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Strange Exhaust Smell? Here’s What It Means

Nov 21, 2022

Bad smell in car

It’s a sentence you never want to utter when it comes to your car: What’s that smell? If you’re a parent, it’s probably best to investigate the backseat for the culprit: old gym shorts, dirty soccer socks … maybe a  moldering sandwich that’s been forgotten? But if it’s a persistent — and particular — smell, here are some common odors from your car, and what they mean.

Freon Easy Down the Road I Go

Back in the 1990s, carmakers used odorless Freon in a vehicle’s air-conditioning system. In modern vehicles, they use a gas called R-134A, and it smells more than a bit medicinal. This gas is more environmentally friendly than Freon. And don’t worry: This gas odor isn’t the Ether Bunny come to put you to sleep. Instead, this smell might tell you that your air-conditioning system is leaking. Pay close attention to the smell, too, because if it smells moldy, a leak in your AC system may be spreading harmful bacteria into the cabin of your vehicle. If you smell either of those things, it’s time to get your AC system checked by a professional like the ones at our Service Center.

Can’t You Smell That Smell

Let’s talk about a couple of other odors that you could smell. Get a whiff of burning rubber? There are a couple of possibilities that spring to mind. If you drive a standard-shift vehicle, a burning clutch often smells like burning rubber. But it could also be possible that oil is leaking onto the engine and burning off. A failing belt is the most likely culprit, but the other possibilities have to be eliminated. The best way to do that is through an inspection from a certified technician. If you smell fuel inside the cabin of your vehicle, don’t panic: You may have tracked in some trace amount of gasoline the last time you fueled up. But if that smell persists, then you need to get it checked out. It could be a leaky fuel line, which could result in major problems if it’s not addressed quickly.

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Act Sooner Rather Than Later

When you find a persistent smell that you can’t explain, it’s best to take your vehicle in to get it inspected. This will potentially prevent further damage to the engine. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Take care of it now.