Burning smell inside car?

When I got in to my car this morning I noticed an odd smell. I can’t quite place it, but it burns your nostrils. My car is an 04 Dodge Neon without any known problems.

What could be causing this? As I got in to the car to go out for lunch a few hours later, the smell was still there. It smells like new car, but it’s so strong that it burns your nostrils and you can even taste it!

3 Answers

  • This is likely one of three things – I’m going to list them in order of the odds that it’s each:

    1) Burning oil. If you smell burning oil from INSIDE the car, that indicates an oil leak. Oil burned due to engine wear exits via the exhaust which you wouldn’t smell inside the car unless it was very bad. But an oil leak can make a LOT of smoke from a very small amount of oil. It can be anything from the oil dipstick not inserted all the way to the filler cap being loose/missing, to any variety of minor or major leaks. Whatever it is, it is very important to discover the source of the oil leak and repair as necessary. If you can’t see any oil leaks, try placing cardboard under the engine at night to see if there are any drips. Oil under the hood will smoke and enter the passenger cabin. Sometimes it can also just be spilled oil from when you had an oil change or top off. ALSO – check for any leaks in the Power Steering system and the lines going to the transmission and the transmission fluid pan. These will usually not leak onto the motor itself, but can still get on the exhaust system and cause smoke.

    2) Electrical shorts. This isn’t as easy to diagnose. Check all of your equipment and make sure it’s working. This is a possibility to look for after burned oil has been eliminated. Might need a mechanic to track this down.

    3) Grass/Mud/Debris? A long-shot, but sometimes clumps of grass (in the country usually) or mud, or maybe a stray paper/plastic bag, etc, has gotten caught under the car and is contacting the exhaust system. Look for things like this.

    If the smell persists, it could be very serious so I wouldn’t ignore it. If it goes away, it could have just been something in the air that day…

  • Burning Smell From Car

  • You will smell burning oil inside the car for several reasons. First, if you put oil in the engine and spilled any on the exhaust manifold, it will burn off for a while and suck into the car’s vents. Second, if you have an oil leak, it can find its way to the exhaust manifold and burn off as well. Third, if your oil filler cap is loose or missing, smoke from oil burning inside the motor can escape. There are too many places for oil or oil smoke to come from to limit it to the EGR valve.

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