smell of rubber in cabin of car

Why Does My Car Smell Like Burning Rubber?

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.

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 Automotive 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.

What Are Your Thoughts?

  1. I am driving the Toyota Auries 2016 model. There is a smell like burning wire or rubber. Bought the car only in May 2017

  2. Most cars will have a three year warranty at a minimum. I would suggest getting in touch with the dealership first. Have you tried the suggestions as mentioned within this article?

  3. Why would my aircon smell stale after I’ve done a burnout? Now when I turn the aircon on I get a stale smell why would that be?

  4. I have a 2014 Toyota Camry. Have been driving it without issues. Servicing the vehicle has been done religiously and on time. In the past few weeks however, there has been this worrisome burning, rubbery smell when the engine is running

  5. Hey Margaret – Does the burning smell occur when the engine is hot only? Or all the time i.e. on cold start?

  6. My 2013 Hyundai Elantra having that smell whenever i am driving 100km/hr on a highway or when overtaking….

  7. Hi there. 2016 Jeep renegade returning from a one hour drive. Live offroad down rough track so had driven 0.5 mile in 1st gear. Got out to open my gate, put the park brake on and left the engine idling. A loud screech emanated from the passenger side of the front of the car. Right hand drive so left side of car. By the time I had climbed back behind the wheel to check for any warning lights, the screech had stopped. This was followed by an external hot/burning rubber smell which quickly disappeared with no obvious sign of where it had come from. Engine temperature had not changed during any of this. I drove the other 0.5 mile to my home with no problems. Have since left the car idling with no problems. No warning lights. AC seems to be working. Any ideas?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *