PLEASE Identify Burning Smell in Camry!

I have a 1996 Toyota Camry with over 185k miles. About 18 months ago I noticed a burning smell which has progressively gotten worse. It use to be when I drove at higher speeds, i.e, 60 mph+…now it even happens when I’m idling (and I have to open the windows a bit).

I think it now smells like wires burning; my husband think it’s like oil or grease. My mechanics changed the head gasket 6 months ago and find no leaks underneath.

I would be eternally grateful if anyone has some ideas fo resolution in this area!

At 185K miles, your Camry’s engine could (possibly) be leaking from a number of places, and any one of those potential leaks could be the source of the odor you detect.

Could you be smelling anti-freeze from a leaking heater core? This is a common odor in the interior of a car.

It’s unusual to smell things from the engine compartment unless the engine is on the verge of failure.

Does it smell like melting plastic? I can think of at least one occasion where I have run over a plastic bag and had it melt itself to the catalytic converter.

About all I could suggest is popping the hood when the smell is present and noting if you can smell it out there also.
If you’re reasonably certain that it’s a wire burning smell and is inside the car then it could be any one of a number of things; ignition switch going bad, headlight or blower fan switch, dragging blower motor, or something has worked its way into the heater ducts, maybe caught on the blower motor resistor, and is burning off.

Over time electrical switches can wear and this causes a high resistance in them. This high resistance means the switch will get hotter than normal and may eventually fail. In some severe cases a car can even catch fire.
Try placing your hand on some of those areas such as the ign. switch, lighting, or fan switch and note if it appears to be very hot. Some warmth is normal, but it should not be hot enough to alarm you.

If the smell has a somewhat acrid, sweetish smell that could be a porous heater core. This is usually accompanied by a film on the windows though.
Hope some of that helps anyway and my comments are based assuming there are no oil leaks anywhere, even small ones.