Engine Whir Burning Smell 2000 Nissan Maxima

Car has been working fine. I just went to the bank, and the car sounded different when I started it up. There is a distinct

“whir” when I press the accelerator. No service engine lights are on, but the car sounds different. I opened the hood and there was a smell of burning plastic like smell.

Any ideas?

You’ll have to try to determine the source of the sound and/or the smell. They’re probably coming from the same place. Was the engine running when you opened the hood? If so, could you tell where the noise was coming from?

It sounded like it was coming from under where the spark plugs are located on the front part of the engine. The part of the car where you fill it up with oil.

BTW, all fluid levels are normal.

I just looked at it further. The sound seems to be coming from where the belts are located on the side of the engine. I am wondering would an alternator make a burning smell if it were going bad?

An alternator going bad could make both the noise and the smell.

It certainly could be alternator related, but there are a bunch of other things wrapped up in there as well. It sounds likely that you have one of the pulleys or rollers seized up. The burning smell might be from a failed component or from the belt itself having to slide over a locked up pulley. It wouldn’t be a good idea to drive around with it like that, as you stand a good chance of making a small problem into a bigger one. You’ll need to have someone inspect the serpentine belt and all things connected to it.

I hear AutoZone can check if it is the alternator. Is it something that they have to remove the alternator to check and bring it inside, or can they do it while it is still on the car?

I ask because I did not know if it was something I could do on my lunch break.

They do an on car check, but they check the electrical function, not anything about the mechanical function. Its the smell that might make your problem worse than just an alternator that isn’t working anymore.

The first thing I would do is pop the hood, start the car and try to get a look at all of the things that the belt goes around. If all of those things are spinning, and you don’t see any smoke, or the smell isn’t really bad, then you can give Autozone - or something like it - a shot.

It’s at the shop right now. And as you would know, it stopped making the noise when I took it there. The mechanic thinks it might be the alternator or a tensioner or something with bearings? He did not want to just change the alternator out due to the price ($300 installed). He wants to take a wait and see. Everything is charging fine on the car.

Just an update. It was the alternator. The whir returned once the mechanic let the car sit for a couple of hours. He removed the belt from the alternator, started the car and the whir disappeared.


Glad you got it sorted out (but not that it was $300 later - but it could have been worse!)