How to diagnose a car problem if you smell rubber burning

Updated March 23, 2017

If you smell rubber burning while driving your vehicle, you should pull over and park it, then troubleshoot the problem. Burning rubber can indicate one of several problems. Most of the rubber components that may be affected, such as belts or hoses, can be purchased from an auto parts store. Tires, on the other hand, will need to be purchased from a tire dealer or a big-box retailer.

Check the clearance between the wheel and the fender. If the top of the wheel and the bottom of the fender are rubbing, it will cause a burning smell while driving. Normally, this is not a problem unless the factory ride height has been altered. Also check for any debris that may be rubbing against the inside of the fender or wheel well.

Open the bonnet while the vehicle is running. Look at all of the various belts, and note any pulleys that are not moving or belts that are slipping. You will likely also hear a squealing noise accompanying the slipping belt. A faulty pulley will need to be checked and replaced.

Check for oil leaks. Valve cover leaks will cause a rubber-like smell if you are using synthetic oil. The oil drips from the valve cover onto the heat-shield of the exhaust manifold. The valve cover gasket must be replaced if this is the problem.

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About the Author

I am a Registered Financial Consultant with 6 years experience in the financial services industry. I am trained in the financial planning process, with an emphasis in life insurance and annuity contracts. I have written for Demand Studios since 2009.