Why Does Car Smells Hot But Not Overheating?

If you are like most drivers, they look at their temperature gauge so rarely. Many vehicle manufacturers don’t even include temperature gauges anymore but just lights that will come on if your car is either extremely cold or extremely hot.  However, if your car smells hot but not overheating, you might not know it without a gauge.

It can be because your fuel is leaking into the exhaust system when you smell oily. There is a possibility that the fuel tank or fuel injectors line might be leaking gas, causing a gasoline smell. Let’s see an in-depth format for this issue.

Is It Normal For A Car To Smell Hot?

Raw fuel may contact exhaust fluid or rotating engine components by triggering to cause the fire. Also, a low oil level could damage the engine. If you notice the smell not long after an oil change, the leak might be caused by a loose drain plug or filter that wasn’t properly attached or an oil cap that wasn’t screwed on tightly enough. An oil leak from a bad gasket or seal can cause problems, such as oil dripping on the timing belt or the crankshaft seal. It could take your engine out.

What Does An Overheating Engine Smell Like?

This may be the result of an engine belt that’s slipped. It could also be a hose from the cooling or power steering system that’s rubbing on a belt and has started to melt.

Can You Drive A Car With Burning Smell?

You absolutely should not! That’s because every potential cause of a burning smell in your vehicle is serious, and it can quickly turn into a dangerous situation. These problems are so serious that the very next stop in your car needs to be to the mechanic. Burning smells can start fires, total engines, and take out your brakes. A burning smell in your car could be caused by several things, including a burned-out electrical fuse, an overheating A/C compressor, or worn-out brake pads that need to be replaced.

Why Would A Car Smell Like It’s Overheating?

You likely have a small oil leak on the valve cover or another place that is leaking on the exhaust. Engine misfire can be caused by a weak spark that might not set a code. Or you could have a sluggish oxygen sensor that might set a code. A failure of the water pump can be the last thing you need to worry about.

Why Does My Car Smells Hot But Not Overheating:-

This problem is extremely frustrating. It’s even more frustrating when you’re doing everything right to keep your car cool, and the car is running hotter anyway. There is a low level of coolant. A faulty water pump or a malfunctioning thermostat has damaged it. Older engines are more likely to develop hot spots in the engine that cause oil smoke, and frequently they’ve worn out the rings on the piston face.

car running hot but not overheating

In some cases, you’ve got a car that smells hot but not overheating because of a damaged or clunked radiator.

1. Damaged Or Clunked Radiator:-

The radiator has one job to keep your engine from overheating. Internal combustion engines produce a lot of heat when in use. The coolant in your vehicle circulates through the engine and the radiator absorbs the heat and uses the air passing through the radiator to cool it down.

If your radiator isn’t functioning properly, this can lead to kinds of serious problems. Here are the signs your radiator is bad or failing:

1. Your vehicle is overheating

2. Your vehicle is leaking coolant

3. Sludge builds up in your radiator

2. Low Coolant Levels:-

If you’re constantly adding coolant to your radiator or the “low coolant” light on your vehicle’s dash keeps turning on, you most likely leak. If you’re required to routinely replenish coolant, you should bring your vehicle to a trusted mechanic for an immediate diagnosis.

3. Damaged Water Pump Or Thermostat:-

The water pump is a crucial part of your vehicle’s cooling system. It draws coolant out of the radiator and pumps it through the engine. As the coolant circulates through your car, truck, or SUV’s engine, it draws heat away from engine parts to keep them cool. Once it returns to the radiator, the radiator fan and outside air help reduce the coolant’s temperature before it’s pushed through the engine again. Here are signs your water pump is failing.

1. Overheating

2. Coolant leaks

3. Whining noises

4. Corroded water pump

4. Overworked Engine:-

When the engine is overworked, it overheats. The way it overheats is that the temperature inside the cylinders gets too high. When that happens, the gasoline and air mixture which is supposed to detonate when the spark plug fires detonate unpredictably at other times too.

5. Bad Coolant Temperature Sensor:-

The coolant temperature sensor is one of the most important components of a car’s cooling system. It is responsible for displaying temperature readings on the car temperature gauge. A faulty coolant temperature sensor may prevent the ECU from taking necessary actions to prevent overheating, or temperature gauges can indicate a false high temperature because it prevents coolant circulation. In most cars, if the engine reaches about 240 degrees Fahrenheit, the cooling fan will start. If this safety mechanism fails, the engine may overheat.

6. Faulty Head Gasket:-

If the head gasket on your car fails, all four of the coolant water+coolant mixture would suddenly start leaking without any indication and all of them would concurrently reach the radiator at the same time. Since there is no way for gases to escape from cylinders, the mixture of water and coolant would be thrown out from the overflow reservoir tank via a hose/pipe. This is when you notice steam billowing from your car radiator. This is how a cracked head gasket would lead to car smells hot but not overheating.

7. Defective Cooling Fan:-

A radiator fan aids your car’s cooling system in keeping the engine cool. A defective cooling fan may not spin, or the blades may be stuck, which increases resistance and reduces airflow across the radiator by preventing proper cooling this is because it prevents coolant circulation.

