Subaru Outback Forums banner

1 - 14 of 14 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I have a 2012 Outback Limited (garage kept with 10K miles) that emits a smell kin to hot anti-freeze coolant inside the cabin through the ventilation vents. Seems to happen after I get off the interstate and drive two miles on a curvy mountain road to my house. The smell is intense at first but starts to fade before I get to my house. My first impression was a leak in the heater core. Took it to the dealer and a leaking heater core was their thought also, so it was changed even though their pressure test didn't indicate a leak in the system. After picking it up, drove it around town for awhile before taking the Outback home without any smell what-so-ever. After driving the interstate home and starting up the mountain road, same thing, the stink came back, really bad. After the car sits all night in the garage it smells again when you start it up but fades away after a couple of miles from home. Car is now at the dealer again, they have called Subaru (no help), and they are trying to figure out what the problem is. All attempts at pressure testing the cooling system turn up good, no leaks. Has anybody out there had this problem and know how to fix this? This is my wife's car and now she refuses to drive it. Now she has taken over my Ford Super-duty diesel pickup truck and left me with the "stinking" Outback. Please help.:help:
 

·
Registered
2011 Subie 3.6R Limited 2013 Cmax e=nergi PHEV
Joined
·
781 Posts
Bubba. Could the outback be consuming coolant?

Only time I smelled coolant that bad was when my 1989 Ford Ranger's core went and it sprayed me with a Prestone Green mist through the cabin vents while driving on the highway. Not fun.

Obviously, something is wrong.

I get a slight smell of coolant in the engine compartment after long highway runs and some consumption, but have yet to notice the coolant stank in the cabin.
 

·
Registered
Onyx, 2008 LL Bean 3.0R and 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
Joined
·
4,111 Posts
Is the coolant level going down? Is it overheating or running hotter than normal? Does the smell go away if you turn the vents to recirculate - inside air? I'm wondering where the smell is actually coming from, the cabin or the engine compartment. That would help you narrow down the problem.
 

·
Premium Member
03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
Joined
·
17,812 Posts
^^^ good questions

i assume new soobs still get a glycol-based coolant? If so, any smell like 'toasted marshmallows' (sweet-ish) is coolant.

Disconcerting that it seems to be intermittent/use-related, on older cars, that can indicate bad headgaskets. But often, coolant will be pushed into the overflow tank. Any indication of that after you smell the coolant and look under the hood?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,835 Posts
Lots of new car owners have reported this type of thing. They start checking fluids and don't see any changes and most of us have noticed this. Manufacturing oils being burned off of hot parts is what prior threads like this have come to the conclusion of. Assuming your fluid levels are not changing. No change in coolant levels then you don't have a leak.
 

·
Registered
2012 limited, white, no moonroof or nav
Joined
·
1,698 Posts
You might suggest that the dealer pressure test the system hot.......(It would be more normal to test it cold, because you can't install the pressure tester hot.) It can happen that the system leaks minimally when hot and running, not when cold. It does not take much of a coolant leak to stink the car up. Good Luck.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all the reply's. This is what the dealer has done so far: Pressure checked the system while hot, no leaks. Even with the good pressure test it still was thought that the heater core still might be dripping under extreme pressure and heat so they changed out the heater core with a new one (the whole dash had to come out to get to the core.) They cleaned the air box and all the HVAC duct work. Pressure checked the system again while hot and still no signs of leaks. Test drove and no smell. I picked it up took it home and the wife drove it the next day, smell is back. Back to the dealer again to see what they can do with it. They have called Subaru and they are no help. I really think the car is possessed and may need an exorcism.
 

·
Premium Member
03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
Joined
·
17,812 Posts
If there actually is a routine, road, use; that regularly creates the problem, be sure to mention it or take the tech or service writer for a drive to duplicate the problem.

Another wild thought, some windshield washer fluids have an odd smell. My wife hates that orange RainX stuff.
 

·
Registered
2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i 6spdMT
Joined
·
71 Posts
You try changing your deodorant?

Sorry, not helpful! It's really a shame to hear about this issue, very curious to see what the fix ends up being!
 

