When a car smells like burning rubber, this can only mean bad things. A strange smell like this is usually a clear sign to the driver that something is wrong with the car’s mechanics.
If you think about it, your car is like a kitchen where different kinds of food with different smells are made. There is complicated wiring, a lot of different fluids, the clutch, tires, and a gas-powered engine that make a lot of different smells. These smells can be anything from the smell of burning plastic to the smell of burning oil to the smell of a burning carpet. This short guide will focus on the burning rubber smell, which is the most common smell that most drivers notice.
1. Loose Rubber Hose
It’s likely that your car smells like burning rubber because something made of rubber is burning somewhere. In fact, this is the main reason why loose rubber hose is the biggest problem in this guide.
So, before you even think about anything else, you should park your car on the side of the road and quickly check the rubber hoses that connect the engine to the car. Most of the time, a loose rubber hose, especially a coolant hose, will show up early enough in the way the engine runs as a whole.
Now, rubber hoses are an important part of an engine’s performance because most cars today are turbocharged and need coolant hoses that are complicated to get the coolant from the radiator to the engine. These rubber hoses can sometimes come loose because the engine is vibrating or because the plastic connectors that hold them in place have cracks or other damage.
Once they get loose, these rubber tubes are likely to touch hot parts of the engine and get burned. This is what causes the smell of burning rubber.
Rubber hoses in the engine system can wear off at the ends because of vibrations and high temperatures. Check these areas carefully, and don’t forget to look for cracks or other damage in the plastic connectors. If they are loose, just tighten them, and if they are worn out, just replace them.
2. Problems with the electricity
Electrical short-circuiting is the second most likely cause of a burning rubber smell. It came in second because most of the wires in your car are covered with rubber flex or plastic to keep them safe and well-insulated. Now, an electrical problem is easy to spot, just like a loose rubber hose, because the electrical parts of your car tend to dim when they don’t get enough power.
You may also be able to tell there’s a problem if there’s a strong rubber smell in the car, which will come through the AC vents on the dashboard. Now, drivers have been short-circuiting for a long time. It can sometimes happen when loose cables touch a hot engine, burning the rubber insulation.
Sometimes the problem happens when the cables are carrying more weight than they can handle, which causes them to heat up and melt the rubber insulation. Whether the problem is caused by blown fuses or damage from rodents, it should be looked at as soon as possible. If you don’t, your battery could be damaged or, worse, a fire could start.
So, to fix this problem, you should pull over to the side of the road and check the wiring system quickly. If you can’t, you can either drive your car to the nearest garage or have it towed to the garage of your choice.
Now, during the inspection, your mechanic will check the wiring that connects the engine control module (ECM) to the engine’s coolant temperature sensor (ECT). Your mechanic will then use your car’s electrical wiring diagram (EWD) and a multimeter to test the wiring system and try to find the bad circuit.
He or she will also check the load connectors and fuses to make sure they are not broken. With the help of the multimeter and the EWD, your mechanic will finally be able to fix the problem by finding the exact location of the short circuit.
3. The Brakes
If you tend to hit the brakes hard and often, there’s a good chance that your braking system will start to smell like burning rubber. Also, if you drive downhill and hit the brakes or apply the brakes a lot, the same problem could happen.
Now, you already know that your vehicle’s brakes work because of friction. When the brake pads and discs don’t have enough time to cool down, the burning rubber smell can happen. Second, the burning rubber smell is likely to happen if you just installed new brake parts, like new brake pads. This is because the resin on your brake pads is curing.
Lastly, if you park your car next to a hill and forget to release the emergency brake before driving away, this can also cause a burning rubber smell as you try to move your car with the handbrake on. Even though this is normal, if you smell burning and hear screeching, grinding, or other high-pitched noises, the problem is serious and needs to be looked at right away.
The first step in fixing your brakes is to make sure the handbrake is off before you start driving. Also, look at how often and how hard you use the brakes. If you use them too hard, try to avoid doing them as much as possible.
Lastly, you need to have your car checked out by a professional mechanic. Here, your mechanic will raise the back of your car on a jack so he or she can check the brake pads, rotors, and calipers. Your mechanic will check the brake hoses that bring brake fluid to the calipers.
The main reason the calipers need to be checked is to make sure that the brake fluid doesn’t leak out when the brake pedals are pressed and released, which can cause the brake pads to keep rubbing against the rotor.
The last thing your mechanic will do is check the brake pads to make sure they aren’t too thick. When the brake pads are thicker than usual, they might fit too tightly and rub against the rotor. This can also cause the smell of rubber on fire.
4. Damaged Drive Belt
The third thing that could make your car smell like burning rubber is if the serpentine belt is in bad shape. Now, there’s a belt in the engine. This belt is an important part that runs all the time to important power parts of the engine, like the alternator, power steering, air conditioning system, and cooling system.
