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Burning Rubber Smell from Subaru Baja

Forgive me if this discussion already exists.

This was discussed on your show a couple weeks ago, so I’m told (I missed it!).

I have scoured the web for answers, to no avail.

Over the past 6 years, I’ve spent over $6,000 searching for this problem–burning rubber smell coming from the heater in y 2003 Baja. Not so bad if the re-circulation is on, not so bad outside the car, can be smelled beneath the hood, but unbearable inside. It isn’t plastic, oil, fluid, gaskets, wiring, it’s rubber, like burning tires. Was barely noticeable when I bought the car 6 years ago, making me think it was just the tires, but it has gotten worse and worse and worse. Sometimes it takes 50 miles to happen, sometimes two, but when it does, I have to open the windows or shut off the blower. Help. Help please!

Replying to my own post…
Thought I’d go out and have a look. Using my new Olight M21 Warrier 500 lumen Tactical LED flashlight (with a world-class super bright Luminus SST-50 LED, auto memorization of specific function for instant access, linear functional adjustment for easy changes, front removable stainless steel striking bezel and rear striking bezel, with full orange peel reflector for flawless wide beam), I spied the right transaxial boot is positioned just inches above the catalytic converter shield. From above, I cannot see signs of the boot being burned, nor signs of molten rubber on the shield, but the proximity is suspicious. I’ll drive it awhile and check it again when its hot and report back. If this is the cause, the solution will be to fabricate another shield that goes between them-no easy feat. +pb

This discussion does not already exist. No apology necessary.

Subaru drive trains are all pretty much the same. The CV joint boot in your car is no nearer the catalytic converter than it is on any of the other thousands of Subaru vehicles on the road, including mine.

Please detail the $6,000 you’ve spent trying to track down this problem.

Then explain why you’ve continued to drive, for six years, a vehicle that has and “unbearable” odor inside.

It’s my guess that something may have gotten into the air duct system or onto the heat exchanger (what we old guys used to call the heater core). I’ve heard Tom and Ray talk about something called Fridgi Fresh. I think I’d try spraying something like that into the air duct system to see if it helps. Since the transaxel boot does not appear to be burned I doubt it is the culprit.

Does this car have a standard or automatic transmission?

Excellent questions! Thanks for the note about the CV joint.
The $6,000 are accumulations of ‘tune ups’, each on the order of $1,800 - $2,700, depending upon what was done. All three dealerships (all Subaru) have told me the car had been in an accident, that things under the hood have been replaced.
As for why I continued for 6 years to drive the car… the intensity of the smell varies widely, and for the past three years I’ve been either taking the train or driving for very short distances. The reason I’m intensifying my search for resolution is because I intend to sell the car because I hardly use it.

@williamclang: it is an auto tranny.

@mcparadise, one more thing: the dealers all tell me I should replace the head gaskets, although there is no sign of leaking or loss of coolant.

Then why are they telling you to replace the head gaskets?

Sell the car, as is, and be done with it.

There are several Subaru forums on the internet. You should google Subaru forum and see what they know. I just tried it and found a bunch. Try

@wentwest: Thanks for the link… but they are all inconclusive. I can’t believe it is so prevalent but no real fix.

@mcparadise: Another good question. AT $1,800 to replace the gaskets, it is my guess they need to make more boat payments. Re: selling: you are reading my mind.

I have this exact same problem with my Subaru Baja. Any time the HVAC fan is turned on, it smells like burning rubber- the longer it is on, the worse it smells. I too was told that it was the head gasket, which has been replaced three times under warranty. It is so bad now that I can’t park it in my garage. However mine doesn’t smell as much inside the car, it is more outside the car. It is a horrible smell and several visits and it still isn’t right. I bought it new and it is now 8 years old with 200K miles. It smells like burning tires. It has done this since new.