Why Does My Car Smell Like Burnt Rubber?

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We all know that the smell of burning rubber like many other odors is quite unpleasant to deal with. But what if the source of that burning rubber smell is coming from your car? If you’re dealing with this stinky situation, it’s important to figure out the cause so you can fix the problem otherwise you may end up with some serious damage.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the most common reasons why your car may smell like burning rubber and what you can do to fix the problem.

8 Causes Why Your Car Smells Like Burnt Rubber After Driving

There are multiple reasons why your car smells like burnt rubber after driving. However, the following are some of the most common reasons that you may encounter. See below information regarding this and what can be done in such a predicament:

1. Loose or Damaged Rubber Hose 

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Damaged or loose rubber hoses can result in your car smelling like burnt rubber after driving. These hoses are usually located in the engine bay and are responsible for carrying various fluids throughout the vehicle. A leaking or damaged hose can cause fluid to leak onto hot engine parts, which will then produce the burning rubber smell as it evaporates and breaks down into simpler molecules or compounds. 

In some cases, broken fragments of rubber from a hose can enter the air intake system or fall upon extremely hot engine components and begin to burn. This will also produce a smell like burnt rubber. 

What To Do: 

If you think a rubber hose may be the cause of your car smelling like burnt rubber, carefully inspect all hoses in the engine bay (as well as any other areas where hoses are located). Look for any signs of fluid leaks or damage. If you find a damaged or leaking hose, replace it as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your vehicle.

2. Oil Leakage

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Very common in older cars, oil leakage can cause your car to smell like burning rubber. This is because when the oil leaks from seams and parts due to faulty or bad gaskets and seals, it can drip onto extremely hot engine parts. This will then cause the oil to burn and produce the characteristic burning rubber smell. If hot enough, a fire could even start.

What To Do:

If you think an oil leak may be causing your car to smell like burnt rubber, carefully inspect your engine for any signs of leaks. If you are on the road to somewhere and come across this particular issue, then you can temporarily fix this by manually tightening the coupling surface of the gasket. However, to ensure that no further (and more expensive) damage is done to your engine, the gasket must be replaced.

Also Read: When Is the Best Time to Check Your Oil

3. Radiator Coolant Leakage

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When the radiator coolant leaks, it can drip onto hot engine parts and begin to evaporate. This will cause the radiator coolant to smell like burnt rubber. The coolant is composed of water and other chemicals, which will begin to break down and produce a slightly different smell than burnt rubber. This smell will be especially noticeable if the car has been driven for a long period of time.

What To Do:

If you think your radiator coolant is leaking, carefully inspect the pipes, hoses, and radiator for any signs of leaks. If you find a leak, then you will need to replace the particular part or fix the leak. It is also important to keep in mind that radiator coolant is poisonous, so be sure to clean up any spills immediately and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

4. Drive Belt Slipping

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The drive belt slipping can cause your car to smell like burnt rubber. When the drive belt slips, it rubs against the spinning pulleys and creates friction. This friction will then heat up the drive belt and start to burn it. The smell of burnt rubber will be especially noticeable when you first start your car in the morning. This is because the drive belt is cold and will have less traction or grip, which will cause it to slip more easily.

What To Do:

If you think the drive belt is slipping, have a mechanic inspect it to see if it needs to be tightened or replaced. You can also try to tighten it yourself, but only if you are familiar with how to do so. Be very careful when doing this as it is a potentially dangerous task. If the drive belt fails, it brings the entire engine to a stop, which could cause a serious accident at high speeds. 

5. Sticking Brakes

why does my car smell like burning rubber sticking brakes

Brakes are one of the most important safety features of a car. When they start to stick, it can cause the car to smell like burnt rubber. This is because when the brake pads start to wear down, they will start to heat up and produce a burning smell. This same smell will be noticeable when you are braking and the brake pads are extremely thin causing them to heat up quickly and become sticky.

What To Do:

This is quite a worrisome issue and should be fixed immediately by a professional. If the brakes start to stick, it can cause a serious accident. Do not wait until the brake pads are completely worn down, as this will cause even more damage and could potentially lead to sparks. Either the brake pads or disks may need to be replaced.

6. Clutch Slipping (Manual Cars)

car smells like burning rubber clutch slipping

If you have a manual car, then the clutch slipping can cause your car to smell like burnt rubber. When the clutch starts to slip, it will rub against the spinning flywheel and create friction. This friction will then heat up the clutch and start to burn it along with the transmission fluid. This is particularly noticeable when you are accelerating from a stop.

What To Do:

For such a problem, you will need to take your car to a mechanic. The clutch and transmission will need to be inspected for any signs of damage. If the clutch is worn out, then it will need to be replaced. If the transmission fluid is low, then it will need to be topped off. If the transmission is damaged, then it may need to be replaced as well.

Also Read: How to Tell if Clutch Master Cylinder Is Bad

7. Electrical Short Somewhere

Another extremely common reason behind a car smelling like burnt rubber is an electrical short. This can be caused by a variety of things, such as a bad wire, corroded connector, or even a faulty component. When the short starts to heat up, it will start to produce a burning smell. Keep in mind these components have electricity running through them constantly, so even a fire may ignite if ignored.

What To Do:

When it comes to electrical shorts, it is best to leave it to the professionals. This is because it can be very difficult to find the exact source of the problem. A mechanic will be able to use a special device that will help pinpoint the location of the short. Once the problem has been found, they will then be able to fix or replace the component that is causing the smell.

8. Foreign Object in the Engine Bay

burning rubber smell from car foreign object in the engine bay

Lastly, another common reason for a car to smell like burnt rubber is a foreign object in the engine bay. This could be anything from a small rock, plastic bag, broken manifold, to a piece of metal. When this object starts to heat up, it will create a burning smell as it comes in contact with other components. This is most common when the object is located near the exhaust system. If the object is not removed, it could potentially cause serious damage to the engine.

What To Do:

For this problem, you will need to take a look at the engine bay and see if you can spot the foreign object. If you cannot find it, then it is best to take your car to a mechanic. They will be able to remove the object and inspect the engine for any signs of damage.

Is It Safe to Drive a Car if it Smells Like Burning Rubber?

car smells like burning rubber after driving

It should be very clear that if your car smells like burning rubber, then it’s not safe to drive. This is a clear indicator that something is wrong with the car and it’s best to have it checked out by a professional. If you do choose to drive it, you’re putting yourself and everyone else on the road at risk. 

It could be an indicator that something has caught fire. There’s always the potential for a fire to break out in an engine compartment due to a variety of reasons, such as electrical problems and the plastic covering on wires burning or an oil leak coming into touch with a high temperature.

A burning odor might also indicate that poisonous gases are leaking into the cabin of your car. If you smell burning rubber and there’s no visible source, it might be coming from the engine itself. In that case, it’s a good idea to pull over and call for roadside assistance as you could be risking carbon monoxide poisoning. This is a health hazard that, if not properly addressed, may have serious ramifications.


So, there are a few potential reasons, such as the clutch burning, an electrical short, or a foreign object in the engine bay. If your car smells like burning rubber, it’s best to take it to a mechanic to have it checked out. It’s not safe to drive a car that smells like burning rubber as there’s a potential for fire or poisonous gases to leak into the cabin. For your safety, and the safety of others on the road, it’s best to address this issue as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!

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