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Burning smell


Well-Known Member
March 21, 2014
Reaction score
City, State
Panama City Beach, FL
Year, Model & Trim Level
02 sport trac 4wd
Every time I drive the truck then stop and walk past the drivers wheel I smell a burning smell. I freaked out today cause it seemed pretty stank, looked under and it was soaked (it was a long aggrevating day and forgot I drove through a deep puddle on the way home). But the smell is there and unfortunately I have no clue what any fluid would smell like if burning, everything I learn about the truck is from this forum and YouTube. But you can't learn what smell is what.

It can very likely have something to do with the brakes, I still have yet to do them (my other post on brakes started months ago). I have rotors/pads in the cab and just got calipers in the mail yesterday. All the fluids look fine, nothing that says I'm leaking look at me. But I would think it's obviously something that would come in contact with a hot part but that's all I got.

Would anyone mind trying to explain burning fluid smells like? Coolant, oil, brake and such. I know this seems stupid and very difficult to explain but thanks if you can try

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Check if the drivers side rim is getting warm to the touch, that would indicate a sticking caliper.
Oil or coolant leaks will usually emit smoke or steam, check under the hood and truck after driving.

Heated/ burning coolant has a sweet smell where as oil has a more pungent smell to it. Brakes have a distinct odor when they're hot, first installed and when they've been worn down too much, kinda metallic smell.

You said you drove through a big puddle and the engine compartment is soaked. Depending on the type of mud/ dirty water, etc... you drove through it could very easily be that you're smelling. I've driven through some dank puddles before and gotten a horrible burning smell from it burning off the exhaust and other hot parts.

Also, check the driver's side valve cover by the pcv valve. Mine was seeping a little bit of oil out of the rear corner of the valve cover and dripping a few drops down on to the exhaust/exhaust manifold. Shine a flashlight in the rear corner where the black valve cover meets the smooth shiny silver. Look for fresh oil leak. Reach back there and touch that area as well.
Very stinky! For some odd reason it smells like burning rubber. Weird I know. But, it does.
Also, take a look (from under the front of the truck) at the exhaust pipe that hangs downs almost dead center of the truck. It the lowest pipe under there. It is in a U shape. See if its coated with black soot and looks wet or smoking. That one would indicate leaky valve cover and/or rear main seal leak blowing on to that exhaust part in particular.

I checked the wheel and it doesn't seem hot, warm but not sure what's a normal feel either. Not getting steam or smoke thou, that I can see.

Definately not a sweet smell, thanks for that smell description! I noticed the smell before driving through that puddle, but it definately made it smell worse. It could very well be the brakes, which I believe are worn down to much.

I'll know I have a leak some where you describe near the exhaust pipe dead center of truck. I've posted about oil leak/drip near the oil pan and whatever it is that connects to (can't remember) but someone had suggested rear main seal? So that could also be possible for that smell.

I haven't smelled it as bad sense my post but it seems to come in waves or the wind carries it away. Thanks for the help guys