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Why Does My Jeep Wrangler Smell Like Antifreeze?

Have you ever noticed that your Jeep sometimes smells like antifreeze? If you do and wonder about the reasons, this article is for you. Like other vehicles, these jeep drivers also complain about the smell of an antifreeze which is certainly an issue for off-roaders. Why Does My Jeep Wrangler Smell Like Antifreeze?

The Jeep Wrangler smells like antifreeze, mainly due to the car’s coolant that starts to leak. It is absorbed in the interior of the car’s vents and produces an odor of antifreeze. Also, a loose serpentine belt may become the reason to smell like antifreeze by rising the engine temperature.

The loose belt will not turn the water pump enough RPMs, which would eventually cause the engine temp to rise, and the person would smell the overheated antifreeze through the reservoir hose/cap.

Generally, Jeep wranglers are considered the best vehicles for off-roading and are highly encouraged by off-road enthusiasts. Jeep wranglers are equipped with specific features that make them the best ones to stand out among others.

We need to take care of the vehicles we drive, or else they might not remain reliable in the long run and cause us to suffer because of the breakdowns during the journeys.

Why Does My Jeep Wrangler Smell Like Antifreeze?

There are many reasons behind producing a burning smell and antifreeze smell in the jeep wrangler.

1. The Burning Smell of Rubber from the Car:

There are many reasons behind the burning smell, and each smell indicates a different problem. But if the smell is like burning rubber, especially under the hood, it is not a good sign.

It indicates that the engine of the car needs some rest as it has been running for a long time. There are many causes behind such issues, and it is recommended to address them as soon as possible. The burning smell of rubber includes the issue of dragging the drive belt and slipping the clutch.

Why Does My Jeep Wrangler Smell Like Antifreeze

Dragging the Drive Belt

Slipping Clutch


  • You may notice the abnormal sounds of squealing and noising from under the hood and a burning rubber smell. It indicates the issue of locking the drive belt.

  • There might be an issue with the accessories associated with the serpentine belt like an air pump, A/C compressor, or clutch.

  • The belt rotates the pulley, and the dragging of the belt and friction causes the burning rubber smell.

  • A Clutch is a mechanical device in a manual transmission that transfers the rotational power from the engine to the wheels.

  • The Clutch is responsible for the speed of the car and slowing down of engine without turning it off.  

  • It is a need that the clutch pedal must be released because if not done so, the clutch will slip against the flywheel. It will burn the paper mesh of the clutch, and a smell will be produced in the car.


Replace the faulty belt and check out the remaining belts of the vehicle too. It is advisable to check out the drive belt every six months to avoid inconvenience.

Inspect the clutch, and if it is worn out, immediately replace it.

Learn the proper clutching and shifting techniques to disengage and re-engage the clutch fully.

Disengaging before re-engaging prevents the gears from the crash, and you can easily change the gear smoothly.

2. The Burning Smell of Plastic from the Car:

The burning smell of plastic in the car usually occurs when the heater or fan is turned on. Two main issues are involved with this matter, including the clogged or worn-out heater or an electrical short.

Worn Out Heater

Electrical Shot


  • When you observe the burning smell of plastic, check out your car's heater. The burning smell can be due to the accumulation of dust particles in the heater if you use it after a long time.

  • The debris also clogs the heater, and it can also produce a burning smell of plastic.

  • If both of these issues are not detected, there might be an issue with the heater. The heater might be broken or melted, letting the antifreeze leak into the vents.

  • The electrical short circuit in the engine can also produce a burning smell of plastic in the car.

  • The plastic coatings on the heater or wires can melt in some cases producing an electrical shock and burning smell in the vehicle.


Take your car to a technician if you detect no debris and still there is a strong smell of burning plastic.

You can detect the issue with the car with the help of a technician. It is recommended to seek professional help to fix the wiring issues.

