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Old 11-13-2012, 05:39 PM   #1
psok80
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Default Please help...Burning smell from engine bay!

Hello MAIC,

I was driving my 2002 WRX last week and noticed a very bad burning smell coming from my engine bay. At first I thought it was someone else's car so I ignored it. The smell went away but then it came back but this time not as strong. I pulled over to investigate. I opened the hood and couldn't smell anything and didnt see anything leaking. I drove home and the smell was gone. I've driven my car a few times since and the smell comes and goes. I cant pin point the problem. It smells almost like a burnt clutch or belt. I have an automatic so its not me burning the clutch and I checked the drive belts and they look fine. Could this be my timing belt??? Or maybe a coolant leak somewhere I cant see??? The smell is very faint when I have the hood open but I can smell it when I have the heat on and the vent open from inside the car as well. The smell seems to be coming from towards the front of the engine bay. The car seems to be driving normal.

Any advice, solution, or point me to a good Subaru mechanic would be great!

addition info: The car has no engine mods.
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Old 11-13-2012, 07:08 PM   #2
DKDunn04
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2004 STI-Silver

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If it was coolant it would smell sweet. It could be oil burning on the manifold. How many miles are on it? When was the timing belt last changed?
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Old 11-13-2012, 07:25 PM   #3
Smurftastic
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Chapter/Region: MAIC
Location: Virginia
Vehicle:
02 Stg2+ WRX
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It could be a few issues:

1. Feel the underside of both valve covers. If your hand comes back with oil, you have a leaking or seeping valve cover gasket, which is very common with WRXs and STis above 90K miles. That oil will burn off, and as it gets progressively worse, you can sometimes see some faint smoke coming out of the hood scoop.

If it does turn out to be a leaky valve gasket, do your best to find a knowledgeable friend to help you change them, many shops will charge way too much for this job that realistically takes no more than two-three hours.

2. Gas line seepage under pressure. Look into the gas line recall for Bugeyes. I live in Virginia and got mine changed out for free.
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:47 PM   #4
psok80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKDunn04
If it was coolant it would smell sweet. It could be oil burning on the manifold. How many miles are on it? When was the timing belt last changed?
I bought the car used last year. I'm not sure when the timing belt was changed. The car just hit 90k miles.
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:53 PM   #5
psok80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smurftastic
It could be a few issues:

1. Feel the underside of both valve covers. If your hand comes back with oil, you have a leaking or seeping valve cover gasket, which is very common with WRXs and STis above 90K miles. That oil will burn off, and as it gets progressively worse, you can sometimes see some faint smoke coming out of the hood scoop.

If it does turn out to be a leaky valve gasket, do your best to find a knowledgeable friend to help you change them, many shops will charge way too much for this job that realistically takes no more than two-three hours.

2. Gas line seepage under pressure. Look into the gas line recall for Bugeyes. I live in Virginia and got mine changed out for free.
I havent seen any smoke yet but I'll check these things the next time I have a chance. Thanks
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:34 PM   #6
Ls3
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Chapter/Region: MAIC
Location: Pennsylvania
Vehicle:
2003 Impreza WRX
WRB

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Are the passenger side drive axle boots intact?
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Old 11-14-2012, 02:55 PM   #7
psok80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ls3 View Post
Are the passenger side drive axle boots intact?
I took a quick look at the axle boots a couple days ago when i put on my stock wheels and the looked good.
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Old 11-14-2012, 03:06 PM   #8
2.5_IMP
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Check your exhaust. I drove over a garbage bag, it stuck to the exhaust and melted. It smelled terrible, but wouldn't smoke. Took a wire wheel on a drill to it, and removed what was left with brake cleaner.
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:18 PM   #9
psok80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2.5_IMP View Post
Check your exhaust. I drove over a garbage bag, it stuck to the exhaust and melted. It smelled terrible, but wouldn't smoke. Took a wire wheel on a drill to it, and removed what was left with brake cleaner.
ill all that to the list of things i have to check
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:24 PM   #10
psok80
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I think i will start gathering parts for my 90k tune up. ill prolly do my water pump and timing belt now instead of at 105k miles. hopefully the problem will be more apparent once i get started.

