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Exhaust in the car, please help

I have a 2000 Plymouth Neon that I am trying to squeeze a couple of more years out of. When I start the car, sometimes it seems to shudder a bit before starting. When this happens, I get an exhaust smell that comes through the vents. Other times, the car will turn over right away, and there is no smell. What could the problem be? Any help is appreciated

A backfire into the air intake which gets into the heater air intake…Check your air filter for damage caused by possible backfire…Then tackle the backfiring problem, if that’s the problem…