September/October 2016

Sniffing Out Car Trouble

BYAmanda Flatten
Does your car stink — literally? If you have a bizarre smell emanating from your car, it might indicate a very specific problem. AAA auto experts describe five vehicle odors and possible diagnoses you won’t want to ignore. 
 
Rotten Eggs
If you haven’t brought scrambled eggs along for the morning commute, this smell could mean you have a problem with your catalytic converter. The rotten egg smell comes from sulfur in the gasoline. Normally, the sulfur is burned, but if you have catalytic converter problems or engine performance issues, the sulfur will not be totally consumed and then you can smell it. 
 
Maple Syrup
A sweet, maple syrup-like odor could mean you have an ethylene glycol leak, which can come from a radiator or heater hose, intake manifold gasket, or cylinder head. If you smell it outside the car, a leaky radiator cap or the radiator might be to blame. If the odor is stronger inside the car, it could be an issue with the heater core. 
 
Gasoline
The smell of gasoline when you aren’t at the pump could be a serious problem. Your car could have a leak in your fuel system or a problem with the fuel injection line. Gasoline vapors are highly combustible, and this smell should be addressed immediately due to the fire risk.
 
Burning Carpet
If you smell this odor under normal driving conditions (not when you are driving down a mountain with your foot on the brake), it could mean your brake pads are overheated or you have faulty or damaged brakes. 
 
Musty Locker Room
This stench could be caused by mildew in the air conditioning system. It could require a good cleaning. Also, try turning off the AC a mile from home and running the fan on high to dry out the system.
 
If your car has been putting off any of these strange odors, have a professional auto expert check it out to determine the source of the stench and fix the problem. Soon, the only thing you’ll be smelling is your piña colada scented air freshener.
AMANDA FLATTEN is the managing editor of Highroads.
Learn More
Have a question about your car? Visit your local AAA Owned and Operated Auto Repair shop and ask! Visit AAA.com/repair.
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