8. Broken Temperature Gauge:-

If your car’s temperature gauge is broken, you will get a false engine temperature reading. A faulty temperature gauge will not let you know when the engine reaches dangerous levels of heat this is because it prevents the circulation of coolant.

Hence, these are some reasons behind the cause of cars smelling hot but not overheating.

How Do You Know If Engine Is Overheating?

Your engine can overheat for several reasons. Some of the most common causes of this are mechanical failures such as broken fans or blown head gaskets. Problems with your car’s radiator and cooling systems, such as leaking coolant or a stuck thermostat can also result in your engine reaching a dangerously high temperature. Luckily, there are several warning signs that your engine is overheating. If you respond quickly, you will have the best chance of minimizing serious damage.

1. Hot Hood:-

When the engine is running, you can expect the hood to emit heat and feel warm to the touch. This is completely normal. If however, your car’s hood is extremely hot, this could be cause for concern. You should be able to comfortably place your hand on the hood for 10 seconds without burning it.

2. Temperature Gauge Or Light:-

On your dashboard, you should see a warning light or gauge indicating the temperature of your engine. If the light flashes on or the gauge read near maximum, it means there is excessive heat generating in your engine. However, this warning light cannot always be trusted to alert you of an overheating engine. It functions by measuring the temperature of the coolant, so in the case of a huge coolant leak, there would be nothing for it to measure.

3. Ticking Noise:-

If your engine is making an audible ticking noise, it means that your engine oil is failing to lubricate the moving parts sufficiently. When engine oil is overheated, it loses its lubricating properties and behaves more like water than oil. At high temperatures, if the mechanical parts of your engine are clacking against each other audibly you can expect them to undergo wear and tear at a much higher rate than usual.

4. Coolant Leaking On The Ground:-

If you notice a puddle of coolant under your car, it could be a sign of a leak somewhere in your cooling system. It also could indicate that your engine has overheated and boiled the coolant within the radiator, causing the overflow tank to release excess liquid to relieve the high pressure created. In either situation, your car’s cooling system no longer has the correct amount of coolant flowing through the engine, so it will be prone to overheating. 

5. Smells “Hot”:-

There is a distinctive odor emitted when the engine heats up enough to start burning oil. As the temperature increases, the rubber seals, plastic valves, and bits of resin holding the whole engine together may begin to melt, releasing fumes that you would not normally smell otherwise. Most people describe this unusual odor as a ‘hot’ smell. It’s also possible that leaking coolant containing ethylene glycol will fill your car with sweet-smelling, but toxic fumes. Any unusual odors are a bad sign and should not be ignored. 

6. Steam Coming From The Hood:-

Steam billowing out from underneath your hood is a sure sign that your engine is overheating. As soon as you notice, pull over and turn off the engine. Coolant that has reached its boiling point will convert into steam and build pressure within the cooling system. When it escapes from your car’s radiator cap or coolant reservoir, you will see it coming out from the front and sides of the hood.

7. Thumping Noises:-

The thermostat in your cooling system controls the valve allowing the flow of coolant to the radiator, ensuring efficient engine function. If this valve gets stuck, the trapped coolant in the engine block will become superheated. When cold coolant comes into contact with the superheated coolant, you will hear a loud thumping noise coming from the engine area. Getting the thermostat replaced usually fixes this issue.

8. Reduced Engine Power:-

An overheated engine may not be able to deliver enough power to keep your car moving at the rate you want it to move. If you sense the power in your engine is lacking, pay close attention to odd smells or noises that can corroborate engine overheating. Keep an eye on the dashboard temperature gauge or light and pull over if you think the engine is struggling. If you notice one or more of these signs, there is a high chance that your engine is overheating.

How To Fix The Issue Of Engine Smelling Hot But Not Overheating?

You have several options here actually, and they all depend on the severity of the overheating situation. Remember that your car can still run hot even when it is not yet in the overheating range. The following are some steps through which you can deal with this issue of the car smells hot but not overheating properly.

Step 1:-

You can let it run hot and just shut down all the electrical accessories until it cools down. The problem with this option is that you’ll be stuck without power. If you need to change a flat tire, for example, you won’t be able to use your power windows or door lock.

Step 2:-

You can open up all your doors and remove everything from the passenger compartment. This will allow hot air to escape and cool air to come in.

Step 3:-

You can leave all the doors closed with the windows down about an inch just enough for a breeze to come in and cool you off. This is another option and works just as well as those above.

Step 4:-

You can use any quick and easy, low-cost radiator cooling solutions to help cool it down.

Step 5:-

You can just wait until your car cools itself down.

Therefore, you can try these steps to resolve the issue. If you’re unable to solve it try to take the help of the professionals to prevent your car from the severe damage.


We hope the above mentioned information about car smells hot but not overheating will be helpful to all the readers. If anybody’s doubts persist feel free to comment in the comment section below. We’ll try to solve your doubts as soon as possible.

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