Car Smells Like Burning Rubber: 8 Main Reasons & Solution

Jerry Wilson
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What Causes Cars to Smell like Burning Rubber?

For a car to smell like burning rubber, fuel must be leaking into the exhaust system and will then reach the catalytic converter, where it is broken down in the hot exhaust system. If the exhaust pipe is not sealed correctly or if it’s cracked due to corrosion, exhaust gases will leak and cause a burning odor.

Track any smell coming from the exhaust pipe because it is the first place fuel will leak from after it leaves an engine.

If the head gasket on your car is faulty and the water is not being sealed properly, it can leak into the engine and cause the gasoline to combust. This will result in a smoky burning smell.

If a car is low on oil, it will start to smoke. The fumes can include fuel, which creates a burning rubber smell.

During normal combustion, a small amount of gas is released in the exhaust system. This is not usually visible and will smell like burning rubber.

Another method of combustion is “choking,” which occurs when there is too much unburned fuel that isn’t going through the catalytic converter. This burning of petrol will not only give off a burning rubber smell, but will also put a lot of heat into the system.

How to Deal with Burning Rubber Smell in the Car

If you notice the unpleasant smell of burning rubber or ozone, it’s most likely associated with one of the following conditions:

  • The engine has a bad head gasket, and oil is leaking on your exhaust manifold
  • The flex hose connecting the intake manifold to the exhaust manifold is leaking
  • Soot is emitting from your catalytic converter
  • Your exhaust manifold or muffler is starting to fail and letting out smoke or gases (this will not create a burning smell, though)
  • You’ve been driving with the windows open and rain has gotten into your car, which may not be powered properly, and is therefore only heating some parts of the engine block
  • You’ve been using the wrong fuel, which has gummed up your engine
  • The brake pad is rubbing against the rotor
  • You’ve been burning wood in your fireplace, and that smell has filled your car

If you’re unsure what’s causing the burning smell, plug in your car’s code on your manufacturer’s website and check it against lists of code descriptions and possible causes.


In summary, there are a variety of distinct reasons why your car may smell like burning rubber. If you’ve read through all of them, you probably have a pretty good idea what’s going on in your car and know what to do about it.

In case you’re having trouble figuring it out, you can use the steps in here to help you identify the problem so you can take the right action.

And whatever the problem is, remember to always drive safe. Those hot brakes can travel up through the vehicle and be dangerous to you (and your passengers).