Now, since the serpentine belt is usually made of rubber, it can get damaged and start to smell like burning rubber if it is broken. For example, there could be dirt between the grooves of the belt and the ridges of the pulley. There could also be contact with oil and grease, constant exposure to very high temperatures, and frequent contact with foreign objects in its path.
A burning rubber smell could also come from the serpentine belt if one of the parts it’s supposed to power suddenly stops working. Since the belt is made to turn as long as the engine is running, it will keep turning and running against the pulley, which causes more friction and a smell like burning rubber.
You will probably hear an annoying squealing sound if the problem is caused by a broken drive belt. At this point, it’s clear that the drive belt is broken, so you have no choice but to get a new one.
5. Gasket Problems
The next thing that could cause your car to smell like burning rubber is oil leaking from the gaskets. So, what is a gasket to begin with? In simple terms, a gasket is a cover that seals the gap between the two pieces of an engine block. Even though it’s not a technical part, a gasket controls how much oil and coolant from the alternator gets to the engine. It also keeps the oil and coolant from mixing with the mixture of fuel and air in the engine’s combustion chamber.
So, when the gasket breaks, it usually lets out hot oil, which drips onto important engine parts like rubber hoses and electrical wiring, frying them and making them smell like rubber. Also, since most of the engine’s parts are wrapped in plastic, some of these plastic parts can also give off the smell of burning rubber when they’re overheated in the engine.
A burning rubber smell could also come from oil that has leaked onto the exhaust system.
As we’ve already said, a head gasket is an important part that keeps the engine block and cylinder heads from touching each other. Depending on the model of your car, the gasket seal can be made of steel, copper, or a combination of materials like graphite and asbestos.
So, the first thing you should do to solve this problem is to crawl under the car and see how bad the damage is. Here, you will check the oil pan seals, the oil pan drain plugs, the timing cover seals, and the valve cover gaskets.
Once you know which parts are leaking, you can start fixing them by adding a stop leak product like BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak or No Leak Engine Oil Stop Leak. The best thing about these oil leak additives is that they can soften and condition the rubber seals in your engine to stop oil leaks for good.
When you’re finished, get a torque wrench and look for any bolts that aren’t tight. You can start with the oil pan, work your way up to the cover for the timing belt, and end with the valve covers.
6. Too Tight a Grip
If you are driving a car with a manual transmission, the rubber-burning smell could come from a clutch that is on fire. Now, the clutch’s job in a car with a manual transmission is to make it easier to go from a stop to moving forward. It also helps the driver change gears by making sure that the engine speed matches that of the transmission.
If you’re a beginner who is still learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission, you might ride the clutch too hard. This means holding down the clutch halfway and keeping your foot on the gas pedal.
For smooth gear changes, the clutch works by pressing against the flywheel. Pressing it halfway makes it grind against the flywheel, which causes friction to build up. This rubbing is what makes the rubber smell like it is burning. Since the clutch is made of paper composition, the smell is more like burning newspapers.
The first thing you can do to fix this is to stop riding the clutch and learn how to drive a car with a manual transmission well. But if the problem has gotten worse, you’ll need to take your car to a professional mechanic for a more thorough check.
Here, your mechanic will take the whole flywheel off so that it can be looked at more closely. Your mechanic will fix any problems that show signs of wear and tear. He or she will also fix the crankshaft flange by getting rid of any debris, dirt, and grime before putting it back in place. They will also check the bolts on the flywheel and replace the clutch disk if it is broken.
7. Coolant Leaking from the radiator
If your car smells like burning rubber, it could be because coolant is leaking from the radiator into the hot engine. Just like the other fluids in your car’s engine, the coolant in the radiator is important because it keeps the engine from getting too hot. This is done by mixing with the cold air that comes in through the radiator while the car is moving. This is obvious, but it is not obvious when you smell burning rubber because the coolant is on fire.
Why does coolant leak from a radiator? Just like the rest of your car’s parts, the coolant in the radiator is stored in a tank that can be damaged by vibrations, holes, and corrosion. Leaking coolant from the radiator to the engine can also be caused by a blown gasket. Corrosion and damage to the radiator tubes or loose connections between the tubes are other causes.
The first step in fixing a radiator that is leaking coolant is to find out where the leak is coming from. If the problem is caused by holes in the radiator tubes, you can replace them or use a radiator stop leak concentrate to permanently seal the holes. Your mechanic will also check the radiator and head gasket to see if they are the cause of the leak. If they are, they will be fixed.
Burning rubber isn’t a pleasant smell, especially when it builds up inside your car while you’re driving. But it does a very important job of letting you know if something is wrong under the hood while you’re driving. This way, you won’t be surprised by a worst-case scenario because you already know about the danger.
If your car’s computer system doesn’t notice the problem and shows you an alert on your dashboard, the best thing to do is pull over to the side of the road and try to fix it before continuing your drive.
If the problem is really bad, you should make an appointment at the nearest auto shop so that a professional mechanic can look at your car. This way, they can find the real problem and fix it before it gets worse.