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6 reasons on why does my car smell like burning oil

Why does my car smell like burning oil

The smell of burning oil is often nothing to worry about, but why does my car smell like it’s burning oil? You may have experienced the smell of oil burning when driving your vehicle. It can be an alarming situation, as you may fear something seriously wrong with your car. However, there may be a simple explanation for this smell.

Your car can smell like burning oil for many reasons, such as improper oil change, loose oil filter or damaged oil plug, leaking engine oil, old engine oil, leaking coolant, a clogged or worn heater, slipping clutch, low transmission fluid, and overheating. Those are the major reasons your car can smell like burning oil.

Also, your car’s engine and its many moving parts generate heat and friction, which not only makes your vehicle go, it also generates byproducts that include burning oil and gases. Much like a fine wine, these byproducts have delicate aromas released when the engine is off. The byproducts don’t hurt anyone, but their pungent scents can make it hard to enjoy the ride home.

Additionally, your car’s exhaust system is mostly responsible for the unpleasant odor. Over time, oil can collect in your muffler. This situation leads to oil slipping past your muffler and getting burned by your car’s engine. The result is that you get used to the car smelling bad. It is easy to solve this problem on your own.

Why does my car smell like burning oil?

Why does my car smell like burning oil

If your car smells like burning oil, you should take it to a professional auto technician right away. However, it is not a bad thing for you to know the cause or the reason for the smell. So, below are possible reasons your car smell like burning oil.

1. Low oil in the engine

Low oil in the engine can cause your car to smell like it’s burning oil. Without enough oil, the engine will become hot and smoke and produce black exhaust. So, it’s important to refill your engine with the right amount of oil every time you fill up on gas and check for oil leaks regularly.

If you notice that your car is burning oil, pour some into the dipstick tube and take it to a mechanic for inspection.

2. Leaking oil

Leaky valves can cause your car’s engine to lose oil, which can then cause it to smell. The driver or passenger often notices this smell when the car has been idling a while, and the hot engine has heated some of the oil that’s seeped onto other operating parts.

3. Low transmission fluid

The transmission fluid primarily lubricates and cools your car’s automatic or semi-automatic transmission. If the transmission fluid becomes dirty or contaminated, it can leave residue on the transmission’s internal gears and pistons, which can cause them to wear out prematurely.

Also, low transmission fluid can cause the car to smoke, leading to a burning smell. If the internal parts of your transmission start to wear down, they may no longer provide a consistent level of performance, resulting in a loss of efficiency and a rough ride.

4. Improper Oil Change

The burning oil smell is typical in cars because of improperly performed oil changes. An oil change is an essential maintenance task that must be performed on a routine basis. Improper car oil changes can cause issues such as burning oil smell and an increase in exhaust smoke and could cause engine failure in the long run.

5. Loose oil filter

If your car has a burning oil odor when you are driving, it could mean a loose or broken oil filter. This can cause serious and expensive engine problems. You can often smell the burning oil before any engine irregularities show up.  

If you smell burning oil ignited by a loose oil filter, immediately get your car to the nearest shop for inspection. When you get there, tell them how much oil your car loses every week or two. This can provide a clue as to why your car smells like burning oil and if it’s a simple fix or not.

6. Burning coolant

In some cases, the burning smell can be coming from the burning of leaking coolant. Coolant is designed to protect your engine from overheating and ultimately damage. Due to the high heat of the engine, the coolant has a very short life span.

As it starts to wear down and lose its ability to block heat buildup, it begins to leak out into other areas of your engine. When you notice an odor, the damage may have already begun.

What does burn oil smell like?

Why does my car smell like burning oil

The smell of burning engine oil in your car tells you that your vehicle needs immediate attention. The oil is being overworked, leading to larger problems with the car’s engine and requiring repairs. Burnt oil can also signify other engine problems, such as an overheated radiator or wires.

Also, you may smell the smell of burning oil in a car because of the engine leaking at the gasket. The gasket seals the engine and is usually made of rubber or plastic. Oil leaks out of the engine when there is a leak in the gasket. The oil burn smells unpleasant, but it is not dangerous. However, it is better to fix it as soon as possible to avoid more damage to the engine.

If you notice a foul or unpleasant odor coming from your car, you may have an issue with leaking oil. Oil serves many purposes in your vehicle; it lubricates the moving parts and cools the engine. If tiny amounts of oil seep through several areas of the engine and out of your car, it will give an unpleasant burning oil smell.

Why am I constantly smelling car exhaust fumes?

Why does my car smell like burning oil

Some of the reasons why you may be smelling car exhaust fumes. Your vehicle is running less efficiently than it used to in the past. Also, if there is a problem with the catalyst, you might smell something coming from your tailpipe.

