Any kind of strange smell in your car can be a slightly worrying experience, whether it’s a relatively new car, or a salvage car from one of our online vehicle auctions here at RAW2K. The smell of burning oil is a particularly unsettling smell, because it often means that your car needs urgent mechanical attention, or that it presents an immediate danger to you and the car’s other occupants. In some cases, both!
Below, we’ll go into a bit of detail about what could be behind the issue, and what you should do about it. First though, the most important question to start off with!
How do I know my car is burning oil?
To be honest, most of the time when cars are burning oil, the result is a general burning smell. Oil has a certain thick, acrid scent to it, and in some cases it may even there may be undertones of something that smells very much like plastic. If the oil pressure is low on the other hand, you may notice that there’s a strong smoky smell.
Of course, you don’t just have to go by your nose alone. The oil light should illuminate on your dashboard, which will obviously make it easier to tell.
So what’s happening, then? Well essentially, what’s very likely to be occurring is that your oil is leaking and dripping on to a hot surface somewhere outside your engine, and then sizzling and burning – which is what’s generating that smell. There could be all sorts of underlying causes for this. We’ll go through just a couple.
What are the causes behind burning oil?
To be honest, there’s a couple of possible causes behind it, all as equally likely as the other. For starters, if your engine has sustained a crack anywhere, or if it’s missing a component, then that’s going to make it far easier for oil to start leaking out from somewhere. (There’s a relatively straightforward way to tell if that’s what’s happened – once you’ve brought the car to a stop, check if there’s any liquid pooling on the underside anywhere.) A faulty valve cover can lead to much the same result, and an exhaust leak can also sometimes be the culprit.
If you notice the smell only briefly when driving, and then it goes away within a minute or so, then there’s a good chance that some oil may have been spilled during your most recent oil change or similarly straightforward repair. Even if you think that’s what’s happened though, make sure not to dismiss it offhand, just in case!
What should you do when you smell burning oil?
It’s not the kind of issue to try and tackle if you’ve not got the right qualifications or tools, so the very first thing to do is get your car to a qualified mechanic so that they can take a look. They’ll then be able to tell you whether there is a serious issue with your car or not, and how much it will cost.
One of the most common issues generally involves the failure of the piston seal rings (or oil control rings, as they’re sometimes known). That can cost anything from about £70 upwards, all the way up to a few hundred pounds. Alternatively, it may even require a complete replacement of your engine, which can run into the four figures, so be braced for that one!
If you do have the right mechanical knowledge and tools though, as many of our customers do here at RAW2K, then you can certainly take a look. You’ll probably need to start by running a routine diagnostic with an actual diagnostic tool, which will tell you where the issue is. You can then identify what’s causing the leak and rectify it accordingly. If you think it might be beyond your expertise or the equipment you have available though, never be afraid to pass it up to someone more experienced!
And if you ever decide that the car itself is beyond saving, that’s where we can help here at RAW2K. Our online salvage auctions provide the perfect place to sell your salvage car for profit – or alternatively, you can browse them as a buyer for vehicles that you can easily fix up and flip for profit.
We’ve got a huge range of salvage cars to choose from in our online car auctions, including many from world-famous brands like Mercedes, Citroen and Peugeot. Our auctions are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, so there are always bargains to be found. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?