What’s that SMELL? How to diagnose vehicle problems with your nose

Vehicles have a lot of ways to alert you to potential problems from the old school (weird sounds), to the latest technology (such as oil change reminders on an infotainment system). Your vehicle can also alert you to potential problems by using your nose. Here’s a list of the most common smells and what they mean.

 1.Rotten eggs. Gross. Have you ever been on a highway on-ramp behind someone who really punched it to merge into traffic and smelled that nauseating smell similar to rotten eggs? That’s most likely the vehicle’s catalytic converter going bad. What’s happening is that the converter is failing to convert hydrogen sulfide from the vehicle’s exhaust to sulfur dioxide correctly.

2.    Hot electronics. Sometimes also can smell like a recently burnt light bulb. Today’s vehicles have fuses to prevent electrical or electronic fires. However, there are exceptions to every rule, particularly in vehicles that have been modified by someone other than a dealer. You could have too much current flowing to an electric device, or it could be that a piece of wire has wiggled loose in the engine bay letting it rest on a hot area causing it to melt.

3.    Gasoline. Yeah, this one is bad. If you smell gasoline, you’ve got one of two problems – you overfilled at the pump and got gas on your shoes, or you could possibly have a gas leak, a fuel injector line gone bad, the fuel tank is rusted/dented/damaged, or the gas cap may be loose or lost. If you smell gas, take immediate precautions to prevent a fire.

4.    Greasy/oily aroma. You might have engine oil leaking onto your exhaust and getting hot. Oil leaks aren’t something you should ignore. If you suspect an oil leak, bring your vehicle to our technicians for a professional diagnosis.

5.    Burnt rubber. If you haven’t done a burn out, then it’s likely that you have an engine belt/serpentine belt slipping and creating that smell. This smell could also be caused by any rubber hoses in the engine bay that have become overheated.

6.    Sickeningly sweet. Ethylene Glycol – it’s a deadly poison to humans and dogs. However, your vehicle loves it. Antifreeze/coolant has such a strong sweet smell that it becomes slightly bitter smelling. Chances are you have a coolant leak if you smell this. Or, your vehicle could be overheating (signaling anything from minor issues like a thermostat needing replaced to major repairs such as a cracked block.)

7.    Burning Carpet. Are you having trouble stopping? Does the feel in your brake pedal seem to have changed? Either of these problems coupled with the smell of burning carpet can signal brake issues. Because having brakes is critical, it’s important to visit the Service Department at SVG as soon as you smell bad brakes.

Categories: Service
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