Apart from the fact that it shows the unhealthy state of one’s car, car exhaust fumes can be a serious health hazard to people exposed to them daily. Exhaust fumes are a problem that people just don’t think about.

Exhaust smells can invade your car, your vehicle’s interior, and even your clothes. Over time, toxic substances in exhaust fumes have been linked to health problems such as heart disease, lung cancer, and emphysema. So, you must take your car to the mechanic once you notice the fumes in larger proportion. 

Car smells like burning oil after driving

If your car smells like burning oil after you drive it, various causes can be there. The most common are small engine components, like the valve cover gasket, that seep oil and catches fire or the catalytic converter fails.

It can be unpleasant when your car smells like the engine is burning. It’s not a fire, and it usually doesn’t lead to one, but the cause can make you uncomfortable. Therefore, you need to get to your mechanic’s workshop.

Also, if you have a burning oil smell coming from your car, it is probably due to internal engine components breaking down. This will normally happen once the oil has burnt off and leaves behind a residue that mixes with the water inside of your coolant system.

When your car is idling or up to speed, this mixture sends combustion gases out of the tailpipe, which then smells like burning oil. The engine itself is still fine, and it’s just wearing out as a result of age and use. The most common cause for this is simply using too little oil during your oil changes.

Your engine needs fresh oil to make sure it runs properly and lubricates any moving parts. It should take about 4L-4.5L of oil to fill up an engine when doing an oil change. Please note that if you notice a loud ticking noise from the top end of your engine (anything from cylinders 6-10), this may be a lifter issue.

The lifters in these engines are worn items and tend to fail after around 50-60k kilometres. If you still cannot find the reason for the smell after your observation of all everything mentioned, you should visit your mechanic.

Burning smell from Car AC

The smell of burning plastic can come from the air conditioning vents. If this does happen to you, simply turn off the air source to that particular vent. This can be done by turning the dial on the dashboard or pulling the knob at the end of the vent.

If you notice the smell coming from your AC, you should drive down to your mechanic’s shop to get the issue fixed as soon as possible. 

Why does my engine smell like burnt oil?

Why does my car smell like burning oil

Do you smell an oil-burning smell in your car or truck? Is it only an occasional smell? Or, does your engine smell like burnt oil all the time? Well, there could be two possible explanations for this. The first and most likely cause is that your engine needs a motor oil change and a good quality oil filter. The second and much less likely, or even impossible reason, would be that you have a serious internal engine problem with your automobile.

Several reasons I have discussed above might be one of the causes, and you should scroll up to read those again. However, getting your car to your mechanic for a proper checkup is the perfect thing to do.

Why does my car smell like oil but with no leak?

It’s common for vehicles to smell like an oil leak even though no leak exists. It stems from the fact that most modern cars are run by a four-stroke internal combustion engine, which generates a lot of excess oil. While it isn’t something to worry about, it can be annoying, and you may have noticed it more with today’s gasoline containing a higher percentage of ethanol.

However, it is something you need to look into. This means other reasons could cause the car to smell, aside from oil leaks. Therefore, you need to check all other options to see if any could be the reason for the smell.

If you still can’t find the reason after all your effort, I suggest that you take the car to the mechanic for a proper checkup.

Why does my car smell like it’s overheating, but it’s not?

You’re cruising down the street, and all of a sudden, what can only be described as hell begins to smell somewhat like burning plastic–imagine that. You immediately slow down your car and pull into the nearest business parking lot.

After checking the temperature gauge and seeing that it’s reading normal, you still have to find out why it smells like something is burning in your car. It could mean a major engine problem is occurring, so it’s crucial to figure out what’s going on before getting behind the wheel again.

There are several reasons your car will make smell like it is overheating. So, you must check all possible causes we already have on this page to ensure you are doing all it takes to keep your car in good condition.

Is it safe to drive a car with a burning oil smell?

Driving with your car filled with the stench of burning oil can be seriously unpleasant and even risky. Find out how to deal with this as it can cause serious damage to the engine. The most common cause of a burning oil smell in the car is oil leaking onto something hot.

For example, a leaky valve cover, oil filter housing gasket, or oil change adapter gasket can all lead to that telltale burning smell. It is best to have the issue diagnosed by a certified mechanic who will only replace the parts needed with your safety in mind.


If you are here to find out why does my car smell like burning oil? You are just in the right place. It is not safe to drive your car with a burning oil smell. Burning oil is likely to cause serious damage to the engine. It’s good for your car’s engine and components to check in for professional help.

If a car is burning oil, there may be an oil leak and it could also mean other engine problems, which we have discussed on this page above. It’s always best to have a certified mechanic perform a thorough inspection of your vehicle to identify the problem and recommend the best course of action.