3. The Burning Smell of Coolant in the Car:

If you observe a sweet smell from your AC in the car, it indicates the leaking coolant in the car’s coolant system or the burning of the system. The worn-out or damaged systems of AC units can produce a burning smell of coolant.

The sweet smell comes from the chemical substance called ethylene glycol, which is added to the antifreeze to lower the freezing temperature.

We have created the infographic below that covers the reasons and the solutionon why jeep wrangler smells like antifreeze. (You are welcome to use and share but please credit us if you do so.)

Why Does My Jeep Wrangler Smell Like Antifreeze


The cracked or leaking head gasket can leak out the coolant and produce a smell in the car. It can produce a burning smell in the engine combustion chamber. It is recommended to fix the burnt or cracked coolant to avoid this smell in your car.

The jeep wrangler is a reliable automobile for traveling on off-roading terrains. When it comes to off-road terrains and everyday commutes within the city.

A common problem is seen in the jeep wranglers that smell like antifreeze. The interior starts producing an odor, which might lead to situations like vomiting in the driver or the passengers sitting in the car. 

As a result of this leakage, the odor becomes a part of the vehicle's interior. The car starts smelling like antifreeze, and the odor would get across the nose of the driver or the passenger every time they enter the car. The permanent odor of antifreeze in the car might lead to breathing problems in people who already have asthma or similar respiratory issues. 

What to Do If Jeep Wrangler Smells Like Antifreeze?

Why Does My Jeep Wrangler Smell Like Antifreeze

If people start noticing the smell of antifreeze in their jeep, they must stop their car alongside the road and turn the engine off. After allowing the car to cool completely, they should open the car’s hood to examine if the coolant of the vehicle has been leaking or not.

It can be determined by examining the color of the recovery tank cap, radiator cap, and nearby hoses. At times, the leakage isn’t visible, so the person should feel over the hoses and pipes to ensure no moisture around them. The car should be completely cooled down before the examination, or it could lead to severe consequences. 

What Does Antifreeze in Wrangler Smell Like?

It is quite a natural question if a person notices an irregular odor in their car. How are they supposed to determine whether the odor is of antifreeze liquid or is occurring for another reason?

Some people say that the smell of an antifreeze liquid is similar to maple syrup or candy syrup. In short, if a person thinks that they can identify a sweet odor coming from the AC vents of their jeep wrangler, it is an indicator that means that their vehicle has a leakage.

Difference Between Engine Coolant and Antifreeze:

In simpler terms, antifreeze and engine coolant might look similar, but both of these fluids are not the same. Antifreeze is a concentrated liquid that is glycol-based, and that has to be diluted with water before use and is referred to as coolant. The ready-to-use solution of antifreeze and water is the pre-mixed engine coolant.

Why Do Jeep Wranglers Have Two Batteries? Know in Details

Can Anti-Freeze Liquid Burn Off with Time?

The coolant burns off and damages the vehicle’s emission system and catalytic converter. It gets into the combustion chamber of the engine. The coolant is entered the combustion chamber and causes damage to the engine block. It results in the white smoke from the engine.

Smelling Antifreeze through AC Vents- What Does it Mean?

The cooling system of the engine includes a heater core in the vehicle. The things that affect the car’s radiator also affect the heater core. There are corrosion inhibitors in the coolant that can coat the surfaces like the heater core in the cooling system.

The cooling system may leak when it is filled with contaminants, and the corrosion inhibitors start to deplete. When you notice a sweet smell in the vehicle, it is a sign of a leaky heater core. The overall coolant level in the system is low when the coolant leaks out of the heater core.

Also Read:

Why is Jeep So Unreliable? All You Need to Know
Can All Jeeps Go Off-Road? All You Need to Know
Why Does My Jeep Wrangler Keep Beeping? All You Need to Know
How Long Do Jeep Wranglers Last?
Can You Lower a Jeep Wrangler? All You Need to Know
The Top 10 Jeeps for Off-Roading

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Why does the car smells like antifreeze from the outside but have no leaks?

