Car Repair and Maintenance

Car Smells Like Burning Oil After Driving [Causes and Fixes]

If your car smells like burning oil after driving, it generally suggests leaking or burning oil, faulty valve cover, old oil, or low oil level. In many cases, burning oil could emanate from various parts of your car different from where the oil is stored. The typical smell you get is a very thick and acrid smell that is slightly plasticky. Be aware that the longer you take to fix the issue, the tougher it becomes to fix. In extreme cases, the smell of burning oil could induce the engine to self-destruct.

Reasons car smells like burning oil after driving fixed

car smells like burning oil after driving

Fortunately, you should be able to identify potential causes for the burning oil smell in your car especially after driving and fix them. There are some potential causes for an unexpected burning oil smell from your car, some causes of the burning smell could indicate a more severe problem.

  1. Shortage of oil

The first thing you’ll want to do is open the hood and inspect the oil dipstick. There is a chance that the burning oil smell emanating from your car is due to a shortage of oil. If your car doesn’t have enough oil, it will nearly always emit a burning oil smell as it attempts to use the rest of what’s left.

Keeping a tight check on the amount of oil in your car at all times will undoubtedly save you from being in this situation. You can also do so by regularly changing the oil in your car.

How to fix

Most experts recommend changing your car’s oil approximately every 3 months or 3,000 miles, depending on your vehicle manufacturer though, per Check the owner’s manual for your car to gain a better understanding of the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Whatever the circumstance, you should never allow your car’s oil to run out without replacing it. If you do so, you may soon have problems with your engine and other components of your car.

  1. Oil leak

If you examine the oil dipstick for your car and find that there is sufficient oil, you will then want to determine whether oil is seeping/leaking from your car. Depending on where the oil that is leaking is landing, this may cause a burning oil smell.

If the oil that is leaking from your car is falling directly to the ground, it will likely not cause any unpleasant smell. However, the oil that leaks from a car typically lands on the engine block or the exhaust manifold. And when this occurs, a burning oil smell will permeate the interior and exterior air of a car.

How to fix

If you suspect that this is the cause of the burning oil smell coming from your car, you will need to have a professional mechanic examine your car to see where oil may be leaking. They should be able to detect the source of the leak and repair it so that you no longer have to worry about your car leaking oil.

  1. Engine Is overheating

One of the reasons why you should never drive with no oil is that it can eventually cause the engine to overheat. And when that happens, there is a really strong probability that you’re going to find yourself in a world of difficulty.

If you feel a burning oil smell coming from under your car’s hood, it could possibly be because your car has started to overheat owing to a shortage of oil. As your engine uses up the remainder of the oil in your car, it’s going to start to burn it off, which can cause a burned smell. This is a situation in which you should absolutely not disregard the smell. If nothing is done, it could lead to your engine catching fire in the near future.

How to fix

If your engine is about to overheat, the temperature gauge situated on the dashboard of your car should read that. However, you shouldn’t rely just on this gauge to monitor your engine’s performance. It could malfunction and stop displaying the engine temperature. Also, you should be on the lookout for any smell of burning in the air. They may provide you with all the information you need regarding the state of your engine.

If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, simply head straight to a professional mechanic to fix the problem.

  1. Low transmission fluid

Most of the time, if you find yourself wondering, “Why does my car smell like burning oil after driving?” it will be because your car is actually burning oil. In certain instances, though, you may detect a burning oil smell even when your car’s oil is not burning. Your transmission fluid may be the cause of the burning smell in the air.

It’s fairly uncommon for transmission gears to lack lubrication when transmission fluid levels are on the low side. When this is the case, it becomes difficult for these gears to move freely, and it can quickly develop a burning smell.

How to fix

Whenever you notice that the gears in your gearbox are hotter than they should be and may be on the verge of failing, simply go to a professional mechanic to fix the issue.

  1. Transmission fluid leak

Since your car’s transmission system is sealed, it is uncommon for it to run out of transmission fluid on its own. Typically, a lack of transmission fluid in a car is the result of a transmission system leak that is allowing transmission fluid to leak into the car.

A transmission fluid leak can plainly result in less transmission fluid than should be present in a transmission system. It might deplete the transmission fluid required by the gears and cause them to emit a burning oil smell. Pay attention to this smell and try to determine its origins. If this is caused by a transmission fluid leak, you will need to have it fixed immediately.

How to fix

If the issue is a transmission leak, a simple reseal service and transmission fluid flush are sufficient to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, if your transmission is significantly damaged, you will most likely require a replacement transmission for your car.

Read also: egg smell in car normal?

  1. Worn-out clutch

If you are driving a manual car and you are likely a novice driver, you may find that your car frequently emits a burning oil smell. Typically, if you strike the clutch with excessive force, you can cause surface damage or wear. The more you press on it, the more heat can be generated, and the more you’ll start smelling burning oil.

How to fix

The best way to fix this issue is to follow your car manual or question expert drivers of the same car about their recommendations regarding how you match the clutch.

  1. Malfunctioned brake system

If you have determined that your car does not have an oil leak and you are not driving a car with a manual transmission, you should examine the brake system.

The Brake system can also produce a burning oil smell, especially while going uphill and applying the brakes aggressively. The more you press on the brakes, the more you are producing friction, which results in heat generation and a smell like burning oil.

How to fix

Unfortunately, problems with a braking system generating a burning oil smell are a little complicated and cannot be handled by yourself. Visit a professional mechanic to diagnose the brake system. They may identify your driving style as the cause of the problem. Otherwise, it may be necessary to replace the complete braking system or the defective component.


Is it safe to drive a car that smells like oil?

The answer significantly depends on the cause of the issue. For instance, if the smell of oil is due to a dirty heating system, you can continue driving. Otherwise, if the smell is strong or causes a heating system, it’s not safe to drive.

How do you fix a car that burns oil?

If you ever notice that your car emits a strong smell of burning oil while you’re behind the wheel, you should not hesitate to bring it to your mechanic’s shop for inspection. The burning oil smell that you’re detecting isn’t just going to go away on its own in most circumstances.

Read also: engine oil in gearbox proper?


Evaluate and fix your car by visiting a competent mechanic if you notice that your car smells like burning oil after driving. Without a suitable amount of oil, your car’s engine will not function correctly, and in extreme situations, it may damage. Whatever the cause of the problem may be, you cannot ignore it and must have it fixed promptly.

Latest posts by Bernard Juchli (see all)

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

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

Back to top button