Detecting potential problems in your car, truck, or RV isn't just a job for your eyes and ears — it may also require you to use your nose. The "new car smell" and other artificial scents used to freshen a vehicle's cabin may be pleasant, but you'll learn a lot more from the unpleasant odors your car might be emitting. Here are four telltale signs of car problems that you can troubleshoot through your sense of smell.
1. HVAC System Issues
When you switch on your car's heating or air conditioning for the first time after a long period of disuse, you may be greeted by a powerful odor of stale gym socks. This smell most likely means that mold has infiltrated your evaporator hoses — an issue that can cause serious respiratory problems in some people. Your auto repair technician can add a substance to the air conditioning system that kills mold and bacteria. You can avoid recurrences of the problem by running your vent for a few minutes before you stop your car, a step that helps to dry the evaporator components. Replacing your air filter at recommended intervals can keep mold from building up in this component. If you smell a strangely sweet odor, your car's HVAC system may be leaking propylene glycol.
2. Exhaust System Trouble
Exhaust fumes are oppressive and unhealthy enough without your welcoming them into your cabin. Even small quantities of exhaust contain significant amounts of carbon monoxide, a dangerous substance that cause you to lose consciousness while driving or even cause death. Have your auto repair service tech inspect the exhaust pipes that run underneath your car. A leak at this point could allow fumes to drift up through the floor of the car and into the cabin. A "rotten egg" smell is another sign of exhaust system trouble. In this case, a failing catalytic converter may be allowing sulphur to infiltrate your cabin air.
3. Fluid Loss or Overheating
Do you smell something burning in your car? Chances are that some fluid or other is indeed burning, or at least overheating. A vehicle low on engine oil, for example, may start burning up what little oil it has left. Low levels of transmission or brake fluid can also become burnt and unusable. Any of these issues can lead to a major, expensive breakdown, so stop driving and inspect your automotive fluid levels immediately, topping them off as needed until you can get more extensive service at the nearest auto repair shop.
4. Gas Leaks
Does your car smell more like gas than the gas station you just left? If you're lucky, this odor means that you got a few drops of gasoline on your sleeve or shoe before entering the vehicle. If the problem persists, however, you may be looking at a leaky gas tank, fuel injection line, or hose. Any such leak can start a fire if the airborne gas particles contact so much as a tiny spark. Don't smoke, use a lighter, or create any other form of combustion anywhere near your car until you've had this problem fixed.
Your nose knows more than you might realize when troubleshooting possible vehicular problems. Pay attention to what it's telling you — and let it lead you to the proper professional inspection, diagnosis, and repairs.
For more information, contact an auto repair service.