may have faced a lot of problems from time to time. The problem one may face as a car owner is an unpleasant smell. Vehicles produce several strange smells. Among all the bad smells produced is when your car smells like burning rubber. This is one of the terrible signs that your car can exhibit when there is a problem with your oil, brakes, or lubricant.

However, these are not the only reasons your car smells like burning rubber, several things going on with your vehicle could also explain the smell of burning rubber. They include the lost rubber hose, slipping clutch, burnt-out brakes, and more. The air from outside the cabin of the car can also get inside of the car and start to show that there is a problem with the vehicle.

A burning rubber smell should not be ignored even though it does not mean that you have a big issue. You should try to find out what is happening or ask a car specialist to check it for you. Once this sign is ignored, your car may have to encounter severe damage. The damage caused by a burning rubber may need to be repaired. This problem can suck a lot of money from your pocket if ignored.

Contents of this article entail;

Why Car Smells Like Burning Rubber

There are several reasons why your car smells like burning rubber. The car has many rubber parts that could get burned from heat exposure.

Loose Rubber Hose

Getting the burning rubber smell from your car may simply mean that there is something made of rubber that is burning inside the engine. A loose rubber hose is one of the problems leading to your car smelling like burning rubber. Your car’s engine has several rubber hoses. The rubber hoses are mostly found in the engine compartment. A car’s rubber hoses are essential for the optimum performance of the engine.

When the rubber hose becomes loose, broken, or weak, it can come into contact with the part of the engine that is overheated. When this happens, the lost rubber hose may get burned and your car may begin to smell like burning rubber. To fix this problem, remove the loose rubber hose and replace it if it requires to be replaced.

Melting Drive Belt

The smell of burning rubber might also come from a melting drive belt around the engine of your car. The engine of the car is connected to other parts of the car using some types of belts. The work of the drive belt is to transfer the motion to other parts of the car to keep them running.

If one of the components that are connected with the drive belt is locked up, the drive belt will probably spin. The friction on the drive belt creates heat and causes your car to smell like burning rubber. Faulty drive belts can also rip and fly off their gears. They can also cause the pulley to stop from turning.

A faulty drive belt can also cause your car to smell like burning rubber. The bad smell of burning rubber will be accompanied by a loud squealing noise that will require to be addressed ASAP. The problem with the drive belt can cause the engine of the car to stop working if ignored.

To solve the issue of the melting driving belt, change the faulty drive belt. You should make a routine of checking the drive belts after every six months to ensure that it works properly.

Motor Oil Leak

The motor oil leak is one of the most common causes of a car that smells like burning rubber. Oil can end up on your car’s engine and burn it up when it leaks. This problem will mostly occur when driving your car uphill on a steep hill and when the car remains in the first and second gear as the exhaust gets hotter than usual. A motor oil leak can cause a bad burning smell.

When the engine of your car leaks, the chances of it not getting enough oil for lubrication is very high. This causes the engine to overheat. Oil leaks can also lead to more dangerous problems like a blown head gasket and the engine block can get cracked.

It can also make the engine of your car overheat. It is important to note that on many occasions, high-quality synthetic oil has a pronounced smell of a burning rubber compared to regular oil. If too much oil is burnt, it can lead to a fire hence the importance of immediately addressing this issue.

This problem is also considered one of the most problems since you will not only get worried about the burning smell that it produces but also, you won’t be able to run your car with low oil. A lot of things cause an oil leak but the most common cause is a worn gasket or gasket seal.

To solve this problem, consult a professional mechanic immediately to help you fix the issue.

Coolant Leaking From Radiator

Leaking coolant radiator is one of the reasons that lead to your car smelling like burning rubber. A car’s coolant is held in a small tank inside the engine block. The coolant is designed to be used for bringing the temperature of the engine down to the optimum level.

Similar to any other tank, the tank holding the coolant is also likely to leak. This may be because of damaged and worn or faulty seals. With any crack in the tank that may be a result of normal wear and tear or vibrations, some of the engine coolants may leak out.

Any leak around the radiator, allows a hot coolant to make its way to the rubber parts which are located around the radiator. The leak causes your car to smell like burning rubber. Consult a professional mechanic or a car specialist if you notice any sign of a coolant leak by looking under your car.

Slipping Clutch

A clutch is designed to be used to shift and drive gears. Its basic job is to match the speed of your car’s transmission and the engine speed by compelling itself against the flywheel from a stop to a rolling.

