What is that Burning Smell When Heater is On in Car?

Hi Peeps,

Recently, I’ve noticed a strange burning smell coming from my car whenever I turn on the heater. It’s a bit concerning, and I’m wondering if anyone has experienced something similar or knows what might be causing it.

Could it be something serious, like an electrical issue, or perhaps something less urgent? Any advice on what steps I should take to diagnose and fix this issue would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance for your help…


A burning smell from your car’s heater can be concerning more especially if you are a beginner. The burning smell can be because of:

  • Clogged Cabin Air Filter: A dirty or clogged cabin air filter can restrict airflow, causing the heater to work harder and emit a burning smell. Regularly replacing the cabin air filter can help prevent this issue.
  • Faulty Heater Core: The heater core generates heat for your car’s heating system. If it becomes faulty or leaks, it can emit a burning odor. Have a professional mechanic inspect and repair the heater core if needed.
  • Failed Blower Motor: The blower motor pushes air through the heating system. If it fails or malfunctions, it can cause overheating and a burning smell. Professional inspection and repair are necessary for a failed blower motor

This is because the vents in your car are subject to filth much like the vents in your house. In fact, as it burns away the dust, debris, and filth, the entire system becomes dirty and may emit a burning stench. Leaves and pine needles are among the things that can become lodged in your ventilation system.

Most commonly, the heater can create a burning smell if a large amount of dust accumulates in the vents over time .To fix Drain the heater box and remediate any lingering odor . The first step is to unplug the heater box drain if it’s clogged. Seek professional help if it’s too difficult to reach.

It sounds like you might have a leaking valve cover gasket. It usually shows up after a few minutes of driving and might happen again when you stop. Check under the hood to see if there’s any leaking or if any fluids are low.