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car showing fumes coming up through the floor of the car

Check your car for unusual smells. Different smells on the inside or outside of your car can indicate issues with your car.

Unlike with noise or vibration, unusual smells are easier to detect because they are usually more noticeable. There will always be background noise and normal vibrations in a car, but the smell is usually more or less neutral.

It is important to be vigilant of strange smells in your car. Here are some things to look out for (sorted by urgency).

Check for the smell of exhaust fumes inside your car. The smell of exhaust fumes inside the car should be great cause for concern. It’s an indicator that exhaust gas is getting into the cabin of the car from somewhere under the vehicle.

If you smell exhaust gas in your car, stop driving and call a qualified mechanic to assess the issue before driving again. Exhaust gas contains carbon monoxide, which can cause loss of consciousness and even death if inhaled.

Check for the smell of gas or oil. The smell of gas or oil usually indicates that there is a problem with one of those fluids leaking in the engine bay.

Gas can leak from around the tank or from underneath the car as well, but that would cause puddles of fuel to collect on the pavement, which would likely be noticed before the smell.

Ensure that you get a mechanic to check out either of these smells right away, as the problems that cause them are likely to get worse.

Check for the smell of coolant. Coolant smells uniquely sweet and is easy to pick out among leak-related car smells.

If coolant is leaking out, then the engine is probably not being cooled sufficiently and could become damaged in the event of overheating. Contact a qualified professional to address any issue with an unidentified smell in the car.

Check for the smell of sulphur. A couple of different parts can cause the smell of sulphur to be released if they are damaged or malfunctioning. These include the battery and catalytic converter. If the battery becomes overcharged, or if the catalytic converter begins to fail, then you will notice the smell of sulphur in or around the vehicle. In some instances, problems with the fuel system can also produce this odor.

Check for the smell of burnt wood or rubber. When they experience too much friction and heat up, components that experience friction can produce smells that resemble burning wood or rubber. Parts such as the brake pads or the clutch will produce such smells.

Check for the smell of mold or mildew. If your interior smells like mildew or mold, the problem likely lies with the air circulation system. The smell probably originates from the cabin air filter, especially if it has not been changed recently. However, a number of issues with the AC or heating units can also cause such an odor.


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