Woman Blocks Nose in Drivers Seat of Car

What is that bad car smell?

The older a car gets the more things can begin to wear down or go into disrepair. This is especially true if you or a previous owner didn’t take especially good care of the vehicle throughout its life up to this point. If you’re beginning to hear some things that don’t exactly sound normal, or perhaps even worse beginning to notice a bad smell in your car, you might be wondering what exactly is causing that? Well, we can’t tell you for sure without smelling it ourselves, but if it fits into one of these descriptors below perhaps you can deduce it on your own.

[ READ MORE: Tips to Keep Your Car from Overheating ]


This smell generally kicks off as you turn on the air conditioner, emanating from the vents. The likely cause of this is mold or mildew growth within the unit. This isn’t particularly dangerous, but certainly annoying.


If there’s a sweet scent, perhaps even syrupy, then you might have a leak in your cooling system. This means antifreeze might be leaking into your cabin, which is definitely bad for your health, so get this checked out right away.


Rusty Drum BrakeSeveral things could lead to a burning odor, the most common being oil leaking onto a hot part of your car’s engine, overheated brake pads or rotors, or – in a manual transmission vehicle – a worn-out clutch plate. None of these things are particularly good and should be addressed quickly. However, it might also just be burning leaves underneath your hood.

Rotten Eggs

The smell of rotten eggs emanating from your vehicle is almost always caused by a bad catalytic converter. You’ll want to get this looked at pretty quickly.


If you’re smelling burnt rubber and weren’t, well, “burning rubber,” then you might have a slipping drive belt. This can also be caused by the aforementioned worn-out clutch plate as well. Both are important to get fixed in a timely fashion.


If you have a burnt electrical odor in your vehicle, it’s likely caused by a short circuit. This can lead to a fire in your vehicle, meaning you’ll definitely want to get this problem addressed as soon as possible.


If the smell of gas persists long after you start your vehicle up, or if you can already smell it in your parked car before turning the ignition, you might have a leak or a clog which can be quite dangerous. You don’t want to ignite the fuel, so get this looked at immediately.

If you’re uncertain, just bring your vehicle into Broadway Automotive and we can figure out what’s wrong for you. Bad smells are nothing to mess around with, especially in older vehicles!