The whole process involves friction. Driving the clutch means that the driver does not let the clutch engage the flywheel completely. The clutch keeps grinding the flywheel. This makes a lot of heat and starts to burn the clutch. The smell of burning rubber in this case is caused by excessive friction as the clutch is turned into a paper mash. The possible solution to this problem is to replace the clutch.

Blown Gasket

A blown gasket is also one of the causes why your car smells like burning rubber. A gasket is a flat piece made from silicone. The body of the engine block and the top part of the engine is secured with the gasket.

A gasket is not a mechanical part, but it is very important for the smooth function of the engine. The gasket creates a seal between the two components of the engine block to allow the engine and the coolant to freely flow around the engine without mixing with the mixture of fuel and air.

A faulty gasket can lead to oil leakage. You will then get the smell of a burning rubber if the oil gets into contact with the hot parts of the engine like the exhaust manifold.

Sticking Brakes

This is the one problem that every car owner will have to experience in their lifetime. Sticking brakes is also one of the common problems that cause your car to smell like burning rubber. If you are not lucky, the problem of a sticking brake can also lead to a fire. The brake pads contain rubber therefore, the sticking brake makes a lot of heat which heats the rubber too much.

Sticking brakes are always a result of sticking brake caliper or stuck brake pads. To know if you have a sticking brake, you should touch your rims carefully to feel if any of your wheels is hotter than the others. If you suspect that your brake calipers are sticking, then you will have them serviced by a mechanic immediately.

Tangled Plastic In The Exhaust Pipe

While in some cases the smell of burning rubber will be from within your car, foreign materials can also cause it.

Foreign plastic objects like plastic bags have a high potential of getting stuck in the engine area as you are driving your car. Plastics will melt upon getting in touch with the hot engine. This will then cause some rubber to burn around the engine area.

Ignoring this problem that will not cost you too much money to solve could complicate the problem. You only need to wait for the engine to cool then remove the stuck plastic from your exhaust.

There is also a high chance for the rubber parts to crack and cause leakage of fluids out of the car. To fix this problem, let the muffler cool down before attempting to remove the plastic out.

Electrical Short Circuit

Electric short circuits are major types of electrical accidents that can cause severe damage to your car’s electrical system. An electric short circuit is also another common problem that is encountered by car owners. It is also one of the causes of cars smelling like burning rubber. Most cables are coated with rubber for insulation and durability.

An electrical short circuit can also end up causing some rubber insulations to get burnt. This is what causes the burning rubber smell. With a short circuit in your car, the smell of burning rubber is likely to be more pronounced in the cabin when you are driving with the windows closed.

The problem of burnt rubber caused by an electrical short circuit should be immediately checked because driving under such conditions may lead to severe damage to your car.

Worn Out Fuses

Worn-out fuses are also another problem associated with a short electrical circuit causing the bad rubber smell inside your car. Electricity usually generates a ton of heat. After the heat has been generated, the wiring and many other components contain it. The heat however gets stuck in one place if there is a short in the system.

Electrical shorts heats the plastics and other components. This generates a burning smell in the interior of your car. This problem can be extremely serious. The shorts will ignite if it reaches more flammable parts of the engine.

Overheating A/C Compressor

A car smelling like burning rubber after turning on the air conditioner can result from a faulty A/C compressor. The A/C compressor of your vehicle is belt-driven. There are two different ways a faulty A/C compressor can generate a burning smell if there are issues internally.

Stuck A/C Compressor

The entire A/C compressor can be stuck. When it engages, it can grab the belts. This causes the belt to heat up and wear out. This will not only cause a burning rubber smell, but it will also cause your drive belts to wear out.

The A/C compressor will turn even if there is an issue internally. This is a common problem. Your car’s A/C compressor will engage. If this happens, it will be turned by the belts. The damaged parts will begin to spin inside the A/C compressor. A ton of friction is generated, it then generates a lot of heat that starts to burn and cause the burning rubber smell.

Old Fluids

Fresh oil in the engine makes things run smoothly for your car. When last did you change your transmission fluid or the oil? Changing your car’s transmission. This is very important for your car because if the oil in your car starts to age it becomes thick. It also losses its ability to absorb heat. The oil also stops lubricating parts efficiently.

Everything then gets hot leading to a burning rubber smell. It can also scorch and damage different parts of your car. The old oil should be drained and replaced since it can leave your engine fully damaged.

