Skip to content

Reasons Why Car Smells Like Burning Oil After Driving

  • by
Car Smells Like Burning Oil After Driving

Whenever your car smells bad, most probably it’s your old food bag. If that’s not the case, maybe it’s your engine. Moreover, cars often smell odd things like burning oil after driving. 

So, why the car smells like burning oil after driving? If you notice a thick oil-burning acrid smell, mostly it’s from oil leaks. Leakage from different parts, for instance, oil dripping on the exhaustive system, the oil filter, or maybe overheating, sometimes causes the odor.

Still, there are other reasons behind the unpleasant smell in the cabinet, as it differs depending on various parts of the car. Find out the cause and fix it instantly. If you’re thinking about how to find the cause and get rid of it, keep reading this article.

Why Car Smells Like Burning Oil After Driving?

After detecting the smell, the first thing you need to do is to find out the root of the smell. There are so many reasons that can cause the odor. Some reasons are more serious than we think.

Why Car Smells Like Burning Oil After Driving

Here is a table showing the most common reasons for car oil leakage after driving:

Reasons  Solutions 
Leakage of transmission systemRepair it by a mechanic
Mixing old engine oil with old oil filter Change the oil filter immediately 
Overheating of the engineKeep an eye on the car’s temperature gauge
Not having enough oil Change oil regularly
Leaking oil out of the carCheck and repair leakage by a professional
Running out of transmission fluid Check if the transmission system is sealed 

The Different Reasons And Solutions For Car Smelling Like Burning Oil

Different Reasons And Solutions For Car Smelling Like Burning Oil

Now let’s take a look at these potential reasons in detail with that consequent solutions. 

Running Low on Oil

After getting the smell of burning oil at first, you need to check the dipstick under the hood to see if it lacks oil. Not having enough oil can lead to the smell of trying to use the leftover oil. And in the long term, it can damage the engine permanently. 

Running Low on Oil

What to do?

As the smell is caused for running on low oil, you have to check how much oil is left regularly. It’s better to change the oil every three months or every three thousand miles, according to experts. But for better maintenance, professional advice is suggested.

Leaking Oil

After taking a look at the dipstick, if there’s enough oil, then most probably, leaking oil out of the car is the culprit behind the smell. Now depending on where the oil drips, the smells differ. 

Leaking Oil

For example, the oil can drip on the exhaust manifold or the engine block. And when it does, it can make a sizzling sound and surround the car with the oil-burning smell from the inside as well as outside.

In another case, if the oil leaks from the car fall outside, there’s a low chance you’ll not notice the odor as it doesn’t make a strong smell. 

What to do?

If  oil leaking is the reason behind the burning smell, often it’s quite tough to detect where the oil is leaking. So, taking your car to a mechanic would be better. They should be able to find the leakage spot and fix it. 

Engine Overheating

Another reason for the burning smell can be overheating of the engine. A car being out of oil can lead to engine overheating. In this type of situation, you might be wondering far more than just the source of the smell.

Engine Overheating

After finding out about the overheating, you might wonder if you need to change the whole engine. When the car finishes using the last drop of oil, it creates quite a messy odor for burning the engine off. This will lead you to notice the smell without any doubt.

What to do?

To avoid overheating, keeping an eye on the car’s temperature gauge is suggested. But it’s not okay to always rely on that. Sometimes the gauge can break due to overheating and lead to stopping giving updates. This will take to even greater problems.  

Extremely Low on Transmission Fluid

Whenever the transmission fluid runs on low, there is a lack of lubrication in the gears. This makes it difficult to move smoothly and thus smells like burning oil.

Extremely Low on Transmission Fluid

This kind of burning smell is almost like oil-burning. And you’ll get to know about this within a short time. 

What to do?

When you get this almost burnt oil-like smell but not really it’s, then for sure it’s for the low transmission fluid. Check if the transmission system is sealed properly.  

Leaking Transmission Fluid

The transmission system of cars is totally sealed. So, if your car runs out of transmission fluid, then most probably because of leakage. Sometimes transmission fluid leakage can make your car smell like burning oil.

Rough gear movements due to lack of transmission fluid can be the root of the smell. 

Leaking Transmission Fluid

What to do?

Sometimes leakage of transmission fluid leads to cars smelling almost like burnt oil. As soon as you find your transmission system leaked, take your car to a professional mechanic and fix it immediately.

Old engine Oil

Many of us have seen blue-tinted smoke coming out of tailpipes and, at the same time, smelling burnt oil. And that happens because of old engine oil mixed with an old oil filter.

This old engine oil issue is responsible for using extra oil in the engine, resulting in a burnt odor. 

