Funny smell after driving 2009 Subaru Forester

For the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed a funny smell or odor after driving my Forester, when I turn off the engine and step out of the car. The smell is like heated or burning plastic, or perhaps burning rubber (though not as pungent as burning rubber of a tire). The smell is strongest outside the driver side of the car. I’ve opened the hood but could not detect the smell in the engine compartment.

The car is driven mostly to run errrands a handful of times per week on short trips of about 5 miles for each drive.

Before I take it in to a mechanic, any opinions on potential causes or what I can do to discover the cause? Could it be a general problem, or something specific to Subaru Forester?

Thanks! This is my first post here. When I was a kid, my dad loved listening to CarTalk on NPR.

Have someone inspect the exhaust for a plastic bag melted to the exhaust.



Check leaking oil from engine head gasket to the exhaust pipe

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If the valve cover gasket leaks a bit and the oil gets on something hot it will stink a lot. A common leak and less expensive to fix than a head gasket

My daughter ran over a bag of garbage years ago, the plastic that melted and stuck to the exhaust took over week to burn off, that stunk big time


Great advice thus far… of course check for foreign items stuck to the hot exhaust. However your clue of how the smell is hard to detect with the hood open, yet you can smell it on the drivers side, hood closed is somewhat telling.

You have what is called an H4… or Flat 4 cylinder engine… which means that there are two cylinders lying down on their sides… two very close to the front drivers wheel…the other 2 at the pass wheel.

Any valve cover oil leak will drip onto the hot exhaust…and get sort of captured and concentrated in the wheel wells…which is how and why you smell it on the drivers side…but not with the hood up. Lifting the hood lets the smell/smoke escape easily.

My money is on the drivers side valve cover gasket leaking… You will be able to see this if you got under the car and looked near the exhaust on the drivers side.

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