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Why does my car have body odour?

March 3, 2018

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“What’s that sweet smell of roses coming from the engine?” said about 90% of people never!

 

If you’ve got a set of wheels, you’ve most probably smelled unpleasant scents of gas, rotten eggs or rubber at some point. If not, beware of the possibilities of car Body Odour (BO). Like humans, your car can get smelly when there are problems. They usually aren’t problems that your air-fresher and fabric softener pouches can fix. Find out what the different smells mean and how to eliminate them right NOW!

 

Here are some common bad smells, their possible causes and ways you can fix the funky aromas.

 

Rotten eggs

 

So, you smell rotten eggs, but it’s strange since you don’t secretly collect eggs and keep them under your car seat, do you? Although it might smell like a bad batch, it’s not! It’s your car sending out warning signals.

 

Usually it’s an issue with the engine or emission system that makes your engine overheat. This happens when the weather is hot or when your car is running low on water (possibly from a leak in the radiator or water inlet pipe).

Don’t panic and call the mechanic. Just park* somewhere safe, switch off the aircon and engine, open the windows and let the roadster chill out for 20 mins. Although it sounds weird, turning on the heater will also help cool down the engine as this draws excess heat from the engine.

*Note: If you’re stuck in traffic, shift into Neutral (manual) or Park (automatic) and rev the engine for a short while. This will speed the water pump and fan up and draw more liquid and air through the radiator. The increased air and liquid circulation helps cool the engine down.

 

Burning rubber

 

Burning rubber is not exactly a fragrance you’d bottle. It’s nasty and something that you’d probably like to avoid.

Ever wondered why this smell always seem to appear when the traffic flow is heavy and cars are lining up like a queue on Black Friday? Well, it can be because a clutch has overheated under pressure. In manual transmission vehicles, clutches need to be handled with care and used properly. Riding the clutch or bad gear-shifting can cause serious damage to the clutch.

The burning rubber scent can be avoided by driving with more care. Try changing gears more smoothly and use your handbrake when moving slowly between lower gears or up and down hills. That’s why it’s there, after all.

 

Electrical

 

What’s up with that burning toast smell? Is it coming from outside? Nah…it’s your 4-wheel baby’s body odour. Phew!

The burning toast smell could mean some serious issues. It might be a short circuit* or overheated components which could lead to a little bonfire in your bonnet.

*Please note that short circuits are dangerous and should be handled with caution.

If you’re not experienced, don’t try to fix the problem. If you see flames dancing around, it’s okay to give the mechanic or the Fire Department a call. You have a fire extinguisher in the car, right?

 

Sweet Scent

 

You forgot to spray your sweet perfume on this morning and your kids didn’t eat a sugary treat in the car, yet you smell something sweet.

 

Although the syrupy sensation tickles your nostrils, it’s not a good sign. The smell usually means there’s a leak somewhere in the cooling system.  The source may not be easy to locate. For example, the leak could be from a rusted heat exchanger (AKA a heater core), which is usually behind the dashboard. The leak could be in the form of steam that enters the interior, producing the smell and potentially fogging the windows. Take care of the problem ASAP, because breathing antifreeze is bad for your health.

 

Rotting fruit

 

This time you can’t blame your vehicle for the bad aroma in the air. Your car didn’t have fruit for lunch last week. You munched it! Somehow a few grapes just managed to roll down to an unreachable destination under the seat and now it’s claiming its presence with a nasty stench.

 

It happens to the best of us. Ignoring the problem is, however, not a solution. Remove the stinky grapes and clean your car with some germ-killing juice. No need to be a sour grape about the situation. Just clean it!

 

May the senses leave you in peace!

 

P.S. If you like a little DIY with the simpler stuff, here’s how to look after your car yourself.

 

Sources

  • https://www.carinsurance.com/Articles/smells-that-may-mean-your-car-is-sick.aspx
  • https://www.lifewire.com/reasons-your-car-stinks-534676
  • https://www.iol.co.za/motoring/industry-news/what-to-do-if-your-car-overheats-1944166

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