Why Does My Car Smell Like Oil?

We are aware that oil is necessary to keep our engine lubricated. What does it smell like given the way it appears?

Here, we’ll examine synthetic engine oil, a more recent relative of mineral engine oil. We’ll also discuss the aromas of fresh, used, and burning oil. CarMats will now talk about potential causes if you smell oil in your cabin.

What Does New Car Oil Smell Like?

A freshly opened bottle of fresh motor oil doesn’t actually have much of a smell. This is because the oil was refined and given additional additives. This keeps it in a lubricating state that is neutral. It might even have a faint scent of gasoline, but that’s about it.

It can only alter its appearance and smell when it comes into contact with other elements like water and coolant.

Crude oil is extracted from the ground or the ocean floor. It is not suitable to be inserted directly into a car engine in this condition. Depending on its composition, crude oil can either have a sulfurous smell (often compared to the smell of rotten eggs) or a sweet fruity smell.

Light crude oil is the type of oil used to make engine oil.

As you are aware, light crude oil typically has a golden or yellow tint, whereas heavy crude oil is typically black in appearance.

Things change, though, once it’s opened and inside the engine.

What Does Old Car Oil Smell Like?

In general, engine oil is regarded as being outdated if more than 6000 miles or a year has passed since the last oil change.

The oil may start to degrade due to contact with the metal engine parts and the extremely high heat and low-temperature cycle.

The smell of the oil when it is first extracted from the ground or sea bed can return as it degrades from its refined state.

This is a result of the additives and detergents being separated from the oil. Although relatively insignificant, the changes and smell are discernible.

Because engine oil has a lot of natural gas in it, when it breaks down, it may smell a little bit like gasoline.

As we’ve already said, the smell shouldn’t be too strong, and if you smell gas coming from your engine or inside the car, it could be a sign of other mechanical problems that have nothing to do with oil.

What Does Burning Car Oil Smell Like?

Burning oil has an unpleasant, bitter odor. It can irritate the eyes and nasal passages in quantities greater than what a car can burn. Oil burning in a car, however, may still be audible, but it won’t be harmful in small amounts.

Since light crude oil is heavily based on gasoline in its crude state, as we’ve talked about, you might smell gasoline in this.

Is It Normal For A Car To Smell After An Oil Change?

Unscented oil is new. Older oil, in contrast, may have a faint gasoline smell. The only odor you will ever likely experience following an oil change is the odor of burning oil.

It’s highly likely that the new oil spilled onto your car’s engine block as it was being poured in if you hadn’t noticed this smell before the oil change. A good mechanic would always clean the engine if this happened, but a bad one might not!

Only when the engine is running can the engine block become hot enough to burn the oil on its surface.

If you haven’t changed your oil recently, the burning smell is an indication that you have an oil leak.

What Does Synthetic Car Oil Smell Like?

Natural oils are also the basis for synthetic motor oils.

The primary distinction is that they use crude oil of a much higher quality than what is refined and used in mineral engine oil.

As a result, fresh synthetic oil doesn’t smell since it doesn’t come from a gasoline base as mineral oil does.

To fit more modern car engines, synthetic car oil can have its oil molecules modified. Since they don’t separate from the additives and detergents as mineral oil does, they do have a tendency to last longer. As a result, even older synthetic oil might not have the same aroma as mineral oil.

Read our article on Reasons a Car Smells of Gasoline if you think the odor is coming from gasoline rather than oil.

Why Does My Car Smell Like Oil Inside The Cabin?

Oil Leak

The air that comes into the car through the vents has already been through the engine compartment.

In the event of an oil leak, the odor will enter the cabin.

You can tell if you have a leak or not by taking a quick look underneath your car the next morning after leaving it in a parking lot overnight.

It’s possible that the smell isn’t caused by oil after all if you don’t have a leak.

Rubber Hoses

Synthetic rubber is used to make all automotive hoses. Oil and gas are used to create synthetic rubber. As a result, it will smell like burning engine oil when it gets hot or burns.

The only components under the hood that could produce enough heat to burn rubber are the engine and the alternator. The alternator typically sits quite low and is located to the left of the car’s engine.

Look for any hoses that might be in contact with these components, both here and all around the engine.

Cabin Filter

According to the manufacturer’s recommendations, cabin filters should be changed frequently. They are frequently neglected, but when they do, they can become clogged and retain moisture.

The odor that results in the air conditioning system has been compared by some to that of oil, but most people describe it as sweet and decomposing.

However, this would be the next place to look if you had already ruled out an oil leak and burning rubber.


There isn’t much of a smell to fresh engine oil. It might smell faintly of gasoline, but it won’t be very strong.

You might start to notice a gassy smell as it gets older and the additives and detergents separate from the oil molecules.

However, burning oil emits a stronger and more unpleasant fuel odor. You may also feel a little bit of irritation in the back of your throat and in your nose.

Mineral oil smells similar to synthetic oil, though not quite as strongly. This is due to the higher quality base oil used in production, which has a less pungent aroma.

Read more:

How to jack up a car for oil change?

What Happens If You Put Wrong Oil In Car?