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Strange Car Smells are Also Warnings

Weird Smells in the Car

When funky aromas emerge from my vehicle, I initially look under the seats for fast food bags. If the inside of the car isn't the source of the odor, then I start thinking about other parts of the vehicle and consider any mechanical troubles ahead.

At Carstar Black Hills Auto Body, we want to make sure our customers and local Cottonwood drivers are aware of the ins and outs of their car. That includes knowing when there’s an issue based on what smell the car is making. Here are six significant smells to learn about, offered by Carstar Black Hills Auto Body, a service department that truly cares.

Rotten Eggs or Sulfur

If you smell rotten eggs, it might mean that your catalytic converter is not properly processing hydrogen sulfide in the exhaust. Whenever this occurs, don't freak out, just call us and we can diagnose the problem rather quickly.

Maple Syrup

If you're getting a sweet scent after your engine has been idling for a short time, coolant containing ethylene glycol might just be leaking from your radiator, faulty intake manifold gasket or a cylinder head. If the odor is really strong while sitting in the car, this might mean that the problem is related to the heater core. In both scenarios, you’ll need to have one of our technicians to diagnose the problem and look into the issue.

Take care of that stinky car!

Burnt Paper

The aroma of burnt paper is never pleasant, especially when it happens while you're changing gears. This odorous moment might be a clear sign that your clutch facing is burning off as the clutch slips. This can occur if the driver is “riding” the clutch and stepping too much on the pedal--which causes considerable friction. This friction generates more than enough heat to literally burn the paper-based clutch facings, which produces the smell and can cause the entire clutch to fail.

Charred Oil

Smelling burnt oil? The first move is to check your oil's dipstick. Burnt oil means that you might be running out of oil or your engine could also be too hot. If you have enough oil and your temperature is normal, take a look for oil leaks and then check your transmission fluid. If it’s low, it is likely burning in the transmission because the gears aren’t properly lubricated and are causing massive friction. Also be certain that you’re using the proper type of engine oil that is suggested by the manufacturer and designed for your car.

Musty Closet

If you flip on the heater or air conditioner and it smells like a musty closet or a wet carpet, you could have mildew accumulating inside your air conditioning evaporator. Without hesitation, shut down the A/C and turn on just the fan to hopefully dry it out and alleviate the situation. 

Burnt Carpet

A burnt carpet smell, especially after over working your brakes, could mean that your vehicle’s brake pads are pistol hot. Even worse, you left the hand brake on. Take your vehicle to a mechanic to replace the worn brake pads.  

By sniffing around for these odorous warnings, you can get your vehicle hopefully to a service center pronto in order to diagnose the source. And if you're in Cottonwood or anywhere in AZ and in close proximity to us, we'd love to help you in any way we can. One of our certified technicians can surmise what these foul odors can mean, but by staying vigilant and putting your nose to work, you too can discover the source.

Sources: Wikipedia, Car Sense and AAA

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