Burning smell when driving

Hi everyone. Hope everyone is staying safe. My mom and I have a 1993 Grand marquis 34,000 miles. We usually only go to the store and back. To make a long story short we had to go on a 9 mile trip. On the way home we smelled a burning smell coming from the car. It was pretty strong. I called our neighbor who just became a mechanic and asked him if he could come smell the car. He said it smelled like oil and we could go to Valvoline and have them look it over. We needed the oil change anyway so we went. There was a real nice guy we use there all the time, he looked over everything and said he saw no oil leak. He even took pictures to show us. He did say that our coolant was low and had some sludge, so we got a coolant flush. We have to go on that same trip again Friday, we wouldn’t bother if we didn’t have to, but it’s for a CT scan so we can’t put it off. The guy from Valvoline said we shouldn’t have a problem but it’s still stressful not knowing what caused the burning smell. On the way there it seemed just for a second or two when we pushed on the gas the car hesitated a little but I don’t know if that had anything to do with the smell. Advice on this would be greatly appreciated. We are scared to get stuck.

34,000 miles in 28 years?
I really hope that you have been changing the oil every 6 months, because otherwise the crankcase is undoubtedly filled with sludge, in addition to the sludge in the cooling system.

Anyway… the burning smell and the lack of power could have been from a brake that is dragging/binding–and that is not good. Did the Valvoline guy check the temperature at each wheel? If not, then he overlooked a major safety-related possibility.

Instead of the guy at the Valvoline quick oil change place, you need to have a real mechanic examine the car very well. If you have never had the brake fluid flushed, you need to have that done. If you have never had the transmission fluid changed, you need to have that done. If the last oil change was more than 6 months ago, you need to have that done.

In addition to having a real mechanic look the car over very well, this would probably be a good opportunity to have overdue maintenance performed.


I’ll second having the brakes checked. A car that old with that few miles may very well have a sticking caliper, bad brake hoses or a bound up drum brake.

Please take it to a real mechanic. Valvoline workers are just oil change jockeys… I wouldn’t trust them with anything more complicated. I really would not trust them with an oil change either.


We always have the oil changed every 6 month, my mom is very careful about that. The guy did check the transmission fluid and he said it was fine, we did have it flushed but it was years ago. I guess we better go to see the mechanic but we just don’t want to be cheated. The place we plan on going does have very good ratings but they are always very busy so i don’t think they can see us before Friday.

And, I think we need to add that “real” mechanic means NOT taking the car to a tire shop, or to Midas, Meineke, Monro, Pep Boys, Sears, AAMCO, or any other chain operation. Ask friends, relatives, and neighbors for recommended independent mechanic shops that they have used.


The place we plan on going does have very good ratings but they are always very busy so i don’t think they can see us before Friday.

To me that is a pretty good sign they are good and know what they are doing. :smiley:


What did shop say when the oil sticker said you had driven 611 miles in last 6 months?

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It is common for old engines to seep oil from the valve covers over time. The oil seeps onto the exhaust manifolds, the next time you get the engine up to full operating temperature, the oil burns off.

My old Dodge had an oil burning smell while climbing a certain grade, I put off replacing the valve cover gasket for 5 years, this is not an emergency.

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That is a good point, since it sounds like the 9 mile drive when this smell seeped into the cabin is probably much longer than their normal drive.

Yes, if it is indeed just seepage from the valve cover gaskets, then it is not an emergency.
But, the chance that this could just as well be the result of a dragging brake makes it worthwhile to have a mechanic check it sooner, rather than later.

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probably time to change the 28 year old fan belt and tires if never replaced. do not forget about the spare tire too.


We do have the oil changed every 6 moths like clock work. We used to go to the dealership until we caught them trying to cheat us…long story. Funny we were just talking today about getting the transmission fluid done and the brake fluid flushed. I’m sure we did have that done but it was about 5 years ago.

our anti lock warning light on our brakes has been going off for years. The mechanic said it would cost 900 or more to fix but it really wasn’t necessary to fix

ABS is not the problem I was referring to, working or not. It is the brake components themselves.


oh i see, we will have to get them checked out Thank you

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Since brakes have been mentioned, I might ask about the condition of the serpentine belt. A slipping belt could cause a burning smell.

Surely this car does not have the original belt on it… :grimacing:
If so, that belt should have been replaced several decades ago.


My first guess is a small valve cover oil leak getting on the exhaust system, mentioned above. Second guess, the cat is overheating or the cat heat shield has fallen off and the heat is burning something in that area, even the carpet directly above the cat.


we had the belt changed about 2 years ago

I have heard of a plastic bag sticking to the exhaust system causing that problem.


i would love it if it was just that, i sure hope so