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Car Smells Like Burning Rubber After Driving

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car smells like burning rubber after driving

Many car owners frequently report car smells like burning rubber after driving. Well, if you experience this, too, you are not alone since it is a common issue.

But what are the reasons behind a car smells like burning rubber after driving? The potential causes of the burning rubber smell include a leak in the head gasket or a slipped engine belt. It is also possible that a leak in the coolant tank or plastic stuck in the engine bay may be the source of the problem.

In this blog post, we will explore the eight most common causes of why your car smells like burning rubber after driving. We will go over the possible causes and provide tips on how to fix each issue

The 8 Most Common Causes of Why Your Car Smells Like Burning Rubber After Driving

Common Causes of Why Your Car Smells Like Burning Rubber After Driving

Before going into the details, take a look at the following table to know the reasons and their symptoms at a glance

Loose Exhaust Heat ShieldWill create a burning smell
The inner parts under the hood will collide with each other
  Exhaust LeakWill generate a  burning rubber smell
The exhaust system might break
There can be holes or cracks on the exhaust
  Leaking FluidWill lack coolant, oil, transmission fluid, or brake fluid
Will notice rubber burning odor while driving
  Damaged or Frayed WiresThe electrical system of the car will be hampered
The fuse box may blow
The burning smell will come out  
  Badly Worn TiresThe tire may become completely unusable
May hear a loud squeaking noise
The burning smell will spread while driving 
  Overheated ClutchThe clutch can wear out
The rubber components of the clutch will be damaged
Will generate burning smell 
  Worn-Out BrakesBrakes may not work 
The brake pads may rub against the rotors
Will release burning smell 
  Dirty Cabin FilterThe airborne particles will be trapped inside the car
The filter becomes dirty or clogged
Burning smell will come from the vents
Why Your Car Smells Like Burning Rubber After Driving

Now, let’s get deeper into the details of the common reasons why your car can be emitting a burning rubber odor – 

1. Loose Exhaust Heat Shield

The exhaust heat shield is located near the exhaust system. It is designed to protect the surrounding components from the heat created by the exhaust system. 

Over time, the heat shield can become loose, which will cause it to rub against other parts under the hood. Eventually, this will cause the car to emit a burning rubber smell.

Loose Exhaust Heat Shield


If you notice that your car is producing this smell, then you should check your exhaust heat shield for any sign of damage or looseness. Don’t hesitate to repair or replace it if necessary.

2. Exhaust Leak

Although an exhaust leak may be related to other car issues, it plays a significant role in creating a burning odor. It occurs when the exhaust system becomes damaged or corroded, allowing hot exhaust gases to escape. 

The escaping exhaust gases can cause heat and smoke. This will further accompany a rubber-burning smell.

Exhaust Leak


To diagnose an exhaust leak, you need to inspect the entire system for any damage or corrosion. Keep an eye out for any potential holes, cracks, or other damage. 

An exhaust leak can cause your car to run inefficiently and even damage your engine in the long run. To fix this issue, repair the leaks as soon as possible. Otherwise, replace the exhaust with a new one. 

3. Leaking Fluid

One of the most frequent causes of a burning rubber smell after driving in a car is fluid leakage. This can include coolant, oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and more. 

If you notice a puddle of fluid under your car when it is parked or a leak while you are driving, then this is likely the source of the burning rubber smell.

Not only can a leak cause a burning smell, but it can also damage other parts of the car and reduce its performance.

Leaking Fluid


If you suspect that your car is leaking fluid, the best thing to do is take it to a mechanic right away. In the meantime, take care of any fluid leaks to prevent further damage.

4. Damaged or Frayed Wires

Wires can be damaged due to vibration from rough roads, normal wear and tear, and age. A burning rubber smell in your car after driving is frequently caused by frayed or damaged wires. If you notice a burning rubber smell coming from your engine, check the wiring for signs of damage.

Look for any wires that have frayed insulation or any loose connections. Also, you can check the fuse box to make sure there are no blown fuses. 

Damaged or Frayed Wires


If you find any evidence of damaged or frayed wires, they should be replaced immediately to prevent further damage. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, take your car to a professional mechanic for inspection and repairs.

Pro Tip – Before attempting to identify where the smell is coming from, it is important to wait until the car engine has cooled. 

5. Badly Worn Tires

Worn-out tires can be a common culprit behind the smell of burning rubber after driving. The wear and tear on tires can cause the rubber to heat up, leading to an unpleasant smell. You might also notice smoke coming from your tires and a loud squealing sound if they are too worn out. 

Badly Worn Tires


If you think your tires might be worn out, it is important to replace them as soon as possible to prevent any further damage. For additional safety purposes, you should check the tire pressure regularly to ensure they are properly inflated.

6. Overheated Clutch

An overheated clutch could also be the source of your car’s burning rubber odor. Usually, the problem occurs when the clutch is exposed to too much heat, which can damage it later.

To diagnose this issue, you can check the clutch for signs of wear, such as a burning smell or discoloration. If the clutch has become excessively hot, it may have started to melt the rubber components and metal parts. This will lead to a strong burning odor.

Overheated Clutch


To fix this problem, you need to replace the clutch. It is best to do this with a certified mechanic, as they can guarantee the job is properly done.

