Burning Smell After Oil Change: Quick Troubleshooting Guide

Experiencing a burning smell after an oil change can be concerning for any vehicle owner. In many cases, this issue is caused by minor factors that can be easily resolved.

It’s essential to understand the common causes and the actions you can take to address them.

One possible reason for the burning smell is that some components were not securely closed during the oil change, such as the filter not being fully reinstalled or the drain plug not being tightened enough.

Another scenario is that small oil droplets may have fallen on the engine’s surface, causing a burning odor as the engine heats up during operation.

Causes of Burning Smell After Oil Change

Overfilled Engine Oil

Overfilling engine oil during an oil change can cause a burning smell. Excess oil may leak onto hot engine surfaces, generating the burning smell. To prevent this, always check the oil level with a dipstick after an oil change.

Leaking Oil Filter or Drain Plug

A loose oil filter or drain plug can lead to oil leakage. This leak can create a burning smell, especially when the oil drips onto hot exhaust components. Ensure your mechanic tightens the filter and drain plug properly to avoid this issue.

Spillage onto Hot Surfaces

Occasionally, during an oil change, small oil spills may occur. When the engine heats up, these spills burn and emit a smell.

Confirm that your mechanic has cleaned up any spills and wiped down the engine before driving away.

Overfilled Engine OilEnsures sufficient lubricationMay cause leaks and a burning smell if excessive
Leaking Oil Filter or Drain PlugEasy to fix by tightening the componentsCan lead to oil leakage and a burning smell
Spillage onto Hot SurfacesUnintentional as a part of the oil change processMay result in a burning smell if not cleaned up

Identifying the Source of the Smell

Inspecting for Leaks

One of the first steps to take is inspecting your vehicle for oil leaks. Leaking oil can cause a burning smell when it drips onto hot engine components.

Check areas like the oil filter and drain plug, as they could be improperly secured.

Checking Oil Levels and Spills

It’s also essential to examine your engine oil levels using the dipstick. Low oil levels might indicate a leak, which could cause a burning smell.

Spilled oil can also be the culprit; ensure there’s no residue around the oil fill cap or on the engine block.

Once you’ve identified the source of the burning smell, seek prompt professional help to rectify the issue. Proper maintenance and attention will keep your car running smoothly and safely.

Addressing and Preventing Burning Smell Issues

Proper Oil Change Procedures

During an oil change, be careful to avoid spills. Clean oil droplets on the engine surface. Overfilled oil may cause a burning smell, so ensure the right amount.

Engine and Transmission Maintenance

Keep the engine and transmission clean. Regularly inspect for leaks or damage. Replace filters as needed, and be particularly cautious around the alternator.

Consulting a Professional

If you notice a persistent smell, consult a mechanic. They can diagnose and fix the issue, ensuring your vehicle is safe to drive.

Other Smells and Causes to Consider

Burning Rubber or Plastic

If you encounter a burning rubber or plastic smell, it could be due to a short circuit in the wiring.

Exposed wires rubbing together can cause a short, leading to the risk of a fire. For example, worn-down insulation in the engine area might result in a burning rubber smell.

Rotten Eggs Smell from Exhaust

A rotten eggs smell from the exhaust is often a sign of a problem with the catalytic converter.

This can be caused by a rich fuel mixture or a malfunctioning oxygen sensor. In such cases, it’s essential to take your car to a mechanic for proper evaluation and repair.

Mildew Smell from HVAC System

Encountering a mildew smell when using your car’s HVAC system could be a sign of mold or mildew growth in the system.

This can happen when moisture accumulates in the air conditioning system.

To address this issue, you may need to clean the air conditioning system, replace the cabin air filter, or get an inspection by a professional.


In some cases, a burning smell after an oil change may be due to oil droplets on the engine. Other times, it could be a result of loose components like filters or drain plugs not being securely tightened.

One possible solution is checking for oil leaks around the filter or drain plug. If the issue persists, it may be necessary to consult a professional.

Considering different types of oil changes and frequent inspections could prevent such issues.

For example, there are synthetic oils, which may benefit high-performance vehicles, and conventional oils, which could be better for regular cars.

It’s vital to schedule regular maintenance checks and ensure proper procedures are followed during oil changes. This can help avoid unpleasant smells and ensure a smoothly functioning engine.

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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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