Can Exhaust Get Into a Car's Interior?

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There’s a very simple answer to the question of whether or not exhaust fumes can ever get into a car’s interior – yes they can. This happens more often than you might think, and it’s never a good thing. If you’ve noticed the smell of exhaust in your car and the door isn’t open while the engine is running or you’re not parked in a garage, it’s a sign that you need exhaust system repair.

The potential causes

Before we touch on repair-related problems, let’s look at a couple of other potential reasons you might be smelling exhaust inside the car.

  • Door open, engine running: If you’re sitting in your driveway or a parking lot with the engine running and the door open, there’s always a chance that the wind will blow your car’s exhaust into the interior. However, the smell should dissipate quickly once you start driving. If it does not, this isn’t your issue.

  • Parked in the garage: If you’ve parked the car in the garage and the engine is still running, it’s possible for exhaust fumes to get into the car’s interior. Car cabins are not airtight, and if the engine is running in an enclosed space (even if the garage door is open), it’s very possible for some exhaust fumes to make their way inside.

However, if you smell exhaust in the cabin while the car is running, then neither of the previously mentioned issues is what’s wrong. Chances are good that there’s a leak somewhere in your exhaust system. There are two possible locations:

  • The exhaust manifold: The exhaust manifold connects your engine with the exhaust pipes under the car. However, over time, it expands and contracts a great deal with engine heating and cooling. This can lead to cracking, which will release exhaust into the engine bay and the car’s cabin. It’s also possible that the manifold gasket has failed, which will have the same result.

  • The exhaust pipes: Exhaust pipes are made of metal, and while they’re durable, they are susceptible to rust and other damage. Over time, they’ll deteriorate, and holes can actually form in the pipes. These can release exhaust from under the car rather than out the muffler, and those fumes can enter the car’s interior.

If you smell exhaust inside your car’s cabin, there’s a chance that you have a leak. It should be inspected and repaired immediately. Exposure to high concentrations of carbon monoxide (found in exhaust) can be lethal.


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Bernie

50 years of experience
41 reviews
Bernie
50 years of experience
Honda Accord - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
I specifically asked for Bernie to come back, since I was so pleased with the work he did on our other car. This time I got to meet Bernie personally. He is a kind family-man who exhibited the quiet confidence of someone you would expect with the 50 years of automotive experience that he has. I felt very comfortable giving him the key to my car. Two of my kids (ages two and four) came out to greet him, since they remembered him from his first visit. Bernie is great around kids and was very kind to my two-year old son who was trying to "help" Bernie do his job. Thanks again, Bernie!
Honda Odyssey - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
I was very pleased with Bernie's work, professionalism, and courteousness. Best brake job I have ever had, and I have had many done (and several done myself, but not on this vehicle). This was a maintenance appointment -- not a repair of something broken -- so I was surprised when the brakes felt so much better after Bernie did the work. You can really see the care he took with our vehicle when I examined everything after he was finished. Thanks, Bernie!

Daniel

9 years of experience
17 reviews
Daniel
9 years of experience
Hyundai Sonata - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Sacramento, California
Awesome customer service. On time and answered my questions with patience. Listened to my concerns and made helpful suggestions. Seemed very knowledgeable and experienced. I will be glad to request him again. Thank you!!

Breck

18 years of experience
532 reviews
Breck
18 years of experience
Toyota RAV4 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Conroe, Texas
Breck was awesome! He called ahead of time and asked if he could arrive early. He was friendly and easy to talk to. He made me feel comfortable with the service he was going to provide and explained things clearly to me. He smiled and made this experience a good one. I will absolutely be booking future appointments with Breck and I will recommend him and Your Mechanic services to others I know. Thank you!

Brian

19 years of experience
101 reviews
Brian
19 years of experience
BMW Z4 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Phoenix, Arizona
Brian knows what he is doing and I am so happy yourmechanic.com suggested him for my Z4 car inspection prior to purchasing and even happier he was available to perform my 1st service on the vehicle I purchased. His knowledge on the brand gave him ability to to an in depth inspection and he communicated very well informing me what to prepare for in ownership of my BMW. When he came to perform maintenance on my vehicle he shared so many tips with me. I will absolutely be having Brian come back out when I need future servicing on my car.

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