Burning Brake or Clutch-like smell in Skoda

Hi All

I just moved to rural England and needed a car, so just bought a 2006 Skoda Fabia. For US folks, Skoda is a Czech company owned by Volkswagen Group, and my car is basically a stripped down Volkswagen Polo. (There’s a VW stamp on the engine, tags on the wiring, and a lot of the switches and knobs etc are oddly similar to my old Golf in the US!). The car just passed a safety inspection (MOT) with no problems.

My problem is this: I often get a smell coming from the vents that smells like overheated brakes or clutch. This is most noticeable after the car has been driven and then parked for a while. If I start the car with the fan on it is very noticeable.

My first thought was clutch. I don’t think it’s my driving (I’ve owned many manual cars and have never burnt out a clutch), but then I thought “what if I bought a car with a burnt out clutch!”. But I don’t detect any slipping or other problems when driving, in fact it works great. My second thought was brakes, but I don’t feel any problem with them, and they don’t seem to smell if I take a walk around the car. The smell seems to be coming from somewhere under the hood. I don’t see any evidence of burning oil or any other obvious problems.

This might be a clue: The car was owned by an older gentleman who didn’t drive it much (it has 15,000 miles on the clock). So I’m wondering if this might be related to the under-use of the car. Any suggestions of what might be the cause?


That smell is very distinctive.

The problem might be with the clutch master cylinder leaking internally.

If you step on the clutch pedal, but the master cylinder doesn’t produce enough hydraulic pressure to fully release the clutch disc, the clutch will slip causing the smell.

Hey! It’s a VW, so anything is possible!


Thanks Tester! That might make sense, but wouldn’t that produce some other symptom other than just a smell?

Have you felt the front wheels after a drive to see if one is hot?