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Car Smells Like Burnt Popcorn

So my Mazda Protege smells like burnt popcorn. The smell is coming from the engine compartment. Sometimes the smell is very pungent, other times no smell at all. I have checked for the obvious (leaves, acorns, leaks etc). Any ideas what it could be?

My friend had the same problem with her Camry. As is turned out, when she would visit her dad (who farms popcorn) the mice would stash the popcorn they found lying around on her exhaust manifold.
Do you live near (or often visit) a popcorn farm?

could be a sticking brake caliper.

sometimes when you drive in haevy traffic and come to s quick stop does it smell worse?

after a drive get out and feel the wheel hubs. see if one is considerably hotter than the others. start there.

cappy, that was my one of my earl hunches, but I thought it unlikely b/c the car was not pulling to one side. I checked for smoking or excessive heat from the front disc rotors, both appeared to be the same and normal. Also, the odor did not seem to be coming from the wheels. But I guess the best way to completely rule out the brakes is to run the car in the driveway and see if the odor develops.

could be the back brakes too. check all 4. after a series of stop and go around town driving. if just sitting and the car is smelling while it runs, it isnt brake related. then share more info.

That’s one interesting smell! It makes me hungry and wanting to pop in a movie at the same time. Hey! may be your car smells like one of those topics listed on They talk about sweet smell and stuff.

Have you considered gear oil? I have a terrible nose, but in my opinion it smells really bad (possibly like burnt popcorn) and could be leaking out without you noticing depending on where your car is parked, like grass or something.