Burning Oil Smell Through Vents – Causes & Fixes

Last updated on November 22nd, 2023 at 11:06 am

Have you ever experienced the unpleasant odor of burning oil smell through vents from your car while driving? If yes, then you are not alone. This is a common problem that many car owners face and it can be a sign of a serious issue with your vehicle’s engine.

The smell of burning oil through vents can be caused by several factors, including an exhaust system, a damaged gasket, or a worn-out engine parts.

If left unchecked, these problems can lead to more significant engine damage and costly repairs.

In this article, we will explore the possible causes of the burning oil smell through vents and discuss the necessary steps to diagnose and fix the issue.

It is essential to address this problem promptly to avoid more significant engine damage and ensure that you can continue to drive safely and comfortably.

Causes And Fixes Of Burning Oil Smell Through Vents From Your Car

Valve Cover Oil Leaks

One of the most common signs of a valve cover oil leak is a burning oil smell through vents. This is because the oil leaking from the valve cover gasket can drip onto the exhaust system, causing the oil to burn and emit a strong odor.

It’s important to address a valve cover oil leak promptly, as it can not only cause unpleasant smells but also result in reduced engine performance and potential engine damage. A low oil level can also lead to engine overheating, which can be dangerous.

To diagnose a valve cover oil leak, it’s best to inspect the engine for any visible signs of oil leaks or stains.

In some cases, the oil leak may be evident by simply looking under the hood. However, in other instances, the leak may be harder to detect and require the help of a mechanic.

If the issue is caused by loose or broken valve cover nuts or bolts, the solution is to replace them. Additionally, a damaged valve cover gasket will also require replacement. It’s essential to use high-quality parts to ensure the repair lasts and prevents further leaks.

Leak PCV Valve

If you’re detecting a burning oil smell through your vents, it could be a sign of a PCV valve leak. A leak PCV valve can cause oil to seep within your engine compartment, and when it drips onto a heated surface, it generates a burning smell. This smell can enter your car through the ventilation system and cause discomfort to you and your passengers.

It’s important to address this issue as soon as possible because if left unattended, it can lead to bigger problems such as engine damage or a fire hazard. The first step is to check the sealings of your valve cover gasket and ensure that it’s not damaged. If it is, then it needs to be replaced.

Next, you should check your PCV valve and vacuum hoses to see if they are functioning correctly. You can remove the PCV valve from your valve cover and check for a significant vacuum by placing your fingertip on it while your engine is running. If it’s not working properly, it will need to be replaced.

Exhaust Leaks

As a driver, it can be alarming to detect a burning oil smell through your vents while driving. This can be an indication of exhaust leaks within your engine compartment. These leaks can occur from cracks or holes in the exhaust manifold, pipe, or catalytic converter, allowing exhaust gases to penetrate your car cabin and produce a burning smell.

Fortunately, it is easy to detect exhaust leaks.

One method is to use a spray bottle filled with soapy water and apply it to the exhaust manifold and pipes while the engine is cold. If bubbles appear, this indicates a leak. You can also listen for changes in the engine’s tone, as significant leaks can produce whistling or whizzing sounds.

If you detect a burning oil smell through your vents, it is important to address the issue promptly. Exhaust leaks can pose a risk to your health, and if left unchecked, can cause damage to your engine or even lead to a fire. It is best to have a professional mechanic inspect and repair any leaks to ensure your safety on the road.

Recommended Post 10 Symptoms of an Exhaust Leak

An Exhaust System Oil Leaks

An exhaust system oil leak is a serious problem that can result in a burning oil smell through vents in your car. This issue is often caused by a cracked or loose component, which can allow oil to escape from the engine and flow onto hot engine surfaces. When this happens, the oil can burn and produce a strong, unpleasant odor that can be noticeable inside the cabin of your car.

One of the most common signs of an oil leak is oil leaking on the ground underneath your car. You may also notice a greasy dirt buildup in the lowest portion of your engine bay. Other signs of an oil leak include a drop in oil pressure, engine overheating, and an increase in oil consumption.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to have your car inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.

