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Why is my car poisoning me?

I have had a perfect car, an ?08 Ford Focus. My story begins when three weeks ago I started the car and the cabin filled with fumes that were so strong I had to jump out and open all the doors.

I then drove for a half hour; the fumes became more subtle but were strong enough for me to become nauseous, dizzy, confused, develop a headache, have a feeling of my head swelling to the size of a large balloon, and, when I got out, to have difficulty walking.

I parked in a partly covered garage, and when I came back the nasty smell from the exhaust pipe had permeated the garage.

These symptoms have continued whenever I drive the car. However, the car has passed the following tests done at a Ford dealership:

?check for exhaust leak

?check for coolant leak

?check a/c operation

?check for loose spark plug

?test with a hand held carbon monoxide detector.

There was no notated test for the catalytic converter or heater coil, however the service assistant said they were fine.

The mechanic had seen no leaks and smelled nothing and therefore declared the car to be without problems. I, myself, still smell a very subtle odor of the burning of some kind of fluid. I admit that I have a very acute sense of smell and am sensitive to chemicals, but still this car has for some reason become dramatically changed from the car it was before the big blast of fumes. I am still suffering the same neurological effects and can no longer drive the car.

Until a couple of weeks ago I had a perfect car; now I have one which is poisoning me. And no one believes me. HELP!

Wow. Intense. I wouldn’t imagine it was an exhaust leak- as CO poisoning is more likely to sneak up on you without you noticing right away.
Are you sure you’re not smelling gasoline vapors? Fuel vapor can be pretty potent when in an confined space like a car. You may want to have them check for fuel leaks, or see if your EVAP system (evaporative emissions system) is functioning properly. Could be as simple as a hose coming loose on it.

How is your car running? The check engine light on? Or is it just that it’s trying to kill you, but runs ok?

Something may have become stuck to the fan speed resistors which are hot when being used. When it burned you had the smoke. What’s left of the debris may have to be removed from the resistor or the duct work.

I don’t think modern cars use dropping resistors anymore…A vandal may have poured something nasty in the air intake below the wipers…Were you parked in a restricted area?

Thank you for answering my question–these are helpful ideas.

The car is running ok, and the check engine light isn’t on.

When you parked in garage was the smell the same smell you first smelled?
My guess would be bad gas or someone spraying something in tank,air vent or on exhaust.
Anybody mad at you?
There was a book out a while back on how to get even and it had many many ways to mess with people.

I have a friend who had a similar problem with her 1999 Cavalier. She didn’t smell any exhaust, but an analysis of her blood showed a high level of carbon dioxide. After taking it to some of the best mechanics we know, nobody was able to find a leak. In the end, the only solution was to dump the car and get a new one.

For future reference, nobody should be driving this car. I am really shocked you got back in and drove it in spite of what happened. It is almost as though you have a death wish. I don’t care where you had to be, the trip wasn’t worth risking your life like that. I also don’t care what kind of loss and financial impact you have to take to get out of this car and into one that won’t kill you, but you need to do it if you can’t find what is wrong. Until you find out what is wrong, don’t even drive this car to the mechanic. If you have to, have it towed. It isn’t worth your life.

One last thing, I know it is going to cost you, but you have an ethical obligation to warn whoever buys this car about this problem if you decide to dump it. Whether you trade it in or sell it to a private seller, make sure you are honest about this problem.

Unfortunately this one will be nearly impossible for any of us here to help you. With something like this you really need to go to a small well run shop with a good mechanic you can talk to etc.

Whatever this is I can promise you… a good mechanic/car person will know what the smell is…they are fairly distinct in the car world.

The dusty oily smell of oil leaking onto the valve cover but not onto the exhaust… the smell of hot anti freeze, burning brakes, solvents… the list is long I can personally attest to this. I have become extremely adept and accurate at ID’ing these Automotive Fragrances. In fact I’m willing to bet a large majority of the folks here could ID it for you as well but not so easy from where they currently sit.

My Smell O Vision is currently on the fritz so I hope you can find someone to sniff your vehicle for you.

How did you fall into a 10 year old thread?

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Because its my week of making mistakes and general blunders on this confounded website in the efforts to help people… hahaha…

I’m going mad I believe


Hope you don’t mind company!



True @shadowfax … That ship sailed a long long time ago. Its been interesting ever since, I freely admit.

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Just so everyone knows, @Honda_Blackbird didn’t resurrect this long dead discussion. The post that did has been deleted.

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