Why Does My Car Smell Like Burning Rubber After Driving?

Wondering why burnt rubber smells from my car

There are many strange odors you must be on the lookout for when driving your car. One of them, perhaps the most serious one is the car smells like burning rubber after driving.

This peculiar smell may be caused due to various reasons. Here are the eight main reasons why your car might give off this smell:

  1. Engine Oil Leakage
  2. Electrical Short Circuit
  3. Worn-Out Or Loose Hose
  4. Foreign Object Burning
  5. Failing Clutch
  6. Radiator Coolant Leakage
  7. Overheated Brakes
  8. Overheated Drive Belts

Like with any other indicator in your car, the burnt rubber smell is simply a warning that you should take care and find out what is causing it.

Here are some of the additional indicators to point out the exact source of the odor-causing part.

8 Reasons Why Your Car Smells Like Burnt Rubber

1. Engine Oil Leakage

This is perhaps the most serious of cases and should all point to this cause, your car needs to be looked at by a professional.

The burnt rubber smell is given off oil that slips in the engine while it is running.

Though there are many seals and intermittent gaskets preventing engine oil from leaking, it may still occur after many years of driving or heavy use of the vehicle.

The odor is given off by oil dripping on one of the hot compartments of the car.

This means that the engine is less lubricated than necessary and could result from a crack to engine fire if not dealt with immediately.

2. Electrical Short Circuit

Another common reason why you might be smelling burnt rubber is a short in the electrical circuits.

Usually, you will sense this smell briefly through your A/C. One of the reasons could be a burnt-out fuse.

You may easily check if this is the source of the smell by opening your fuse box in the engine and check for burnt ones.

If indeed this is the case, then you can easily replace it on your own by purchasing one from the local auto-parts shop.

But, keep in mind that if the same fuse blows again it may be an indication that there is another mechanical issue to deal with.

3. Worn-Out Or Lose Hose

When you have been driving for a while many parts of the car will become overheated. This may result in a hose melting.

Since not all of the internal hosing system in your engine is made of the same materials, only specific hoses will give-off the burnt rubber odor.

If this is indeed the cause of the smell, then you may also see white smoke, a noticeable difference in pressure, or even a puddle of liquid under your engine.

4. Foreign Object Burning

This could be anything from an object you picked up while driving to something that might have been forgotten when you run a hasty check of your engine. It can easily be resolved.

All you need to do is pop your hood up and carefully examine all parts of your engine. More often than not people may find rubbish such as plastic bags that have melted off on their engine.

Don’t limit your check only to the top part of your engine. Be sure to look under it and also run a thorough check of your exhaust pipe to make sure nothing out of place is there either.

5. Failing Clutch

More often than not the smell of burnt rubber may be caused by a clutch that has been worn out and does not work properly. This applies only to stick-shift cars, not automatic ones.

As the clutch is used to shift gear, many people forget to take their foot off the clutch, resulting in excessive friction used on the clutch and consecutive wearing.

Notice while driving if both of your feet are on the pedals, clutch, and gas. This may mean you have worn out your clutch and need to replace it.

Another indication pointing to this source of the burnt rubber odor is that the car may be slipping while driving and the gears won’t change as easily.

6. Radiator Coolant Leakage

This leakage is also very serious and you should have a mechanic look at your car if you discover this is the cause of the burnt rubber smell.

It means that the engine’s cooling system does not function properly. This could lead to engine overheat and potential blow-out of a casket or every crack of your engine.

A few other indicators are accompanying the rubber odor should this be the case. Be on the lookout for orange or green-colored paddles under your engine or even at the bottom part of your radiator.

7. Overheated Brakes

Your car’s braking system functions on discs that are connected through special pads. While you are breaking, these pads will create friction between the discs and cause deceleration of your car.

Since it is the friction between the pads and the discs that help the car slow down, nervous breaking or driving on a road with steep slopes regularly may result in the wearing of the pads much sooner than usual.

If this is the case then you should schedule an appointment with your mechanic to have a look.

On the other hand, the burn rubber smell could be caused by sticking brake pads.

It could be attributed to several reasons; from a sticking brake caliper to a malfunctioning braking system resulting even in a fire.

An easy way to discover if this is causing the burnt rubber odor is by carefully examining your wheels after driving.

If one of them is hotter than the rest, then you know this is what is causing the strange smell. Take extra care during this test, as the wheels tend to get hot anyway after driving.

8. Overheated Drive Belts

Though the failure or malfunction of the drive belt is the result, the cause may be the failure of many other components in your car.

If your AC is malfunctioning, or your power steering system is blocked, or even the alternator or the water pump doesn’t work, it will all lead to an overheating of the belt.

The belt functions by rotating constantly and keeping the car in motion. Failure of any of the above-mentioned systems leads to excessive friction and overheating of the belt.

Should this be the case, the belt needs to be substituted with a new one. Of course, this means that the failing part that led to the belt overheating should be checked as well.

There are a couple of ways to indicate that your belt is overheated. Pop your hood open and check the rotation of the belt-engine idle always.

Is it functioning properly? It could be just that you need to tighten a few things or your mechanic, and it will ok.

But if there is a squealing sound that you distinctly hear while driving, then perhaps your best bet is to pay your mechanic a visit.

Needless to say, if the belt overheats it may lead to complete failure of it. So, it’s best you have your car looked at right away.

In A Nutshell

Detecting a burnt rubber smell after you are driving may indicate a minor issue, such as a plastic bag stuck somewhere in your engine, to a serious concern like an oil leakage.

Knowing how to best identify the cause of the odor could potentially save the energy and money of letting it become more serious.

The sooner you can identify the source, the more effectively you resolve it.

After all, there is nothing better than driving a car you can rely upon that will get you where you want safely.


Written by Kane Dan

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