A dried coolant is seen in the area where you observe the smell. It indicates that the valve gaskets need to be replaced or the screws are in a loose state that can cause the leak. It happens when the coolant is over-filled.

What is the meaning of the smell of antifreeze from the car?

When you smell antifreeze coming from the car, it indicates the coolant containing a sweet smell created by ethylene glycol is leaking from the car. This smell could be from a radiator or a hose that has failed to manifold the cylinder head. If you smell the antifreeze from the outside of your car, it might be from a leaky radiator cap.

Is it normal to smell antifreeze after a normal drive?

After shutting the engine off, you might notice an odd, sweet smell due to an antifreeze leak. Antifreeze plays an important part in keeping the engine running properly.

Why do you smell the antifreeze when the heat is turned on?

The cooling system is corrupted and is filled with contaminants when the corrosion inhibitors are depleted. There are many signs of a leaky heater core in which; one is the presence of a sweet smell from your vents.

Is it a bad thing to smell an antifreeze?

It is not a good thing to smell an antifreeze as antifreeze fumes can cause eye and respiratory tract infections. It is not synthetically toxic unless or until you physically consume it. Antifreeze can cause mild skin infection as fumes are harmful.

How much is the average cost needed to fix the antifreeze leak?

The average cost for fixing the antifreeze leak falls between $44 and $56. It is the estimated labor cost and does not include taxes and fees. 

Where does the antifreeze go in a jeep wrangler?

It is recommended to find a coolant reserve tank in front of the engine compartment to the left of the upper radiator hose. There are indicator marks for the cold and hot fill levels on the left side of the tank.

How can you check the radiator fluid in a jeep wrangler?

You can check the radiator fluid in a jeep wrangler by finding the location of the coolant overflow bottle. It is usually at the side of the engine compartment. There are level marks imprinted on the side where you can immediately indicate if the fluid levels are low or high.

What signs indicate that the heater core is going out?

 There are several signs indicating the heater core is going in the outside direction: 

  • Lower or no level of heat inside the car
  • The smell of coolant inside the car
  • Fogged up windows
  • Signs of coolant leak under the dashboard
  • Dropping level of coolant

What is the smell of the heater core leak?

Heater core leak blows an odor of the engine coolant through the vents if it is leaking. Some coolants smell sweet, while some smell musty. The smell is like candy, fruit, or maple syrup.

Why does the coolant smell like ammonia?

There is a temporary increase in Ph observed in the coolant. It generates the pungent smell of ammonia. The performance and durability of the coolant are not affected as long as the coolant is properly maintained.

How can you fix a coolant?

You can fix the leak in the coolant coming from a loose clamp. A few minutes are required to fix the lead in the radiator.

Do the auto-zone coolants also leak?

Auto-zone coolants can also leak that can be fixed and stopped if you follow the steps to stop the radiator fluid from leaking. These solutions are temporary ones, so it is advisable to seek professional help to determine the time for radiator replacement.

How can you check the coolant leaks?

You can suspect the internal coolant leak and allow the radiator to cool. Look for the signs of oil or frothy bubbles in the radiator. When the engine runs off, a coolant smell indicates the leaking of exhaust gas or cylinder-head gasket.

Explain some signs of a blown head gasket?

 The signs of a bad head gasket include:

  • The white fumes from a tailpipe.
  • Bubbles from a coolant and radiator.
  • Unexplained loss of coolant and milky coloration.
  • Overheating the engine.

Do you require special coolant for the jeep?

The jeep has developed its coolant and requires a clear coolant that is unique for the models. Various coolants in different colors, including purple-blue, green, red, and yellow.

What is the color of antifreeze used in the jeep?

The color of antifreeze used is oat coolant. Orange, bright red, blue, and dark green are other colors used in the antifreeze.

How long do the jeep radiators last long?

A proper radiator lasts for at least three years and up to 8-10 years if maintained properly. An upgraded radiator is required to handle the high heat output.