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Common Causes of Car Smelling

We spend a sizeable chunk of our waking hours inside our cars. Whether it be commuting to work, taking kids to school or just driving around, the car is an integral part of our day. So when there are unexplainable smells inside our cars, it tends to be very uncomfortable. We will try to explain the most common unpleasant smells and how you can get rid of them.

Let’s start with the more manageable smells like a musty odor. Having musty odor most likely means the evaporator of your AC unit has collected a lot of moisture and can harbour moulds.  Running your AC unit on Fan mode gets rid of the smell but it can be temporary. You will need to have the AC unit checked if it recurs.

A sweet smell means that the anti-freeze has leaked from the cooling system. It can emanate from behind the dash board or below it. If you have this sweet smell inside your cabin then have your cooling system checked because inhaling anti-freeze is hazardous.


If you smell something burning inside your car then probably something is. What it is can be a bit tricky to find out. It can be burnt oil leaking from your engine. It could also be overheated brake pads, clutch plates or even a drive belt that has slipped. The source could also be some sort of electrical short and wires that are burning. It would be a good idea to find out the source as soon as possible.

Having the smell of gasoline can be normal in cars when doing a cold start. It is not normal when the car is already warm. Gas smell can mean that there is a leak in the emission control system or it could also be clogged. It could also be leaking from the gas tank or fuel line. Best to have it checked immediately.

Lastly, the most unpleasant smell would be the rotten egg odor. It could mean that the catalytic converter is already shot. It can be caused by the converter overheating due to an engine or electrical malfunction. Or it could be just broken eggs that leaked on the carpets.

Having a good smelling car is a sign of good car maintenance. It would improve the comfort and driving experience inside the vehicle. When you have some unusual smell inside your car, do take the time to find out the source. It would also be a good idea to have a professional sort out the smell inside your car.  

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Of course, if the smell comes from a rotten egg or some other stains or damage to your car mat, remember that FitMyCar has a custom car mats for your car make and model.

Jonno Rodd

Jonno is the hype-man for some of Australia's most rad brands. His passion for adventure, new tech, and off-roading, means there is no really automotive topic beyond Jonno's interest.

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