Mystery diagnosis: burning wax smell from engine?

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Car is my beloved (ha!) 2001 Buick Regal LS, 3800 nonsupercharged. Over the last few days, I have noticed a very distinct burning/melting wax smell coming from my engine/engine bay after I have been on the highway (normal commute is ~45 miles a day, mostly highway at 70+ mph). I looked under the hood and under the car and did not see any obvious signs of anything burning. I have previously noted that there is a burning oil smell that comes from the engine when it is hot, that I can smell while driving if the windows are open. This is the same way. After my commute this morning I popped the hood and almost retched... burning oil or whatever and burning wax do not combine well aromatically. Any ideas what this might be? And while I don't use Pennzoil, I do use a SOPUS product (Formula Shell)...
 

Kestas

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Hard to diagnose a smell over the internet. Can you optimize the lighting conditions to look for smoke after a run?... like a shop light at night. Check for something that may have recently splattered itself onto the exhaust system.
 

jdeare

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Yeah, I was hoping the smell would be something specific that someone else would know... I'm not sure about the lighting. I'll probably have to use a flashlight or something, since I don't have a garage.
 
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Keep a very close eye (at least daily) on all the fluid levels, like coolant. Best to have a serious search by someone who knows what they're looking at from above and below before something worse happens. I wouldn't drive it until I found an explanation. Hopefully it's just a piece of trash melting away somewhere...
 
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Maybe it's oil leaking onto the engine from the valve-cover's? Was this one of the cars included in the recent recall issued by GM? Otherwise I would say it's the Pennzoil! (J/K)
 

jdeare

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I knew some of you guys would get the Pennzoil reference... :) My car was under the recall. I've had the burning oil smell for a while, and having the recall fix done didn't change it (honestly... the recall was a joke, they replaced a plastic thingy with 3 wire looms). Not driving it is not really an option. I have to get to work. But I will keep an eye on the fluids, and also hope that I just ran over something that's burning away...
 
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Just keep an eye on all fluids and keep checking under the hood, it will eventually turn up. Gonna be one of those hard things to find I'm sure... ;\) In the meantime stop using Pennzoil unless you want your engine to turn into a giant candle!
 
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 Originally Posted By: jdeare
My car was under the recall. I've had the burning oil smell for a while, and having the recall fix done didn't change it (honestly... the recall was a joke, they replaced a plastic thingy with 3 wire looms).
How long ago was that? Maybe something they did wrong is turning up now.
 

jdeare

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I'd have to look at the receipt to get the exact date, but it was approximately 2 months ago/2500 miles ago. I looked under the hood this evening and nothing in that area has changed (also no signs of melting). Additionally, the smell was much diminished. So probably some garbage underneath somewhere...
 
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 Originally Posted By: Chris142
Probly a garbage bag melting on the cat converter.
I had that on my Dodge Caravan and it stunk for years in the summer heat. Couldn't get the smell to go away until the stainless steel pipe finally broke and I replaced it all from the engine back.
 
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to bad PENNZOIL doesn't make scented motor oil for your engine . AHHHHHHHHHH ! Apple cinnamon .
 
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jdeare

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I would probably go for pine scented. That would make my car greener, right? :) I'm going to put the car up on ramps this weekend and really get in there... hopefully I don't find a dead bird crammed between the exhaust and the bottom of the car...
 
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 Originally Posted By: StevieC
 Originally Posted By: Chris142
Probly a garbage bag melting on the cat converter.
I had that on my Dodge Caravan and it stunk for years in the summer heat. Couldn't get the smell to go away until the stainless steel pipe finally broke and I replaced it all from the engine back.
Happened on my impala and it smelt like burnt plastic/wax for weeks / months. Finally went to my friends shop, through it up on the lift and sure enough it melted on my Magnaflow exhaust. Took a torch on low heat, and a scraper. Went to town and after 45 minutes it was clean of all that [censored]. Smell was gone after that.
 

jdeare

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Just a quick note... I think my coolant level is going down. I will need to check it more often to be sure though.
 
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 Originally Posted By: jdeare
Just a quick note... I think my coolant level is going down. I will need to check it more often to be sure though.
Gah! On a 3800, that's not good. Watch it closely... Outside of that, the 3800 is a bulletproof (but not C4C proof) engine.
 
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3.8 is a beastly engine and practically bulletproof except for the gaskets. With 100k on my Impala I haven't had a need for it yet, just did the 2nd coolant flush in 8 years on it. Was a bit goopy this time around with the Dexcool but clean afterwards. I only had to top it up maybe 1 time in 8 years.
 
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Check power steering fluid level (hard to do on these engines?) My Monte Carlo had a pinhole leak in the ps lines. It wouldnt leak unless it was under pressure. Didnt figure out the smell until my power steering went dry and it made a rubbing noise while turning.
 
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