Car Smells Like Burning Oil

Oil Change

One of the most worrying signs of car trouble is the smell of something burning. There’s a number of things that could cause this odor, and this guide should help all of our Randolph, Brockton, and Stoughton customers diagnose the issue before bringing their car in for service.

Burning Oil Smell in Cars

There are five common causes for burning oil smell in cars. These can involve the following systems:


  1. The clutch, if it’s worn down and needs to be replaced
  2. The brakes, from hard braking or riding the brakes
  3. A short in your electrical system
  4. Your heater, from system debris or a bad heater motor
  5. Actual burning oil in your car

Here’s a look in more detail at each possible cause for a burning oil smell inside your vehicle.


More often than you realize, burning oil smells can actually come from your clutch. If you notice the smell when you’re changing gears and you notice a smell more like burning newspaper, that could well be your problem. This happens as the face of the clutch burns off due to slippage. Causes of this kind of wear are usually improper use of the clutch, and it can happen to those new to driving manual transmissions.


If you tend to brake hard or if you ride the brakes a lot going down steep hills, you can generate a lot of friction in your system, which can cause the brakes to smoke, causing a burning odor. This can also happen if you forget to disengage the emergency brake before driving. If this just happens once in a while, it’s not a real problem. If it happens regularly, then you could be dealing with a more serious brake problem, like a frozen caliper piston.

Electrical System Short

If you have a short circuit in your electrical system, the plastic around the wires and fuses can melt, which causes a burning smell. If you don’t get the system fixed, you could have even more serious problems. An electrical system short is something that should be taken seriously and addressed right away.

Heater Motor Problems

If you notice a burning smell coming from your heater, it could be due to dust or debris in your vents which smoke or heat up, causing a burning smell. You may also have problems in the heater system, including a bad motor, bad heater core, or another problem that may cause antifreeze to leak into the system and burn.

Burning Oil

Clearly, this is the obvious answer. If you’ve got an oil leak somewhere in your system, when it draws on to the exhaust system or into the engine, it will burn. If you notice your exhaust getting very hot or dark or it has excessive fumes, you could be facing this problem.

Schedule Service at Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram 24

If you do notice a burning oil smell in your car, it’s best to get it checked out right away. If you live in the Stoughton, Brockton, or Randolph areas, call Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram 24 for more information or to schedule a service appointment today.