I have a 2006 Nissan Maxima with a hundred and sixty-eight thousand miles on it. The water pump works fine but for some reason everytime I get out of my car it smells like it's overheating and yet my temperature gauge says it's not. When I start my car in the morning the temperature gauge was smoothie rise but then stops at the Middle Point and never goes any higher what could causes or what could cause the smell out of it overheating. The only reason I know what it smells like when a car overheats is because I actually blew an engine once and that's the exact same smell. Thanks one more thing the radiator is also fine.

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    Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! I'd bet you have an oil leak which is getting burned off on one of the exhaust headers. If you open your hood and take a look around, especially right after you've driven it, where it's coming from might be self evident. The engine itself can run just fine with an oil leak, as long as you ensure the proper amount is in there (ie: replace what is lost). Take a look around and see if you can tell anything. Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 23:13

3 Answers 3


What do you mean by smell of overheating?

To a random person not knowledgeable in cars, it could be a burning smell. That's burning oil so you have an oil leak to find, then.

However, for car people, the smell of overheating usually means the smell of coolant. If you can smell that, you are losing coolant and need to find the cause. Start from the simplest: check that your radiator cap is tight. If it is, pressure test the coolant system to see if it's leaking and if it is, use UV dye to find the source of the leak.


It could be that your catalytic converter is overheating, from misfire or rich condition. Engine misfire can be caused by weak spark which might not set a code. Or you could have a sluggish oxygen sensor which might set a code.
Use a vacuum cleaner hose as a sniffer. Stop the car out of the wind, lie down beside the car and extend the hose toward the cat while sniffing the other end.


You may have water leaking from the head gasket onto the exhaust manifold (header). Will immediately vaporise and cause the smell.

It's the coolant in the system that smells (antifreeze)

  • A leak of coolant from any source will produce a "hot engine" smell. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 19:30

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