Does anyone know of a good shop that can do the timing belt/water pump? Im somewhat mechanically inclined but not sure if im up for the task since i live in an apartment building.
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Old 11-14-2012, 05:58 PM   #11
05GrayWRX
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I had a power steering pump going out/leaking on mine a few weeks ago. Didn't recognize the smell at all - sort of a combination of burnt brakes and plastic.
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:22 PM   #12
psok80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 05GrayWRX
I had a power steering pump going out/leaking on mine a few weeks ago. Didn't recognize the smell at all - sort of a combination of burnt brakes and plastic.
Were there any other symptoms other than the smell? Were you leaking power steering fluid?
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:32 PM   #13
DKDunn04
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Where do you live?
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:41 PM   #14
psok80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKDunn04
Where do you live?
In DC
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Old 11-14-2012, 06:58 PM   #15
XxNitr0xX
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Chapter/Region: MAIC
Location: Baltimore, MD
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WRB

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Any coolant loss, looking at the overflow tank? Mine was steadily losing some at a noticeable rate, turns out I had 2 small pin holes in the radiator. Smell was similar to what you're describing, almost burn't clutch.
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Old 11-15-2012, 05:53 PM   #16
05GrayWRX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psok80 View Post
Were there any other symptoms other than the smell? Were you leaking power steering fluid?
Yes, you could see fluid on the back and bottom of the pump as well as on the front engine cover. If that is whats causing the smell you should be able to see that the steering fluid is low too.
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Old 11-17-2012, 03:31 PM   #17
psok80
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I found the problem. My valve cover is leaking. I went underneath the car and followed the trail of oil up to the valve cover. It looks like a huge pain in the ass to change though.

Thanks for all the replies and suggestions!
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Old 11-17-2012, 03:41 PM   #18
jeffie7
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Aspen White

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Although it sounds like you found your problem. For others that find this thread later on. Check the axle seals and the seal between the transmission output shaft and drive axle.

Gear oil makes for a wonderful smell, even more so when it's a blue cocktail.
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Old 11-25-2012, 03:23 PM   #19
psok80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffie7 View Post
Although it sounds like you found your problem. For others that find this thread later on. Check the axle seals and the seal between the transmission output shaft and drive axle.

Gear oil makes for a wonderful smell, even more so when it's a blue cocktail.
Axles and seals seem fine.

I decided to do the gasket myself. It wasn't that hard but a pain to get to the bottom bolts.

No more leaking oil!

I change all my spark plugs while I was there to ngk iridium bkr6eix pre gapped to 0.030. Now my engine has a slight hesitation. Any thoughts?
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Old 11-25-2012, 04:28 PM   #20
psok80
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It hesitates when I rev to 1500 rpm. I heard my exhaust backfire once. When I started the engine cold. The rpm jumped to almost 2000 rpm. I can't remember if that was normal or not. The rpm gradually lowers. After its warm it idles fine.
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Old 12-02-2012, 04:27 PM   #21
psok80
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The hesitation is fixed with an $8 can of crc maf cleaner
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Old 12-02-2012, 05:20 PM   #22
05wrx89
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obp

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Oil could be leaking around the turbo and burning off could be the oil line leaking or something
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Old 12-08-2012, 05:45 PM   #23
VoodooGTR
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Location: Waldorf, MD
Vehicle:
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Gray

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I delayed my Transmission fluid once for about 3-5 months because it can be pretty expensive to replace. But when I did, it was a rancid dead animal smell. Funny thing is when I got the nut out, it splashed all over me. Now I smelt like a burnt dead animal. May not be your cause, but it is pretty good FYI of a different smell from your car.
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