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Smell a burning smell but not all the time

Recently I have started to notice a burning smell while driving my car. It could be while I am driving or stopped at a drive through. It doesn’t last the whole drive and it is not every time I drive. I haven’t noticed any leaks, car is not over heating and there is no engine light on. Sometimes it smells like burning rubber but sometimes it just smells like a burning smell. When I get a chance I get out to smell near the hood but don’t smell anything. Thoughts?

Any thoughts?

Have the exhaust system inspected.

Sometimes you’ll pick up some kind of road debris (plastic bag) that sticks to the exhaust system, and doesn’t smell until the exhaust reaches a certain temperature.


And the exhaust system might be faulty & heating up the floor from the underside and burning the carpet. Missing cat heat shield, etc. Did you ever hear something metal-like sound like it dropped off from the underside of the vehicle as you were driving?

Definitely agree with the exhaust system.
Also have the brakes checked. If you have a slightly dragging brake you’ll also get a burning smell, often intermittently as you use your brakes repeatedly during normal driving.

No, I never heard anything that sounded like something metal dropping off thankfully. Thanks for the input. It is appreciated.

Oil dripping onto a hot part like the exhaust manifold can do this. It doesn’t take much oil to make a noticeable smell, so you won’t necessarily notice the level going down. Pop the hood and look for any hints of smoke when this happens, possibly using a flashlight at different angles.


Was the engine bay cleaned recently? I had a strong burning smell lasting over 2 weeks after getting my engine cleaned.