Burning smell

Recently I noticed an odor in my car, smells like burning rubber. Not good! It is particularly noticeable when I am idling at an intersection.

My first thought is the tires, but that doesn't make sense - they would burn only after a skid, right?

Could it be burning oil, does that smell like rubber? I checked, there is no leak.

Another possibility are the belts, maybe they are slipping? How to check them?

I realize no one can diagnose a problem long distance, I am looking for tips. I want to avoid going to a mechanic and say "There's some problem, see if you can fix it". That's how you get taken for a ride. I'd much rather have particular questions and items, and give him a specific work order.



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Mark, When you get your car home, and it is still hot, pull up the hood and take a look. Maybe you can see smoke.

Oil leaks from the valve covers can drop onto the hot manifold and really smell bad.

Maybe some rubber hose or other part actually is in contact with the manifold and is melting.

Pulleys can freeze, causing belts to screech, melt, stink.

Take a good look, especially for oil leaks, and tell us what you find.

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Drive 5 miles, stop and open the lid. Feel the belts. Smell. Feel the tires. Smell.

Get back to us with your results.

Brian Whatcott Altus OK

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Brian Whatcott

Could be an oil leak, although the smell is not quite the same. Also if it is a manual transmission it may be the clutch, or it could be a dragging brake pad.


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Have you had your oil changed or added oil lately? Sometimes oil gets spilled onto the engine and burns.

Don Kansas City

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"Mark-T" wrote in news:1130257800.085251.146940 @g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com:

There are many, many ways you can have a burning smell. The only real way to diagnose is follow your nose. It is probably most noticeable at rest because the wind is not taking the smell away as it is at speed. An oil leak from the valve cover, for instance, can drip onto the exhaust manifold and smell without you ever seeing a drop on the ground. A very small leak can make a lot of smell. Belts can smell if a pulley seizes, but that is usually followed after a short time by a whap as the belt breaks and a thunk when it hits some sheet metal. If they are loose, they usually squeal during acceleration. You check them by inspection. All the possible conditions and belt types (vee, surpintine, cog) make a long list of appearances which are hard to describe. Find a friend who has some experience and can look. Another classic source is picking up some plastic or rubber trash from the road and having it lodge by, or melt onto, the catalytic converter or muffler. Mostly you just start by sticking your head under the hood, under the car, or wherever and follow it till you find something untoward.

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Charly Coughran

"Mark-T" writes in article dated 25 Oct 2005

09:30:00 -0700:

There are several characteristic smells you might get from a car: rubber brake pads oil transmission fluid coolant

Or maybe if they were very badly aligned, or if the parking brake was locking up the back ones :^)

Look under the hood first with the engine still running and then immediately after you shut it off. Look for smoke, and sniff for it too. Also look for items which are touching hot surfaces -- loose hoses and wires for example.

If you find out the smell is coming from your exhaust, it's some kind of emissions failure.

Slipping belts are usually very noisy, like a squeel.

-- spud_demon -at- thundermaker.net The above may not (yet) represent the opinions of my employer.

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Spud Demon

It probably is rubber. Try not to start and stop so fast on those runs Mark. The law sayw they can't make you deliver those pizzas in under 30 minutes.

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Al Bundy

no, it usually smells like hot oil.

slipping belts make a horrible squealing noise not unlike a dry bearing.

To check them press agaisnt the back ot the belt in the middle of the span with your thumb, more than abput 12mm movement is probably a sign of a loose belt. (to check them properly you need the service manual for your car it'll give proper details...)

It could be that one of the rubber thingies that suspend your exhaust system has come loose and is touching the hot exhaust pipe.

Bye. Jasen

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Jasen Betts

Try looking at the engine while it is running (being careful around the moving parts, of course).

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Olin Perry Norton

Stick or automatic? If stick, could be a misaligned clutch.

Mark L. Fergerson

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Mark Fergerson

haha Not likely, I'm a real weenee driver, I drive like your grandmother!

But I checked under the hood, the belts, hoses, couldn't locate the smell, it seems OK to my unexpert eye. When I start the car and idle, no odor. Only after stoppng at a red light... so it probably is the brakes...

Thanks to all for comments. I'm leery about going to a mechanic without specific instructions, after a startling survey some years ago by a local consumer research group. They disabled a vehicle in a very simple way, like removing a distributor cable, then took it to about 20 garages, They expected a bill ~ $25, but found only two honest mechanics! The rest conjured up all kinds of fairy tales, with bills up to $300.


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you neeed specific instructions for the mechanic........how about this......remove everything rubber from my car.i'm sick of the smell.it makes me worry!i would rather pay you now.

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Is the odor specific to the cabin of the car? If so the source may be in the cabin of the car.

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