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Does Your Vehicle Pass The Smell Test?

Some car problems can be easy to identify and some require diagnostics to identify. You see a major leak under your car, it’s probably more than obvious that something is wrong.  If there is smoke coming from your car or it is shaking as you drive, you probably know it would be a good idea to bring your vehicle into a Milex Complete Auto Care / Mr. Transmission of Cary immediately to be checked out.

But smells can be different. A smell can be faint enough that you don’t notice, or it’s a scent that you have become used to. Sometimes just because your car smells odd, it doesn’t automatically mean something is wrong.

But sometimes that is exactly the case. Many smells are signals that your car is in trouble, and you need to get it checked out. Here are some tips and suggestions about some common smells that come from your car and what you should do about them.

What does it mean if your car smells musty? If your car smells musty, especially when you turn on the air, you may have mold or mildew in the air-conditioning system. The first thing to check is the cabin air filter, if your car is equipped with one. A lot of smells can come from a dirty cabin air filter. Changing the cabin air filter can be easy and something you can do yourself.  Second, you may want to try drying out the systems by running the fan at high speed, with the heat on full and air conditioning off. This might be able to dry the evaporator, which is a small radiator that with the help of refrigerant brings cool air into the car through the dash vents. If you can dry it the system and the evaporator, you may get rid of the mildew and the musty smell. Finally, it might be a clog in the HVAC box drain tube. A clog in this tube would stop condensation from dripping out of the systems as it is produced. These kinds of clogs can allow this condensation water to enter the carpet of the car, usually on the passenger side front. So, check the front carpet for any signs of moisture. If you try all of these and you still can’t get rid of the smell, you should bring your car into Milex Complete Auto Care / Mr. Transmission of Cary to be checked out.  Mold and mildew in the air is something you and others in the car don’t want to breathe in because it can be hazardous to your health.

What does it mean if your car smells sweet? If you smell something that like a sweet aroma, it may be coolant/antifreeze, and you could have a leak in your cooling system. Cooling system leaks don’t always end up in a puddle on the ground. So, you could still have a leak without anything under the car.

 If you smell a sweet smell, usually after you have been driving, you should bring your car in to Milex Complete Auto Care / Mr. Transmission of Cary for a quick inspection. Breathing in antifreeze fumes is also not recommended, so if you smell something sweet, make sure you get the car checked out as soon as possible.

What does it mean if your car smells like it’s burning? A burning smell could be a lot of things, and none of them are good. Your engine may be about to catch on fire so if you smell something burning, to be safe, you probably should pull over immediately. You might have oil leaking from the engine onto the exhaust that is causing a burning smell. You also might have a rodent problem. Usually in the cooler months, rats or mice will build nests in and around the engine, and then you start the car, and the materials the nest is built with, begins to burn. Sometimes you might smell burnt oil. This smell may be a signal you may need a transmission fluid flush and change, or you might have a leak in your transmission. If you think that may be the case, please visit a Milex Complete Auto Care / Mr. Transmission of Cary and we’ll be happy to take a look.

What does it mean if you smell burnt toast? There is a subtle distinction between a burning smell and burnt toast. Burnt toast smell is a smell that some people describe when the insulation around the electrical wiring, fuses or connections is burning or melting. Don’t delay, get your car in to have it looked at immediately. Electrical issues and repairs can be very costly, so you need to catch these issues as early as possible.

What does it mean if your car smells like rotten eggs? This distinct aroma may indicate something is wrong with your ignition system or your emission systems. (catalytic converter) Hydrogen sulfide can produce that awful rotten egg smell. If vehicles ignition and the catalytic converter is working properly, the hydrogen sulfur in the fuel becomes sulfur dioxide, which is odorless. But if your vehicles ignition is not working properly it will overwhelm the catalytic converter and the exhaust gases will not be converted properly which allows the hydrogen sulfide to give off this pungent smell. Either way, whether this is an easy fix or a more complicated one, you should bring your car in to Milex Complete Auto Care / Mr. Transmission of Cary for a look.

What does it mean if you smell rubber? Vehicles have a lot of rubber parts so it could be a tire problem, drive belt or a hose. The smell of rubber needs to be checked out immediately before it becomes a bigger issue. Stop by Milex Complete Auto Care / Mr. Transmission of Cary to have it checked out.

What does it mean if you smell gas? If you smell gas, it may not be a big deal if you’ve just started your car after the engine has been cold. That can be considered normal. If your engine is warm, though, you may have a loose gas cap or a clogged or leaking evaporative emissions control system. You might also have gas leaking from the tank or a fuel line. So, don’t put off investigating what the problem might be, and if you smell gas before you start the car, in the interest of caution, don’t start the car. Figure out what’s going on first. If you can’t figure it out, have it towed to Milex Complete Auto Care / Mr. Transmission of Cary. No sense in taking any chances.


We don’t always know when we may have a problem with our cars, but if you notice any of these smells, it is a good indicator something might not be right. Have it checked out by one of our certified technicians at Milex Complete Auto Care / Mr. Transmission of Cary. They can quickly assess the severity of the issue and offer repair solutions.






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