Burning smell from a car? Find the cause

No that’s not a bonfire you’re smelling, it’s some kind of burning smell coming from your car! Don’t panic. In this article we’ll help explain the possible causes of the burning smell inside your car and what you should do next.

car tyre smoke

Brakes giving off burning smell

Brakes in their nature heat up and can produce a burning smell if they’re pushed hard and often. It’s not just from trying to emulate a formula 1 braking habits, even driving down steep roads can cause your brakes to overheat especially if the hill is long. Sometimes this brake smell happens occasionally in intensive driving conditions but take care from doing it again especially if it’s down to your driving (or racing) style. Leaving the handbrake or parking brake on is a common cause of this brake smell, so check it’s not applied. Occasionally the brake system can fail and seize which causes the brake to be on all the time, which may be the cause of the brake smell. You’ll probably also get a warning on your dashboard. If this happens frequently then best to get it checked out at a car garage for your own safety.

Burning clutch smell

Clutches can produce a burning smell when the face of the clutch burns off during a clutch slip. The burning smell of a clutch can give the aroma of a burning newspaper when this happens – the clutch face is composed of a paper-like material. To prevent this from getting worse make sure that your clutch control is clean and smooth. Continuous bad clutch habits will eventually mean the clutch has to be repaired. Ensuring that you let go of the clutch pedal before touching the accelerator pedal can help prolong the life of the clutch.

Electrical shorting smell

Electrical circuits can also produce a burning smell when they short circuit or overload. You’ll get a plastic burning smell which is likely to be produced by the covers around the electrical wires or fuses melting. It’s essential that you repair the fault straight away and switch everything off as soon as you canto prevent further damage to other electrical components or create a car fire altogether.

Burning rubber possibly from your tyres

Should the car smoke give off a rubbery smell then it’s likely to be coming from the tyres overheating. Pushing the tyres on sharp corners in hot weather, locking up the tyres or producing wheel-spin can give off this odour. Continuing to push the tyres to the extreme could either cause tyre fire (in extreme circumstances), blowouts, or flat areas on the tyre, making the life of the tyre considerably shorter and potentially unsafe.

Burning oil smell

Leaking oil from the car can also cause it to drip on to hot components and give a burning oil whiff which is noticeable either inside or outside the car. Check underneath the car for any leaks and also under the bonnet for any signs. Hopefully it’s not a major fault but again it’s always best to get it assessed by your local garage.

Car heater smells

Burning smells coming from the air vents inside the car is a sure fire way to diagnose a problem with your heater. Sometimes it could be dust or muck just being burnt off in the system – you’ve probably noticed this smell when you switch your house radiators on after the summer and it goes away shortly. Should a constant burning smell emulate from the air vents then have a look underneath the bonnet to see if there is any debris stuck in the car’s vents. Another cause could be the heater has broken down completely and needs further investigation to diagnose the issue, as there are many elements inside it which could have failed.

Need help diagnosing the car burning smell?

At MCM Garage we’re experts at diagnosing faults and issues with cars. If you’re concerned with your car whether it’s producing burning smells or just needs a look over, we’d be happy to help if you live in Bath or the surrounding areas. Please call us on 01761 415 501 to book an appointment or contact us online.