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Old 12-28-2003, 04:55 PM   #1
bovid4585
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Location: North West Indiana
Default Foul hot smell from engine compartment after only driving a couple miles

1997 Outback Legacy, 2.5 liter, 70,000 miles, has started emitting a foul, hot, smell (like hot metal or rubber) that comes from the engine compartment after driving a couple of miles. Odor is very strong right after stopping. Goes away quickly (within a couple minutes). Heat gauge says normal. No smoke or vapors visible. Local, non-Subaru mechanic can't find anything. Wheels and disks are only warm to the touch. Axles are cool. Can't find any hot spots under the car. I do see a slight new oil leak (1st one so far) on the front of the engine.
Odor does not happen if the car sits and idles for 20 minutes.
Battery water level is being evaporated from 3 of 6 cells consistently. (Have to check frequently and refill monthly). Alternator is very warm but not hot and doesn't seem to the source of the smell. I'm baffled. I've heard talk about clutches. Got any ideas?
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Old 12-28-2003, 11:31 PM   #2
RidinLow
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Our '97 OB just had a torn CV boot a few weeks ago. It was the one that sits right by the cat, meaning that the rubber got severely heat cycled who knows how many times. It flung a big pile of grease onto the cat, which took weeks to burn off, but yeah, everytime you stop, park, sit in traffic, etc, you'd smell that burning smell.
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Old 12-31-2003, 02:34 AM   #3
Dave G
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My 1997 Legacy GT is doing the exact same thing right now. I've had that problem several times in the past, and finally got it figured out. For me, the problem occurred right after an oil change. Apparently, the mechanic that changed the oil didn't make the oil drain plug tight enough or didn't put on a washer, or something similar to that, so that when driving, a little bit of oil would leak out, and get windblown onto some hot engine parts or exhaust parts, and then when coming to a stop, you get the smell because there is no clean air dissipating the smell. Then when you drive away, the smell goes away because you have the wind to keep you from smelling it.
The current problem with that smell started immediately after I picked up my car from service at the dealer (for timing belt and tensioner replacement, auto trans and differential fluid changes, and chassis lubrication). I'll go back to the dealer if the smell doesn't go away soon.
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Old 12-31-2003, 07:55 AM   #4
bovid4585
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Thanks Dave G. I think you are probably right. I'll see if I can stop the leak and see what that does.
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Old 12-31-2003, 10:22 AM   #5
sooberoo
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Default Re: Foul hot smell from engine compartment after only driving a couple miles

Quote:
Originally posted by bovid4585
Battery water level is being evaporated from 3 of 6 cells consistently. (Have to check frequently and refill monthly). Alternator is very warm but not hot and doesn't seem to the source of the smell. I'm baffled. I've heard talk about clutches. Got any ideas?
Off-topic, but did your alternator get replaced under warranty? There was a recall. SOC replaced mine even though the car was off warranty!

If not this could be the reason for your poor battery condition. Otherwise sounds like your battery is pretty well pooched.

Best of luck!
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Old 12-31-2003, 01:19 PM   #6
sovereignmk1
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It sounds like you have a front cam seal leak (Classic occurance on BD/BGs), It will often leak on the the exhaust pipes right below making for a lovely burning smell. You might catch some smoke only after driving around then stopping, but usually it doesn't smoke, just smell. Then the smell will go away rather quickly causing one to scratch their head trying to figure it out. I had the same problems a while back. Search the legacy thread for front cam seal leaks for more info. Not too expensive to fix either and have you timing belt changed if you haven't done that yet But yeah: Front Cam Seal leak.

//Mark
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Old 12-31-2003, 01:25 PM   #7
sovereignmk1
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Oh yeah, it doesnt need to look like it's leaking alot, because the seal seems to expand only after driving then reshrink when stopped not making for tons of oil everywhere.
Quote:
I do see a slight new oil leak (1st one so far) on the front of the engine
That's the cluprit right there and @ your mileage it's right about where mine 98 did the same thing. So go get that fixed!

//Mark
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Old 12-31-2003, 01:26 PM   #8
sovereignmk1
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Haha, one more.....Get an Optima RedTop Gel battery ($130) and stop worrying about refilling that dang thing!

//Mark
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Old 01-04-2004, 12:19 AM   #9
bovid4585
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Good job you guys. Thanks for the input. I think you're right on track with the front cam seal. - I'll I'll try to let you know the results.
PS - I already bought a new battery and it's still using up the water.
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Old 01-15-2004, 06:50 AM   #10
Rally Medic
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Dirty with some mud flaps

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Old 01-23-2004, 12:20 AM   #11
Ian
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Quote:
Originally posted by RidinLow
Our '97 OB just had a torn CV boot a few weeks ago. It was the one that sits right by the cat, meaning that the rubber got severely heat cycled who knows how many times. It flung a big pile of grease onto the cat, which took weeks to burn off, but yeah, everytime you stop, park, sit in traffic, etc, you'd smell that burning smell.
Hmmm this could quite possibly be what I'm smelling!! Had the fuel line replacement done cause of the gas smell at cold temps, but now it smells like something really nasty. Nasty like clutch fluid---or axle grease--that sickening hot petroleum stink! And I do have a torn CV boot according to the dealer... parts are on order. I had a feeling this might be it!

Of course if I go out there and look and the torn one is on the drivers' side back to square one!
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