So, to avoid it in advance, 

What to do?

You should keep your engine tip-top to prevent any issues because of an old engine. And clean your oil filter regularly as well as change it sometimes when necessary.  

And if the cause is minor and you want to fix your car by yourself, you can have a look at this clip. Maybe you can get some help from here

Why It’s Important to Check the Cause of The Smell?

The oil-burning smell most commonly happens for oil leaks in cars. Now, this kind of leakage is hazardous for mainly two reasons. 

  1. First of all, if the oil lands on the exhaust manifold, there’s a chance that this leakage can result in a fire. And if you notice it shortly after changing the oil, most probably it’s for a loose screw. 
  2. And the second thing is if oil leaks from the gasket or seal, there’s a high chance for bigger damage. So, it’s best not to ignore this smell and take it to a mechanic to check the oil level quickly.  
Why It’s Important to Check the Cause of The Smell

How Do You Know It’s Burning Oil Smell?

Usually, burning oil has such a thick odor that it’s almost impossible not to notice. And burning oil creates a really heavy and acrid odor around and is extremely unpleasant. Sometimes it’s so bad that you get out of the car. 

So, when you smell burning oil, you will know instantly. If you ever find yourself in this situation, get to the bottom of the problem sooner than later before damaging the car.

How Do You Know It’s Burning Oil Smell

Precautions to Avoid the Burning Oil Smell

Finding the source of the burning oil smell and fixing it with your nose might be hard. But it’s always best not to take cars to the situation and take precautionary steps to avoid damages. 

Precautions to Avoid the Burning Oil Smell

You can easily get out of the hassle in the first place that way.

  • Check your car often. Keep an eye on your engine
  • Check the oil dipstick under the hood regularly to see if there’s enough oil
  • Examine any kind of oil leakage
  • Avoid overheating of engines
  • Inspect the transmission system on a regular basis
  • And pay attention to minor symptoms while driving, like if you have a problem changing gears, brakes are not working correctly, diesel rings are damaged, etc

Still, if you face an uncomfortable situation like getting any kind of unusual or foul smell in your car, take it to a mechanic without any delay. 

Another important thing is that smelling in old car cases is quite normal. So, it would be best if you keep checking your car regularly.

Cost of Fixing the Car Smells like Burning Oil After Driving

Most of the time, cars end up smelling like burnt oil for lack of maintenance. However, if you have this kind of problem, it’s best to repair it with a mechanic. For that, it may cost you depending on the damage.

Cost of Fixing the Car Smells like Burning Oil After Driving

The smell in the cabinet may need you to repair oil control rings or maybe sometimes need to change the whole engine. This type of repair can be between $1000 to $5000, according to the severity of the damage. 

But there’s good news; standard gas engines cost less than diesel engines. The cost difference is a lot.

If you’re dealing with a burning oil smell in your car after driving, you may also be interested in our articles on why your car exhaust smells like ammonia or why your car smells like burning rubber. Our article on why your car exhaust smells like ammonia explains the possible causes of this odor, such as a faulty catalytic converter, a damaged O2 sensor, or a malfunctioning EGR valve. Meanwhile, our article on why your car smells like burning rubber discusses the common causes of this smell, such as a slipping drive belt, a damaged serpentine belt, or a malfunctioning accessory pulley. If you’re experiencing any of these smells in your car, our articles can help you diagnose and fix the problem.


Most probably, you’ve got all your answers. If you haven’t, these are some of the probable questions running through your mind. Find out the answers below. 

Q: Can I drive if my car smells like burning oil after driving?

Yes, but it depends on the source of the problem. If it’s for a dirty heating system, driving a little is okay unless the odor is thick. 

Q: Is it usual for my new car to smell like burning oil?

Though in a new car, smells like burnt oil are not welcome. But if you still face it, then maybe it’s oil leakage. Or the issues with the filter or drain plug. Otherwise, you may check if the oil cap is loose.

Q: Why my car smells like burning oil after driving but no trace of a leak?

When you get a burnt hot oil smell after driving but don’t find any leakage because oil leaks on your exhaust manifold. And the leaked oil has already burned off when your engine shuts down. This leaves an unpleasant odor but no trace of oil leakage.


If your car smells like burning oil after driving, facing this situation can be stressful. But the reasons behind it pose different threats to your car. So, if you’re in trouble with these issues, pay attention to minor signs when you’re driving.

If you don’t act promptly, you might have a severe mechanical problem. Recognizing the reason for the problem will be the first step you must take. To avoid unexpected incidents, keep your engine regularly checked and maintained.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *