What Does Engine Oil Smell Like? Learn the Facts

Engine oil tends to play a very important role when it comes to our vehicles since it helps to lubricate the internal parts of the engine. We all should have an idea of what it actually looks like, but what does engine oil smell like?

In this article, we are going to take a look at mineral oils and synthetic oils. We will also be discussing the smell of old and new oil smell.

What Does Old Engine Oil Smell Like?

We think engine oil is at the old stage when it reaches 6000 miles since an oil change or if one year has passed.

Due to the contact with the metal components of your engine and the fact that it’s constantly been through extreme heat and cooling, the oil will start to deteriorate. As soon as the oil begins to break down from the refined state that it’s in, it will then revert to its smell when it first comes from the ground or sea bed.

Usually, the reason behind this has to do with the separation of the additives and detergents from the oil. The changes and smell are not bad at first, but you will definitely notice it.

Let’s not forget that engine oil is known to contain lots of natural gas, but as soon as it breaks down, the smell that you are likely to notice will have a slight gasoline odor.

Learn More: what causes engine oil oxidation

What Does New Engine Oil Smell Like?

What Does Engine Oil Smell Like

Let’s put it this way, when you open a bottle of fresh engine oil, you will not smell anything much. The reason for this is that the oil is refined and is being supplemented with additives. What this does is help to keep it in a neutral lubricating state. At this point, the only thing you are likely to smell is gasoline but nothing more.

However, the appearance and smell can change as soon as it comes into contact with water and coolant.

When oil is drilled from the soil or the sea bed, it is known to be in a crude form. At this point, the oil is not safe to be used in a car engine. Crude oil tends to have a weird smell, depending on its form it can smell similar to rotten eggs.

The crude oil that is used to make engine oil is considered to be light crude oil. On the other hand, heavy crude oil is said to have a black appearance, and as you know, new engine oil tends to have a yellow tinge or a golden look.

Is It Normal For a Car to Smell After An Oil Change?

New oils don’t seem to have a bad smell. While older oil on the other hand gives off a gasoline smell. After doing an oil change the only smell that you are likely to encounter is a burning oil smell.

If it’s a case where you haven’t noticed this smell before, then it could be that the new oil dripped onto your car’s engine block as it was being poured in. If that’s the case, then it is like your mechanic has wiped the engine down, while others may not.

While the car is running, the engine block temperature will start to intensify and can burn the oil on its surface. If it is being a while since you’ve changed your oil, the burning smell is an indication that you have an oil leak.

Read Also: can you add motor oil to a hot engine

What Does Burning Engine Oil Smell Like?

In general, burning oil tends to have an acrid and bitter smell. However, in large quantities, this burning sensation can result in your eyes and nasal passage being irritated. However, if it’s a case where your car is burning oil, this might be enough to cause you any harm.

What Does Synthetic Engine Oil Smell Like?

It’s safe to say that synthetic oil is also natural oil based. The biggest difference you will find is that they use superb quality oil when compared to the crude oil that is refined and used in mineral engine oil.

Let’s start by saying that new synthetic oil doesn’t give off a bad odor and the reason for this is that the oil used is not from a gasoline base like mineral oil.

Another thing to keep in mind is that synthetic engine oil tends to have its oil molecules altered and tailored which allows it to work for more modern car engines. This enables it to last longer and doesn’t separate from additives and detergents like mineral oil.

There is no doubt that even older synthetic oil may not give off the scent that you are likely to experience from mineral oil.

Why Does My Car Smell Like Oil Inside the Cabin?

It might be a case where you have an oil leak as this will allow the smell to find its way inside the cabin. You should take a look underneath your car after you’ve parked it for some time or you can inspect the engine room to see if there is any leak.

However, if you have properly inspected your car and you haven’t noticed any leak, then it could be that it isn’t an oil smell after all.


As we’ve mentioned above, new engine oil doesn’t really carry any smell so you won’t notice anything much. You may notice a slight gasoline scent, but that’s just about it. However, as the oil starts to age, and the additives and detergents begin to break away from the oil molecules, it will then have a more noticeable odor.