Poorly Handled Oil Change

If you’ve recently had an oil change and noticed a burning oil smell coming through your vents, it could be a sign that the oil change was poorly handled. Extra oil spilled into the exhaust system and other components during the oil change could be the cause of the unpleasant smell.

When you start your car and the engine begins to warm up, any excess oil on the hot surface will evaporate, causing a noticeable oil smell in your car. While the smell can be concerning, it’s usually nothing to worry about as long as there are no other leaks. The oil will eventually burn up completely, and the smell will dissipate within a couple of days.

However, if you continue to smell burning oil coming through your vents, it’s essential to have your car checked by a mechanic.

How To Get Rid Of The Burning Oil Smell Coming From Your Vehicle Vents

There are several steps you can take to get rid of the smell and identify the cause of the issue.

The first step is to determine the cause of the problem. As mentioned earlier, this could be a simple oil leak or a more serious engine issue. It’s essential to address the problem as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to your vehicle. If you’re unsure about the cause, it’s best to take your vehicle to a professional technician or auto repair shop for a thorough inspection.

It’s also crucial not to overlook the signs of a problem. If you notice any issues with your vehicle, such as difficulty shifting gears, unusual noises, or a decrease in oil levels, it’s essential to address them promptly. Neglecting these signs can lead to more significant problems in the future, including engine damage, which can be expensive to repair.

To get rid of the burning oil smell, you can try cleaning your vehicle’s air filter and replacing it if necessary.

You can also use an air freshener to mask the odor temporarily. However, it’s important to address the root cause of the issue to prevent the smell from returning

Different Burning Smells That Indicate Your Car Needs Attention

Aside from the oil smell from car vents, there are other burnt odors that you should watch out for as they could indicate that your car is not in good condition. Here are some of the scents and their corresponding causes:

Burning rubber: If you smell burnt rubber, it could mean that your engine is too old and is beginning to wear out. You should attend to this issue before it breaks down completely.

Burning plastic odor: This smell typically emanates from the fan or heater of your vehicle. You may want to check the resistors, fans, or other mechanical components that expose high temperatures to find the source of the problem.

Burning coolant: A “sweet” scent that smells like burning syrup indicates that your cooling system is burning off. It comes from ethylene glycol, which is unhealthy for humans.

Burning carpet: This odor appears when you ride the brakes too hard or when the caliper piston seizes and makes the brakes drag. It’s best to address this issue as soon as possible to prevent further damage.


Q: Is the smell of oil coming from the vents after an oil change normal?

A: A burning oil smell after an oil change is not normal if the change was done correctly and if there are no leaks in your car.

Q: Can Overfilling Engine Oil Cause a Burning Smell in Your Car?

A: Yes, if you pour too much oil into your car’s engine, it can cause oil pressure to rise beyond what gaskets can handle. This results in oil leakage, which causes a burning smell when it drips on a hot component like the exhaust manifold.

Q: Can Spilled Motor Oil Evaporate?

A: Yes, spilled motor oil on a hot surface can evaporate almost instantly, resulting in a distinct burning oil smell.

Q: How Long Does It Take for Spilled Oil to Burn Off?

A: In most cases, it takes around 30-60 minutes for spilled oil to burn off. However, if the spill is substantial or the engine is still hot, it may take longer because the oil needs to be heated to burn off.


In this above article, we discussed the issue of burning oil smell through vents and how to address it. We outlined the causes of this odor and provided tips on how to get rid of it. Additionally, we highlighted other burning smells that may indicate problems with your car’s engine or systems

it’s important to address the issue quickly to prevent further damage to your engine. You can try changing your air filter or having your car’s ventilation system cleaned. If the problem persists,

it’s best to take your car to a mechanic for a thorough inspection. Don’t ignore this warning sign and put the health of your car and passengers at risk.