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Why Does My Car Smell Like Burning Rubber?

smell of rubber in cabin of car

The smell of rubber is not the most pleasant of smells entering your cabin. The most common question is what causes the burning rubber smell in the car?

If you have just performed a well executed burnout, the smell of burning rubber will remain for a few days after. This is because it can become caked up within the arch of your car, which can be fairly difficult to remove without a bit of elbow grease.

Regardless of the odor smell, it should never be ignored. It is the cars own unique way of telling you that something is wrong and needs attention. The tires can omit a strong smell of rubber when used for burnouts, drifting or racing.

However, below are 7 reasons why your car may smell of burning rubber.

Table of Contents

Wheel Rubbing On The Arch

If you have recently lowered your car or installed new wheels, you may find that you have misjudged the fitment. As you are driving along, you can be slightly touching the fender but this contact causes a large amount of friction.

The friction will give a burning rubber smell but will also damage the tires and the arch. To fix this, simply use a tool to roll the fenders, which will give your wheel more clearance from within the wheel arch.

Rubber Hose Disconnected

A hose that becomes disconnected can become in contact with the engine as you are driving. The running temperature of the engine will cause the rubber to melt and the smell of the burning rubber will move towards the cabin of the car.

Alongside a loose rubber hose pipe, you should notice something else wrong with the car otherwise the hose would be pointless. Check all the hoses and reconnect the loose one before it melts completely.

burning rubber smell from engine

Burning Synthetic Oil

Compared to regular oil, high quality fully synthetic oil gives a burning rubber smell. The oil leak can progress to the hot exhaust, which will burn the oil residue and could potentially cause a fire if too much oil burnt. If you know this is the cause, be sure to have an automotive fire extinguisher in the car in case of a fire and get the car to a mechanic.

However, if you have just performed an oil change as part of your cars full service, spillage is very likely. The spillage may find its way to various parts of the engine and once burnt once, it will not come back. When the engine is cold, try to wipe down all oil stains and perform a detail of your engine bay if it is that messy.

Plastic Hitting The Hot Exhaust

Plastic such as a shopping bag can easily find its way tangled under your car. The exhaust is the most common place for a plastic bag to get tangled and once hot, it will burn. The distinctive smell of burning rubber will be clear but hard to diagnose.

Be sure to check all sections of your exhaust for anything plastic and remove it once the car has cooled down.

Electrical Short

If an electrical component or fuse has shorted out, the plastic around it will melt and produce a burning rubber smell. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact location of an electrical circuit short but we strongly advise on using a digital automotive multimeter.

Drive Belt Melting

If the drive belt is spinning on the pulley from other components such as the alternator or air conditioning packing up, a burning smell will be evident. If you also hear a squealing noise too, you can place high stakes on the drive belt melting that is causing the burning rubber smell.

Still No Luck Finding Burning Rubber Smell?

If all else fails, using a OBD2 Car Scanner, perform a scan for error codes that could indicate the source of the smell. The codes stored could lead to the mystery becoming solved. Anything from a damage air conditioning unit to the heater can cause the horrible rubber smell.

procarreviews author

Written By Dan

About the Author

Dan is an automotive journalist and owner of over 10 cars ranging from supercars, tuned cars, classics and your good old beater cars. He always likes to get his hands dirty with nut and bolt restorations or detailing sessions using the best products on the market.

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