Adventures in abandoned cardom

2002 Ford Focus. No engine light. The poor thing had seen a 5-10 mph front end collision, cracked bumper and condenser hanging by a cost hanger. Surely why there’s no a/c…yet.

Owner said it didn’t shift. Replaced both shift solenoids from a pull a part yard and it shifts like a factory new car now.

Front suspension needed a complete replacement. No biggie, but boy howdy the strut bushings were practically gone, not to mention every ball joint was shot. Test drive was an impossible quest to identify every noise.

Engine purs like it should…With a dropping idle/stall out. Unplugged the MAF and ignoring the slow crank it causes, engine behaves like a new car. Cleaned the MAF twice with an entire can of MAF cleaner with no luck. I’ll get a replacement from the pull a part yard.

The final point my wife won’t leave me alone about…the smell when it runs. There’s no smoke from the exhaust. There’s no exhaust leaks. The post cat sensor, which I’ve run without on other cars, doesn’t exist, should it? I thought I knew all my car smells until this one…It’s not gas. It’s not a bad cat. It’s not quite oily, though it’s difficult to be 100% sure, but again there’s NEVER any smoke of any kind. It could be coolant, in fact it has to be coolant, right? I can’t find anywhere leaking coolant, and the level hasn’t decreased. Any ideas?

Rodent debris somewhere near the exhaust or hot engine? Or worse, in the HVAC housing.

Given the front end damage, ATF leak at or inside radiator?

Forgive my inexperience, i like the idea of atf being the culprit, but where could it contact or enter the radiator? This smell existed before I removed the trans pan also. The ATF looked like it hadnt been serviced ever, but the level was good when I got the car. The smell ceases to exist without the car running, and it comes out of the exhaust, although a dead rodent would have been an ideal senario…

Inside the radiator is a section where the ATF goes in hot and comes out cooler. If its level is OK and you don’t have signs of ATF in the coolant, that’s probably not the problem.

Could be rodent debris inside the exhaust system. In time it will burn out, but smell in the mean time.

How old is the gas? If you sniff in the gas filler neck, does it smell like varnish?

1 Like

The neck smells like fresh gas, there was only about an 8th of a tank or less in it when I picked it up and it’s still got the same gas I put in it about 3 months ago. Its just been sitting in my driveway as a toolbox 99% of the time since I haven’t gotten it aligned yet after the suspension replacement.

Other concern is that the MAF misread is causing an a/f mixture that burns stinky. Farfetched one, I know. The smell just smells nothing like gas.

Going to go see if I recognize the smell of death right now…

K, it’s definitely not anything alive. After resmelling just now, it HAS to be coolant. ATF is too bitter to make that smell…

Is it by any chance a sulfer kind of smell, like rotten eggs? Could be the overly rich exhast, broken down catalyst or maybe the engine is running hot?

It starts immediately when the engine turns over, doesn’t change when warm, and it doesn’t smell like a bad cat at all

Is there any way to burn coolant through the exhaust or would I have to be burning oil at the same time?

Yes, you can burn just oil, just coolant or both depending on the engine design and where the head gasket breach occurs. The engine will readily burn coolant up to moderate amounts. After a point, the exhaust will show signs of white smoke. If it has been doing it for a while, the plugs will be good indicators. The ceramic will be very white instead of the usual sooty gray…Usually, this is accompanied by a noticeable loss of coolant…

Awesome info, I guess after I finally get the alignment and start driving it for a while I’ll mark the reservoir level. I’d pull a plug or two now but it’s snowing pretty heavily.