Another stinky Subaru

I have a 2002 Subaru Forrester (130k miles) and have been having trouble with it for a while now. I had the transmission replaced by the dealer less than a year ago. I also had the rear brakes replaced about 6 months ago. Some time in there (I think after the brakes were done) I started smelling a burning smell that seems to get stronger as the engine gets hotter. Once when I was at Sonic another customer commented to the carhop that someone had a transmission problem. I took it to a local mechanic and they had a hard time figuring out what was causing the smell. They finally decided that it must be the transmission leaking, but they didn’t know where. I took it back to the dealer with this info, and after checking it out they told me that they think the people that changed my oil must have put transmission fluid in the differential, or something of that sort. They put new fluids in and said it might still smell for a little while, but that it would go away. But, alas, it never did. I should also add that both places checked the brakes to make sure the smell wasn’t coming from there, and both places said the brakes were fine. However, lately I’ve been feeling a grinding sensation when I stop quickly, especially if I’m going even the slightest bit downhill. And just today when I accelerate quickly it seems to really be putting along, like it’s working very hard.

There’s probably a lot going on with this car, I know, but any ideas or suggestions would be incredibly helpful.


I’m no expert, and, as you said, there seems to be a lot going on. However, we just had one of the front axles on our '03 Outback 4 cyl replaced for similar symptoms. The mechanic said that the boot on the axle had torn and grease was leaking out onto something (can’t recall) - the friction made the burning smell, which followed a similar pattern to what you describe. We thought the smell was unusual, but most like burning rubber (we initially thought frayed belt). I imagine an axle problem could cause some serious grinding if it was left to continue getting worse.