Leaking Fluids

Power steering fluid, motor oil, transmission fluid, and the coolant will probably burn if they are left on a hot surface. This may not be a big problem but any leak can be a problem. The areas that get hot enough to burn the fluids are the pockets in the engine and the top of the exhaust. If the fluids get inside these parts, they will burn and create a burning smell.

Debris From The Heater

A burning rubber smell can also be caused when you turn on your heater. This means that something has found its way into the vents and it is burning. Anything like plastic bags, old rags, and more inside the heater vent can create a burning rubber smell when the heat is a blast.

Can You Drive A Car If It Smells Like A Burning Rubber

Even though you can drive your car when it smells like burning rubber, this is not recommended. You should completely not drive a vehicle with a burning smell. This is because every possible cause of a burning smell in your car is important. These causes can turn into serious and dangerous problems quickly if ignored.

These problems causing a burning rubber smell in your care are very serious and should be taken care of immediately after they are diagnosed. A burning rubber smell can cause fire and entire engine damage. They can also take out your brakes. You should not continue driving your car when it smells like burning rubber instead, you should get it to a mechanic for repair.

How To Fix Car Smelling Like Burning Rubber

The smell of burning rubber in your vehicle is not good to inhale any time you get inside your car. The smell is a good sign that relays a message of a problem that should be fixed immediately. The problem can surely save you a lot of money if fixed as soon as possible. Here is what you should do if you smell burning rubber in your vehicle.

Park In A Safe Place

First, you should find a good and safe place to park and examine your car and allow the engine of the car to cool down before you touch anything in your car you will require a safe and comfortable place to work from. Once this is done, you should allow the engine to cool down before touching anything.

Check for Any Tangled Garbage

The next thing to do is to check and see if there is any plastic bags or rubber material that are stuck in the exhaust pipe and under the engine. If there is any, make sure to remove it.

Examine The Engine

You should then start to scrutinize the components of the engine. Check if there is a damaged coolant reservoir, loose cables, or any burnt insulation. You should also take a look at the electrical short circuit because they are the common causes of the burning rubber smell.

Check The Brakes And Wheels

You should now inspect the wheels and the brakes to see if there is any problem with the calipers. A seized caliper piston is also one of the causes of a car smelling like burning rubber. You should also check the tires to see if the treading is fine with no damage because it can cause unnatural interaction with the road surface if it is uneven. This can then increase the likelihood of excess friction when the vehicle is in motion.

Be keen to note any other sign that could point out for you the direction of the main cause of the bad smell. For example, exhaust smoke from under the car. This is enough reason for you to look under the vehicle for oil leaks first.

Car Smelling Like Burning Rubber – Repair Or Replace

Once you are done with the checking, you should now be able to point out the cause of the problem. Now the next step to take is to repair or replace the worn-out and damaged components that may be leading to your car smelling like burning rubber. Some of these components like the loose cables will only need to be re-tightened while others like the engine oil will need to be replaced.

Once you are done dealing with all these car problems, you should always check if all the problems are fixed. You should then give your car a test drive to be certain that the burning rubber smell is not there. With a test drive, you will also allow the engine and the exhaust to heat up. With this, it will be easy to tell if the burning rubber smell is still there.

You will also be able to feel the condition of the other car components, for example, the wheels and brakes, and tell if your vehicle is okay

Car Smelling Like Burning Rubber – Final Thoughts

The smell of a burning rubber inside the car is never a good thing for you and your car. Still, this smell is always very useful because it helps you to identify any problem with the motor of your car and other parts.

Immediately you notice the burning rubber smell, your priority should be to look for the cause of the problem which can be an issue with the clutch, brakes, leaking coolant, motor oil leak, and more to avoid any serious problem.

It is also important to have your car scrutinized by a professional technician or a specialized car mechanic immediately after you feel the burning rubber smell coming out of your vehicle. All these problems are equally serious and should not be ignored.

Always remember that noticing a burning rubber smell after driving suggests something serious that needs attention. Resolving these problems early will help you prevent more and serious problems that its repair may need much more money to solve.

Proper maintenance of a car will always put you one step ahead of any problem that can be associated with the car. As a car owner, you should always take your vehicle for service to make sure that every component of your vehicle is okay. This will help you save money that you could have used for repairs. Proper maintenance of your car determines its longevity.

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