Burning smell

I have a 1998 Toyota Camry with 174,000 miles on it. Starting 1 1/2 years ago there is occasionally a burning smell when I have the headlights on. Also, rarely when I turn on the headlights the lights don’t come on but the high beam indicator on the dash is on. I’ve taken it to the dealer and they can’t find the problem. However, they have found $2900 work of work that it needs. Has anyone else had this “burning smell” problem with the headlights? Is it time to trade this car in?

I suggest you get another opinion from an independent mechanic. Dealers are very good at finding things a car “needs” other than the problem you brought it in for. It’s called “profit generation.”

A thorough electrical test of the headlight circuit should go a long way toward finding the source of the burning smell. There is obviously a problem, but it will take some testing of components to find it.

Only you can decide when trade in time has arrived. If this were my car I’d want more information about the headlight circuit before I made a decision.

It would seem that you have a problem with your headlight switch or the switch wiring. You need to have a good mechanic check your headlight switch and wires including the fuse to the switch. Someone could have used a higher amp size fuse in the system. Your experience with the dealer is very common. Most dealers can find $2900 worth of work or more even on a new vehicle. It’s time to see an independent mechanic.

Thanks. A second opinion sounds like a great idea. Any tips on finding a good independent mechanic? I’ve only taken this car to the dealer for all of its maintenance.

There is a mechanic search function on the CarTalk home page.

Look for “The Mechanics Files.” Search by zip code and car make.

You can also get recommendations from friends, neighbors, coworkers, relatives, etc.

You don’t need to pay dealer prices for maintenance on a 12 year old car.