Smoke coming from a car's tailpipe

If you see smoke coming from your exhaust, you may panic and fear the car is on fire. However, this is not nearly as disastrous as it sounds. It often just means that the car is polluting faster than it can expel the exhaust out of the tailpipe. You may have heard horror stories about seeing smoke coming from a car’s exhaust, but these are usually unfounded and unproven. In most cases, seeing or smelling smoke coming from your car’s exhaust pipe isn’t cause for too much concern. It’s still a good idea to investigate, however, because there are some instances where you should get the car checked out by a mechanic.
Below, we take a look at a few of the most common reasons your vehicle’s exhaust might be giving off smoke.

Oil Burning

First, one of the most common reasons that smoke comes from your exhaust is oil burning in the engine. This is a pretty normal occurrence, but it is still worth investigating. You may notice or perceive a strong burning smell coming from the exhaust at times. This is often a sign of oil burning in the engine. Oil burning is normal when the car is cold, but it should not continue once it is warmed up. If you notice a strong burning smell that does not go away after the car has warmed up, it is likely oil burning.

Carbon Buildup

Another normal cause of smoke coming from your exhaust is carbon buildup. This is usually normal when you drive long distances on the highway. one of the most common misconception is that if you see smoke coming from your car’s exhaust, your car is burning out. However, this is usually not true. The burning smell that you smell when the exhaust is polluted is a normal part of the car’s function. It is how the car pushes pollution out of the tailpipe and out of the engine. However, if you notice smoke coming from the exhaust when you are not driving long distances on the highway, it is important to investigate the cause. It could be an early sign of a problem, especially if it happens regularly.

Catalytic Converter Leak

If the exhaust smells like smoke and you notice a significant drop in performance, the catalytic converter may be leaking. The catalytic converter is placed in your car’s exhaust system, where it is responsible for reducing the number of harmful hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide in the exhaust fumes. After years of wear and tear or after hitting debris on the road, the catalytic converter can become damaged causing the car to smell like exhaust fumes. If the catalytic converter in your vehicle leaks, it can no longer do its job of neutralizing exhaust pollutants and may need to be replaced.

Bottom Line

If your car’s exhaust smells like smoke, then it may be time to look at what’s causing the smell. It could even mean that any odors from your exhaust system are coming from something else besides just the exhaust itself. If you find that smelly odor coming from your tailpipe, it’s best to take it in to a local auto repair shop to make sure nothing serious is going on.

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