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Hey everybody, for about the last week or so I've noticed a smell that smelled like my exhaust. So, I took the car into a mechanic today and had them check it. He told me he couldn't find a leak in the exhaust and thought it might be oil burning because I have a slight head gasket leak(hopefully getting fixed soon). But, I don't think that really could be what I'm smelling. He also said it might be a slightly clogged cat but the car isn't throwing any codes.

Anyone have any similar experience or have an idea of what it could be before I go drop money on a new cat?

By the way the car is a 2003 outback sedan limited with the 2.5 with around 117k miles on it.

Thanks in advance.
 

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as I've read from several people, soob cats are very robust. make DARN sure its bad before spending that kinda money.

could you have a slight split in a CV boot? might have been missed by the mech. Could you have run over a shopping bag or other road debris that cooked-off? Does the smell resemble any kinda 'animal' odor? some folks get rodents living in their cars. Did it smell at all like toasted marshmallows? that would be from coolant.
 

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Thanks for the quick replies!

For the computer/codes ... that's what I was thinking but as a precaution I went ahead and ran a code reader. When I was checking the car I looked underneath the dash area and saw a small green cable that was possibly unplugged. I plugged it in thinking a past owner had possibly disabled it. Once plugged in it made my check engine light flash... I when in and checked the codes... I don't remember exactly what they were but I cleared them out to see if they came back however once cleared the light stayed flashing even though the codes were clear. I went ahead and unplugged the cable again.

I don't think it could be the CV boots (I just had one replaced and had the others checked not too long ago). as for a shopping bag/ road debris it's possible but I don't think that's the right smell either. It's definitely not animals... I checked for that when I was checking for codes.

Also on a side note: I've noticed my gas mileage hasn't been great. In town ive only been getting around 18 mpg and mixed driving is only about 21-22 mpg

Thanks for the quick responses!
 

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those green connectors are for certain test purposes. leave them disconnected.

I suppose you could carefully test a drop or 2 of each fluid with a heated nail held in some pliers to try to ID the smell.

do you have any other issues? noisy steering or squealing belts? rough running when warm but OK when cold, or vice-versa? transmission fluid OK?
 

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Hey everybody, for about the last week or so I've noticed a smell that smelled like my exhaust. So, I took the car into a mechanic today and had them check it. He told me he couldn't find a leak in the exhaust and thought it might be oil burning because I have a slight head gasket leak(hopefully getting fixed soon). But, I don't think that really could be what I'm smelling. He also said it might be a slightly clogged cat but the car isn't throwing any codes.

Anyone have any similar experience or have an idea of what it could be before I go drop money on a new cat?

By the way the car is a 2003 outback sedan limited with the 2.5 with around 117k miles on it.

Thanks in advance.
UNPLUG THE GREEN PLUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Those are for ROM access and reflashing only.

Don't throw money into anything just yet.

Get away from any shop "mechanic" that says "it might be". If they don't know, move on to someone who does.

I have seen cats bad that the computer didn't pick up on right away. Try a different BRAND of gasoline the next time you fill up and put in Premium Unleaded. See what happens.

You could have a hardened/cracked PCV hose, leaking fuel line, an actual exhaust leak that the "mechanic" couldn't find or the CAT is going bad and thats what you smell.

Try the different gasoline first and see what happens.

And definitely unplug the green plugs that you plugged in.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the help!

I unplugged the plugs when I was done so they were only plugged in for about a minute tops.

I'll try different gas next time I fill up... is there something specific I need to look for after I fill up?
 

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Cat's only go bad if you have an engine that has been running rich for 100K+ miles or you actually physically damaged one or the exhaust pipe leading to it. Even then it will take a few years for the cat to finally die. I actually trashed the front cat on my 2001. I hit a chunk of ice that fell off a truck - it cracked the Y pipe right at the "Y" which is just infront of the first CAT. Three years later heavy rain storms would trigger an engine light due to the O2 sensor and emissions system not happy about the CAT ingesting lots of rain water and road grime. After drying out the light would go off. Eventually I replaced the Y pipe $280 part online took me about 30 minutes to replace it. Then had a local muffler ma and pa type shop cut out the old cat and weld in a new one $150. I replaced the front O2 sensor $190. Car was fine for the next 40,000 miles I owned it never had any issues.

That same fix at the dealer was pushing $2000!
 
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