Oceanside Auto Repair

Why does my Volkswagen Passat smell like burning oil?



Many VW Passats have a blemished service record. Smelling burning oil while driving is not something that you would want to have during your trip. This causes a significant amount of moisture and humidity to form inside the engine, resulting in sludge buildup. The smell can be alarming to others and can lead to serious damage to your Volkswagen if it’s not taken care of. 

Here are some reasons as to why your VW smells like burning oil:

  • Your camshaft adjuster seals and valve cover gaskets might be leaking.

A burning oil smell is typically caused when the VW Passat camshaft adjuster seals and valve cover gaskets are leaking. The passenger side cam chain tensioner seal is located on the backside of the cylinder head and will drip oil onto the downpipe causing the foul smell. This VW Passat leak can be best seen through the passenger side wheel well. The driver side cam chain tensioner seals will start to leak down onto the A/C compressor, affecting the oil filter area in the process.

  • Your valve cover gaskets aren’t secure and are leaking.

You may notice a leak along the entire outer edge of the valve cover when the VW Passat valve cover gaskets are failing. This leak will eventually continue onto the exhaust manifold. Significant volumes of leakage will also occur into the cylinder head's spark plug chambers.

  • Check your camshaft seals and plugs

You may see oil dripping from the front side of the engine if the VW Passat camshaft seals are leaking. There may be an oil trail between the seam of the timing belt backing cover and the cylinder head. It is very simple to identify a leaking passenger side camshaft plug and seals because of the oil trail that extends down onto the underside of the oil pan. It can, however, be more difficult to identify the camshaft plugs and seals on the driver's side. This is due to the symptoms resembling leaky cam chain tensioner gasket symptoms. The driver side cam seals will leak down onto the A/C compressor and oil filter area, similar to a leaking cam chain tensioner gasket. This is the best way to diagnose the leak on the driver side. 

Whether you need help with maintenance or repairs around the Oceanside, CA area, the talented technicians at Oceanside Motorsports are here to help. Some of our services include oil change, steering and suspension, transmission repair and tune-ups. We have continuously trained technicians and offer lifetime warranty on most repairs. With our Time Saver Service, we can get your car and deliver it to your doorstep once fixed. We can even help arrange towing if needed. You can also have our free loaner car while your car is serviced. Make your Volkswagen have that “new car” feeling with what Oceanside Motorsports offers!


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343 Airport Rd. Oceanside, CA 92058 (760) 721-5500