·
Registered
2006 Outback 2.5i Limited 5MT, 1984 Porsche 944
Joined
·
277 Posts
Could be perfectly normal. Here's why:

The Subaru has a relatively small, open cooling system. What that means is if your Subaru's coolant get especially warm (such as driving around a mountain pass), the coolant will expand and be pushed past the radiator cap into the coolant reservoir, which is open to the atmosphere. (When the cooling system cools, coolant from the reservoir is pulled back into the system to fill the empty voids.)

Now,if the air vent is set to "fresh", streamlines flowing through the engine compartment could be capturing the warm-coolant scent and dumping it into the cabin. (which would be a design oversight on Subaru's part)

Alternative 1: your system is overfilled. As the coolant expands, it expands into the reservoir, but this time it overfills the tank. The reservoir "dump tube" sits right above the exhaust manifold, which "cooks" the coolant, emitting a cinnamon roll smell. Maybe the same dealer that overfilled the coolant upon delivery also overfilled the system while performing the heater core replacement?

Alternative 2: Bad water pump, head gasket, coolant hose, warped head etc. that seeps coolant on the exhaust manifold when the car is under heavy load. I would check the bottom radiator hose port for a leak. Gravity will pull the coolant from here and onto the exhaust manifold, which would cause the "morning" stink.

Alternative 3: I'm not sure if the valve is located inside the cabin, but it could be a seeping heater coolant valve. (Valve that closes coolant feed to the heater core).


I think I've pretty much covered all grounds. :p
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Stink resolved..........

If there actually is a routine, road, use; that regularly creates the problem, be sure to mention it or take the tech or service writer for a drive to duplicate the problem.

Another wild thought, some windshield washer fluids have an odd smell. My wife hates that orange RainX stuff.

:29:Just got a call this morning about the wife's Outback. Seems like the Lucky Texan was on the right trail. Yesterday evening the Tech pulled the fresh air intake cowl below the windshield wiper area and found a dried brown residue around the fresh air intake. Gave it a sniff and found the same odor. Upon further investigation he then checked the windshield cleaning fluid bottle and the stink would knock your head off. The windshield washer fluid had fermented and was trying to take the shape of some other organism unknown to man. The Tech dumped the fluid and performed a complete rinse of the windshield washer system front and back with three bottles of clean water and then refilled the bottle with fresh washer fluid. He stated this was due to lack of use of the windshield washer fluid over time and the alcohol based fluid actually started to chemically change. Her car, with only 10K showing, stays in the garage and is never driven in the rain. She only uses her washer to clean the dust off the windshield when she does drive it. She has her oil changed at the dealer every 3K miles and they always top her fluids off during the service so some of the fluid has probably been in there from the factory. I will pick her car up this morning and reclaim my Superduty Ford pickup.

On the plus side they gave me a brand new TN Orange Crosstrek to drive for the three days her car was being serviced. Had 8 miles showing when they gave it to me. A very well handling car, almost no body roll or wind effect, tracks very well on my mountain road and the new 2.0 engine w/CVT was really responsive. The only drawback for us older guys is the stiffer suspension telegraphs very small bit of road condition back to the drivers seat. Reminds me of the old MG's I used to race when I was in my twenties, just a lot bigger.
 

·
Premium Member
03 H6 OBW & 06 WRX Sportwagon
Joined
·
17,812 Posts
weird

kinda wondering if someone topped that fluid up with coolant or something 'incorrect'.

hard to believe it would 'grow' something, however, I think there has been a push to make ww fluid more 'green' and the alcohol/solvent content might be so reduced that, it may eventually turn into stagnate water. I dunno
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
weird

kinda wondering if someone topped that fluid up with coolant or something 'incorrect'.

hard to believe it would 'grow' something, however, I think there has been a push to make ww fluid more 'green' and the alcohol/solvent content might be so reduced that, it may eventually turn into stagnate water. I dunno
I agree, it was weird. I thinking what you're thinking, something got in there that didn't belong. I picked the wife's car up today and the Tech had saved the fluid from the washer for me to check out. I've never smelled washer fluid that was as rank as that stuff. Drove it home and everything was back to normal. Thanks for all the suggestions.
 

·
Registered
Lawn ornament XT
Joined
·
14,367 Posts
The temp range for washer fluid tanks in cars is usually perfect for cultivating bacteria. I've heard of truckers getting sick from aerosolized washer fluid coming off of trucks ahead of them.

If you make or buy good washer fluid it will have just enough methanol in it to keep this from happening.
 
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
Top