Yet another Ford problem

So every once in a while, probably a dozen times, over the winter I am idling at a stop light and smell a bad burning smell. It doesnt matter if I have my heat on, or if I switch the temp all the way to cold. It smells like burning rubber or plastic. So far there doesn’t seem to be a common factor involved. Doesn’t matter the temp outside or how long I have been driving the car. Haven’t noticed a loss in fluids, no puddles under my car. And it’s not a sweet antifreeze smell. Help! I have sunk so much money in this car, I hate to just give up, but honestly I am not loving Ford right now.

2004 Ford Escape

The next time you smell it, pull over to the closest safe place, pop the hood, and see if you can tell where it’s coming from. While you’re stopped, CAREFULLY touch each of the wheels and see if one is hotter than the others, on the possibility that it’s a pad dragging.

Also try to notice if it’s been happening at the same place every time. I thought I smelled rubber burning and discovered it was only smelling when I passed a specific spot on the highway. It was coming from outside.

If you cannot isolate the source of the smell, take it to a shop, just to rule out a possible exhaust leak. Exhaust could be getting in the passenger cabin. And that could be deadly.


Might have leaking valve cover gaskets

Put the car on jackstands

Crawl underneath with a decent flashlight and have a look

It’s not coming from the wheels from what I can tell. But I did just have my brakes and rotors fixed before winter hit…so I’ve been wondering that. The locations are super random! I am all over the city for work and so I know it’s not a location issue.

Hmm sorry, but I can’t do the whole put the car on jackstands and look underneath. I am a tiny female in subzero temps. Lol…so it would be great to have some leads on what it could be. Kind of a shot in the dark I know.

Not that I’m a great Ford fan, but the car is ten years old and is designed, like all cars to have limit life span. The key is to know when to hold’m, know when to fold’m and know when to walk away. Get it fixed enough to trade or sell with the good advice you have gotten. But, take it to a garage. It won’t get any better and it’s time to walk away.


It sounds like oil is leaking onto the hot exhaust manifold

Just a guess, since we don’t have any photos to look at

Can you pull over and lift the hood the next time you smell it?

Again, if you can’t detect where the smell is coming from, get to a shop. Chances are good that it’s just oil seeping onto a hot exhaust, but should it be an exhaust leak, it could be dangerous. Carbon monoxide fumes can put you to sleep and you could wake up dead.

Post back with the results. We do care.

“you could wake up dead.”


If you’re dead, you won’t be waking up

Is it a rotten egg smell?

I don’t know that yet Db… there may be other worlds. Heaven and Hell, for example.

Not a rotten egg smell. Will call the garage tomorrow and see if they can track it down. It’s hard because it’s not all the time that I smell it. Just an every once in a while thing. Uggh

Any chance the smell could be an overheating cabin blower motor that is drawing too much amperage due to wear? That can come across as a burning, acrid type of smell.

Not sure. Wouldn’t that affect the fan speed in the cabin?

Not necessarily. Fan speed malfunctions are generally indicators of resistor network failures. The fan motor would be powering past a bad bearing by drawing the extra current. The extra current gives it the oomph to spin even with a binding bearing.

Mountainbike is correct. A few years back and strictly on a whim even though there were no obvious issues, I decided to throw an ammeter on the blower motor on my Lincoln while doing some maintenance as the wire connector was easily accessed and the cars are known for burning blower connectors.

On HIGH speed that motor was pulling 27 amps. Ouch. That’s the kind of load that can be a potential fire hazard. The new motor pulled about 12 if I remember correctly.

Before you hate on your car too much, this could be something real simple. I think you might be smelling oil burning on the exhaust manifold, which could be caused by something as basic as sloppy pouring of oil during an oil change.

Who handles your oil changes? Did you notice the smell shortly after a change? Burning oil is a distinctive smell: if you can take a mechanic friend along shotgun when this happens, he should be able to tell you if it’s oil. Kinda hard to do this over the web!

Yes I started noticing it after an oil change, but my oil was changed some time ago. Would it take that long for the smell to go away?

I think it could take up to 1,000 miles to totally resolve.

Get it checked out, though: something is wrong, and a few possibilities (like exhaust manifold leak) are downright dangerous.

It was looked at today but they couldn’t find what was going on. They said there were a few small oil leaks, but nothing significant. They cleaned it up and fixed a pulley just above the exhaust manifold that was loose. That’s about it. Just gonna keep driving it and see if it gets worse. Kind of hard to diagnose it when they couldn’t get it to smell in the shop today.