What Causes My Car Smells like Burning Rubber?

When your car is smelling like burning rubber, it means there’s a part of your vehicle that requires quick attention. The smell could be caused by a melting tube, a burning electrical component, or any other reason.

It’s important not to ignore any suspicious and bad smell, especially when your car smells like burning plastic. This way, you can prevent the problem from escalating into an expensive repair.

Most people would start checking the vehicle’s tires and looking under the bonnet as soon as they smell something unusual. Still, they can’t seem to find the fault.

Sometimes even a new car smells like burning rubber when there’s a melting electrical component or tube. The important thing is to stop the burning smell from your vehicle but to do that we need to find out the cause of the unusual smell and where it’s coming from.

What causes car smells like burning rubber?

car smells like burning rubber when accelerating

Burning fuse

When you observe the unusual burning smell from a vehicle’s air conditioner, then the smell stops after a short time, it could be a burning fuse.

Initially, the electrical fuse box is designed to protect an electrical component from overloading. If the current intake becomes higher than what the fuse can sustain, the fuse could burn.

The electrical fuse box is no doubt an important component of any vehicle. Nevertheless, ignoring a burning fuse can be catastrophic and result in a more expensive fault to your vehicle.

Carefully open the box, then examine it for any burnt fuse. However, you’ll have to replace this fuse as soon as you remove the bad one. You can find the best replacement for about $1 in an automobile shop.

If the problem persists; the new fuse gets burnt again shortly after replacing the bad one with it, it’s recommended that you take your vehicle to an automobile shop to examine the cause – which is usually a problem with the electrical system.

Melting hoses

There are usually several hoses in a vehicle that helps the engine function efficiently, and as much as vehicle hoses are produced with strong synthetic rubber, they can still melt.

Over time as the vehicle functions, the hoses start to slacken and sometimes disconnect. When this happens, the hose may be on the car engine, and as the engine runs and heats when you drive, the hose melts. This can make your car smell like burning rubber when accelerating.

On norms, a hose is supposed to be held tight with a clip. This helps to prevent the hose from removing and falling on a hot engine component, especially during excessive vehicle vibration. Yet, old vehicles don’t always have it – It may be lost or broken.

However, it’s easier to notice a disconnected hose. Most times you’d observe a minimal pressure, the ground stained with some liquid, or White smoke. When you do, don’t hesitate to replace the slackened hose with a new one.

Hot or worn-out drive belt

A vehicle drive belt supplies power to different parts of the vehicle, such as the AC compressor, steering system, water pump, and alternator.

Faults in any of these components can alter how a vehicle drive belt rotates, and cause too much friction. This causes heat that may burn the drive belt.

You can find out if your vehicle has a problem by listening to the sound from the bonnet or under it. If it squeals, then there’s a problem. You will have to change the belt. There may also be a need to change the whole part that has a fault.

Leaking oil in the engine

An oil leak can also be the reason your car smells like burning rubber below the hood. When any of the seals and gaskets that prevent the engine oil from leaking starts to wear out, you may experience oil leaks on parts like the exhaust pipe of the engine.

This can also happen shortly after changing the oil. It happens when the vehicle oil plug isn’t properly screwed, or the oil overflows. It’ll make the oil level drop quicker than usual.

When this happens there are several places to look. Start by checking the valve cover, then check the drain plug. Examine the camshaft seals as well as the crankshafts (both front and rear).

An oil leak on the hot engine can cause an unusual and bad smell. It can also result in a fire in extreme cases. This is why it’s important to also look out for worn-out seals or gaskets in your vehicle and fix them as soon as possible.

Leaking coolant from the radiator

Coolant leak is quite similar to oil leaks. Gaskets are also used to seal it and prevent it from leaking. However, there are times when this seal fails and the coolant leaks out as a result.

Although the smell could be quite different from that of burning oil, still, you’d notice the sweet and unusual smell coming from the vehicle. It can also cause the cooling system not to function well.

When this happens, you need to examine your vehicle for leaks. You may also notice some green liquid under the vehicle or at the end of the radiator.

Brakes are getting hot

This is most important for those who apply breaks aggressively. Although, there are times when your vehicle may give off this burning smell, not because you use the brakes intensively.

Still, when you don’t give the brake some cooling time at intervals between applications, and the brake pads have to constantly squeeze the wheel’s rotor to slow down, this can cause a bad smell.

This isn’t a cause for alarm – yet, but you should consider taking the car to a mechanic if the burning smell persists as it may be the fault of a malfunctioning component of the braking system.

Worn out clutch

The clutch is used to make gear shiftings in a vehicle. However, if the shifting isn’t done properly, making the gear grind, can cause a burning smell.

When the problem persists, you should take your vehicle to a mechanic, as it may be catastrophic and cause problems when you try to make gear shifts.

When your manual car smells like burning rubber you should examine the vehicle clutch. It could be burnt.

Something is stuck in the engine

Although this doesn’t happen often, it could still be the reason your car smells like burning rubber. An object such as a shopping bag could get stuck under the engine hood when driving.

When the engine heats up, the object burns and causes the burning smell you perceive. To remove the shopping bag or any stuck object beneath your vehicle you need to find a place that is safe to park.

Be patient and wait for the engine to cool down – you don’t want to start poking an engine that hot as it can burn off your hand. Then examine the vehicle carefully. Look below the hood for any object not meant to be there.

Don’t forget to check around the exhaust – as this can also cause a burning rubber smell from car exhaust. Don’t hesitate to remove any object that doesn’t belong there when you find it.

car smells like burning plastic


Q: Why does my car smell like burning rubber when driving?

When your car smells like something is burning, it could be a problem with the hose or some other component that is melting, burning, or malfunctioning.

You should carefully examine your vehicle for the problem as outlined in this guide and fix it before it escalates into an expensive fix.

Q: What does the burning clutch smell like in a car?

A burning clutch can smell like gun smoke or sulfur. The strong stench can be compared to anything but bearable, as some people described it to smell like a burning brake.

Q: Can burnt engine oil smell like Burning Rubber?

Yes, burnt engine oil can smell like burning rubber especially when it leaks on any hot part of the engine. This usually happens when the seal meant to prevent the leak is worn out,  isn’t tightened, or when you have overfilled engine oil.

Q: Why does my car smell like burnt popcorn?

A somewhat sweet smell from your car or the AC indicates there’s a problem with the coolant, especially when it smells like burnt popcorn.

Maybe your car smells like burning rubber when the AC is on.

It’s usually because a component of your cooling system is damaged, causing the coolant to leak.

Final Words:

Vehicle engines operate on the principle of combustion – they burn something to go faster. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t perceive it or any other smell that can cause discomfort to you.

When your car is smelling like burning rubber, it simply indicates that a component of your vehicle requires quick attention, as fixing this fault as soon as possible can help prevent it from escalating into an expensive problem.

While you may be able to fix some of these problems yourself, others may require the attention and expertise of an automobile mechanic – especially if the problem persists.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts