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Truck Smells Like Burnt Popcorn – Why And What To Do?

Have you ever noticed that the smell of burnt popcorn lingers in your truck after you drive it around town? If you're wondering why it smells like that, you might want to check out this well-researched article about how the smell is produced. We consulted with experts in this field to find your answer.

When the smell of burnt popcorn comes from a truck, it is often caused by the clutch lining burning off. The smell could also come from a burnt coolant. 

Burnt popcorn is not something you want to smell all the time. But, we all know that sometimes, it is inevitable. You'll be surprised to learn you won't be doing anything special to resolve this issue, and it's not something to worry about, so read on!

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Air pollution from diesel vehicle exhaust pipe on road, Truck Smells Like Burnt Popcorn - Why And What To Do?

What Causes A Truck To Smell Like Burnt Popcorn?

Air pollution from vehicle exhaust pipe on road

There are two possible causes of a truck that smells like burnt popcorn. One is from a clutch lining that burns off, and the other is from a burnt coolant. Before we get into the details, let us first explain these two.

1. Clutch lining

Friction linings clutch system with constantly self-adjusting

A clutch lining is a thin layer of material, usually made of ceramic, kevlar, or feramalloy, that prevents the metal plates in the clutch from touching. The lining also transfers the pressure between the plates to the friction material. 

Additionally, the clutch lining acts as a cushion between the pressure plate and the flywheel. This material helps to prevent friction between the two components.

It is an essential component of the clutch system, which is why you need to get it replaced if the clutch starts slipping.

The smell of burnt popcorn is one of the best indicators that your clutch lining needs to be checked. The smell will also let you know that your clutch lining is overheating, and you should not drive the vehicle and replace it immediately.

You'll notice a distinct change in your car's performance if you don't replace a worn clutch lining. Your vehicle will start to feel sluggish, and you'll have to adjust the gas pedal and clutch more often than usual.

Additionally, you smell burnt popcorn whenever the clutch disc overheats because popcorn kernels and clutch discs have one thing in common: phenol

Phenolic resin is an organic binder used in the production of many products. It is a type of synthetic polymer that is made from phenol and formaldehyde. It is common to find phenolic resin in brake pads, brake shoes, and clutch discs.

2. Coolant

Antifreeze coolant, also known as car coolant or radiator fluid, helps prevent internal engine overheating by reducing the heat generated in the engine and to increase its efficiency.

Coolants are usually composed of ethylene glycol [EG] and some additives. Another glycol-based coolant variant has propylene glycol instead of EG.

Propylene glycol is used in many packaged foods and consumer products, including popcorn kernels. The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] says that propylene glycol is safe and approved for use in food.

The recommended daily dietary intake of propylene glycol is 23 mg per kilogram of body weight.

Obviously, the smell of burnt popcorn is a sure sign that you need to change your coolant.

Check out this coolant on Amazon.

My Truck Smells Like Something Is Burning - What Could Be Wrong?

If you're driving a car and you notice a burning smell emanating from your vehicle, you need to be aware of the possibilities that are out there.

It is common for cars to smell bad when the brakes or engine are overheating, but this is not the only reason you may smell something unpleasant in your vehicle.

A burnt-out electrical fuse may be the culprit if you notice a strong burning smell when you start your car. The smell could be accompanied by smoke and a popping sound. This could mean that a fuse is blown.

In addition, an overheating AC compressor may emit a distinct burning smell. This can be a sign of trouble with your cooling system.

Brake pads are the most vulnerable part of the vehicle. Most of the time, they wear down and need replacement. Worn-out brake pads can also give a nasty burning odor to the vehicle.

If you experience a burning smell in your car, check your car's braking system. It pays to check the brake pads first before going to a more complex troubleshooting step.

Watch the video below to learn how to fix generic burning smells on your car/truck:

My Truck Smells Like a Burnt Toast - What Could Be Wrong?

The electrical system is one of the most vulnerable parts of any vehicle. Electrical systems are susceptible to electrical surges or shorts that can cause fire, smoke, and other dangerous events.

A strong yet unpleasant smell coming from your car's engine compartment may signal a serious electrical short in your vehicle's electrical system. These could include the battery, alternator, and ignition coil.

These electrical shorts can cause many types of damage, ranging from the inconvenience of an annoying odor to more dangerous situations such as sparking, overheating, and even fire.

What Does An Overheated Brake Pad Smell Like?

Brake pad and brake discs into the brake system for a modern passenger car shown close up

The brake pad is the piece that touches the drum or disc rotor. When it's worn out, it can cause the wheel to slip, sending you careening down the road.

The smell of a carpet burning is the unmistakable sign that the brake pads on your car have overheated. As the brake pads become hot, the friction caused by braking presses the pads against the rotors.

The heat generated creates friction, which in turn generates more heat. This process causes your brakes to overheat.

Don't allow your brakes to get too hot. Even though they're designed to withstand the heat, that doesn't mean they won't fail. So, if you find that your car's brakes are overheating, don't drive it any further until the problem is resolved.

Truck Low On Oil Level: Can It Cause Burning Smell?

If you find that your vehicle has developed a smoky smell while driving, it could be caused by the low oil level from the engine. The low oil level could also be due to a leak in the engine.

Engine oil is a lubricant for all the moving parts in your car. This lubrication helps the engine to work correctly. If your oil level is low, it means some of the parts are not getting enough lubrication.

This could lead to higher wear and tear on the engine, causing the vehicle to run poorly due to overheating. Parts that are not getting the needed lubrication could cause this burning smell.

overheated car in the field

Common Causes Of Overheated Engines

Steam Coming Out of Car Engine While Mature Man is Opening the Hood .

A car's engine is one of the most complex machines on Earth. To know what causes overheating in an engine, it's best to know the components and how they work. Here are two common causes of engine overheating

1. Broken water pump

Coolant is circulated the engine, and the water pump is the component that allows it to do so.

When the engine heats up, the coolant is forced through the engine and circulates through the radiator, cylinder head, and other car parts responsible for transmission and acceleration. If the water pump breaks down, the engine overheats and shuts down.

The coolant level in the system is also checked to ensure it is enough to operate the engine for a reasonable amount of time. When the coolant is low, it is essential to add or change it immediately.

2. Radiator issues

When a vehicle runs, the radiator cools the engine by circulating coolant through the engine block. The engine will run more efficiently and smoothly if the radiator has enough capacity to cool down the entire engine.

If the radiator is clogged or leaking, you could face problems with overheating. When your car is overheating, it will emit a distinct smell of something that is burnt. This might be a sign that your radiator is leaking or clogged.

There are two ways to solve this problem. Depending on the severity of the issue, you can either replace the radiator or repair the leak. Replacing the radiator is the most effective way to deal with this problem. Your mechanic will replace the entire radiator and put it back into the car.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have a clogged radiator and don't want to replace it (which makes sense), you can get a mechanic to come over and fix the issue for you. 

Check out this coolant leak repair sealer on Amazon.

In Closing

The smell of burnt popcorn can easily be mistaken for an engine problem. However, we have learned that this issue is not that serious. You can think of it as a reminder to your vehicle, just like you, needs tender loving care once in a while.

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