7. Worn-Out Brakes

The brake system of your car is an integral part of your vehicle’s safety features. Worn-out brakes are one of the most common causes of a car smelling like burning rubber after driving. 

This can occur when the brakes have been used too much, too often, or if they haven’t been changed in a while. 

If the brake pads have worn down too much, they may be rubbing against the rotors. This will cause them to heat up and release a burning rubber smell. 

Worn-Out Brakes


To prevent your brakes from reaching a critical level of wear and tear, you should maintain regular servicing for your car and get the brakes checked every few months.

In case of damage, replace the brake pads and the rotors immediately. Worn-out brake pads and rotors can cause accidents. 

8. Dirty Cabin Filter

The cabin filter is located behind the glove compartment. It can be responsible for trapping and filtering airborne particles before entering your vehicle’s interior. These include dust, pollen, and other contaminants. 

When this filter becomes clogged or dirty, it can cause your air conditioning system to become restricted and overheat. As a result, the vents will begin to emit a potent smell of burning rubber.

Dirty Cabin Filter


The best way to avoid this problem is to inspect your cabin filter regularly. Additionally, you need to replace it every 12 months or 12,000 miles. If you find the filter is clogged or dirty, then need to replace it since the filter has loosened its proper functionality. Otherwise, just cleaning the filter would do if it is just dirt.

Moreover, if it often gets clogged with dirt after cleaning it, then it is high time to change the filter which shouldn’t cost you more than $70.

Pro Tip – Along with the above suggestions, always make sure your cabin filter is properly installed, and the seals are properly fitted. As a result, no outside air can bypass the filter.

Here is a helpful video showing how to diagnose the burning smell from your car and fix it –

Common Practices to Prevent The Car From Smelling Like Burning Rubber After Driving

Prevent The Car From Smelling Like Burning Rubber After Driving

Now you know the common reasons for the rubber burning smell, their symptoms, and how to fix them. Let’s talk about some common practices that will prevent your car from emitting such a smell. 

  • Frequently inspect the crucial interior parts of the car. These include the gasket, the engine area, the electrical wires, the fuel tank, and the exhaust pipe. Make sure these are fully functional and in good condition
  • Change the car’s tire on a regular basis. Continuously using the same tire for a long time can decrease its potential and performance. It is better to change tires within 6 months of intervals
  • Make sure your vehicle is always filled-up. Don’t keep your car low on fuel. This has a bad effect on the engine. Driving with low fuel lowers not only the performance of the car but also decreases the longevity of the engine
  • Additionally, change the oil filter from time to time. As an automobile owner, you will be satisfied with the suggested oil change frequency, which is typically every 5,000 miles
  • Last but not least, keep the interior and the exterior of the car clean. By cleaning, we also mean keeping dust away from the internal section of the car, especially under the hood

Other Types of Car Smells and Their Likely Causes

Other Types of Car Smells and Their Likely Causes

Aside from the burning rubber smell, other types of smells indicate a bad sign for your car. Remember, your car wouldn’t release any odd smells if it were in good condition. So, if you notice any of the following smells, act immediately. 

  • Gas Smell: If your car is emitting a gas smell, this could indicate an issue with the gas cap or a leaky fuel tank or injector. This is not only a hazard, but it can also lead to a costly repair if not addressed. 
  • Musty Smell: If too much moisture has accumulated in the drain lines or air filter, your car’s air conditioning vents can start to smell musty. Don’t overlook this problem since if you breathe moldy air for a long time, your health might suffer. 
  • Exhaust Fumes: If your car is emitting exhaust fumes, this can be dangerous and should be addressed by a technician as soon as possible. Do not attempt to drive the car until it is fixed.
  • Rotten Egg Smell: A rotten egg smell in your car can indicate a malfunctioning part of the fuel system, such as a catalytic converter or oxygen sensor. This could be indicative of a serious issue, so make sure to get it checked out by a professional.
Car Smells Like Burning Rubber
If you’re dealing with a burning rubber smell in your car after driving, you may also be interested in our articles on why your car AC smells like pee or why your car smells like burnt popcorn. Our article on why your car AC smells like pee explains the possible causes of this smell, such as a clogged cabin air filter, mold or bacteria growth in the AC system, or a refrigerant leak. Meanwhile, our article on why your car smells like burnt popcorn discusses the common causes of this odor, such as a malfunctioning catalytic converter, an overheating engine, or an oil leak. If you’re experiencing any of these smells in your car, our articles can help you diagnose and fix the problem.


While there are plenty of questions regarding various types of burning smells, people ask the following questions more than the usual ones. Let’s find their answers,

1. What smells like rubber when coolant is burning?

Typically, burning coolant has a sweet smell to it. The smell is somewhat reminiscent of syrup or antifreeze. It may also have a slightly smoky or rubbery smell, depending on the severity of the problem. 

If you smell burning coolant, it is important to stop driving your car and have it inspected immediately.

Bottom Line

You need to get to the root of the problem as soon as possible when your car is emitting a burning rubber smell. In most cases, the aforementioned reasons are the culprits behind this issue.    

However, you should be free from worries now since we also explained how to fix them. So, you can restore your car to normal working condition after identifying the issue. This will help you prevent further damage and avoid costly repairs in the future.

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