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2010 Forester
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As the title states, I'm getting an exhaust smell in the cabin ( even when alone on the road). when I turn on the blower to full, it vibrates. I just brought it out from a dealer who could find nothing. I'm wondering now if a fan whose bearings are falling might produce such a smell.

I'm frustrated because the dealer kept the cat for 3 working days and found nothing. any help would be appreciated.
 

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1999 SF5 GT auo
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9 Posts
It's definately possible that a bearing is gone. It's quite possible you have an exhaust leak and there's a dead mouse in the fan causing imbalance? Who knows, try look into it a bit.
 

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2011 2.5x Auto
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346 Posts
Various possibilities

It would be nice to know if the dealer actually removed and examined the fan assembly or just listened for noise and did a sniff test.
Smell: An overheating fan motor can have an odd smell. Defective blower resistors could smell at low speeds but not on high speed. Are there any fluid leaks underhood? One member had a strange smell when the AC drain was dripping on his exhaust pipe, although I don't remember if it was an SH model.
Vibration: I assume you mean noise, rather than vibration felt with your hand. Is it possible the fan is making a normal small vibration and causing the excessive noise to actually come from something else, loose under the dash, like a cabin filter?
Troubleshooting: I would feel around under the dash (with the fan running) to see if something else is vibrating. Remove the motor/blade assembly and run it in your hand. The black and red wire is positive. There will be a heavy starting twist, but it should not vibrate much. You could also check for any motor smell. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
thanks for the responses. vibration / sound was caused by junk in the fan. fixing this did not fix the smell. my engine compartment is clean and dry, but a mechanic buddy if mine identified the smell as gasoline, not exhaust.

I just got a call from the dealer, and they have been telling me all along they can't find any leaks, not can they smell what I'm smelling. they're not going to help me. the car is still in warranty, and I'm not sure what my next step is. I can't drive that car, I get dizzy, nauseous, and headaches.
 

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2011 2.5x Auto
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Sniff around

If it's an exhaust smell, I would suspect a leaky hatch door.
If it's a gasoline smell, there are two areas I would examine.
First, I would remove the rear seat cushion and see if the smell is stronger in that area. Underneath is the fuel tank and access to the fuel pump. Leaky gasket under the access plate?
Secondly, there is a vent hose inside the body just below the fuel door release cable. It apparently vents air from the fuel tank to the wheel area when you fill up. Has it come loose? You would have to pull all the panels off that side of the hatch area.
 

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2010 Forester
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The smell is coming in through the vents absolutely. When I pick up the hood, I can identify the smell near the passenger side of the engine compartment. My mechanic friend is convinced the smell is unburnt gasoline, however it smells more like exhaust to me. Either way, everyone else (besides the dealer mechanics) who smells this says it is unusual. Dealer is claiming "it's normal".
 

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2010 Forester
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
SoA is on the case. I am going to try at another dealer.
 

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2010 Forester
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
New dealer passed the buck. They can't smell what I smell. I have ordered a CO (carbon monoxide) detector to see if I get any readings (also works with SCUBA tanks which is primary use) from my vents.

SoA doesn't want me taking my car to an independent mechanic, but I'm thinking that's the only place where I will find someone willing to dig for the problem.
 

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2011 Forester XT & 99 OBS 4EAT >:/
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113 Posts
any word yet? I am having same issue, 2010 SH (threw that in for google search purposes, so others with our problem might have something to say) FXT with horrible exhaust smell in cabin..
 

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2011 Forester X Premium AT
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So, have you sat in your car, engine off with the fan on and smelled the fumes?

That would rule out exhaust fumes.

If engine is running and there IS an exhaust leak, they are usually pretty noticible with a much louder sound from the exhaust pipe....you can crawl under the car and you should be able to find it pretty quickly by following your ear.

As for a gasoline smell...I would open all the windows, hood, and doors for about 15-30 mins. Then, I would close all of them and the windows.....then smell all over and see if you can smell the gas odor.

-if you can, probably find it with your nose.
-if you cannot smell it, then turn the ignition on, but do not start the car...this will pressurize the fuel system...you might be able to look around your fuel lines under the hood and on the engine top [probably passenger side as you said] and you might be able to see gas if you smell it, then you know what needs to be fixed or tightened. Also, check inside the car [under rear seats, and back by the fuel filler as for4me said check that fuel vent inside the panels in the rear, passenger cargo area]. Hopefully, this might just flush out the source of the gas smell.
-trace your fuel system from filler cap to injector, then from the exhaust maifold to tailpipe.

Does your engine have an EGR valve? EGR cooler?

Is yours a turbo or N/A car?
 

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2011 Forester XT & 99 OBS 4EAT >:/
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I found my problem, loose bolt on Downpipe and the axleback gaskets were leaking because they were not properly tightened.. I foudn this by using the soapy water and plugging the mufflers with a rag idea..BTW THERE WAS NO SOUND, it only happened when the mufflers were plugged that I could hear little (whisping)
 

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2011 Forester XT & 99 OBS 4EAT >:/
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So, have you sat in your car, engine off with the fan on and smelled the fumes?

That would rule out exhaust fumes.

If engine is running and there IS an exhaust leak, they are usually pretty noticible with a much louder sound from the exhaust pipe....you can crawl under the car and you should be able to find it pretty quickly by following your ear.

As for a gasoline smell...I would open all the windows, hood, and doors for about 15-30 mins. Then, I would close all of them and the windows.....then smell all over and see if you can smell the gas odor.

-if you can, probably find it with your nose.
-if you cannot smell it, then turn the ignition on, but do not start the car...this will pressurize the fuel system...you might be able to look around your fuel lines under the hood and on the engine top [probably passenger side as you said] and you might be able to see gas if you smell it, then you know what needs to be fixed or tightened. Also, check inside the car [under rear seats, and back by the fuel filler as for4me said check that fuel vent inside the panels in the rear, passenger cargo area]. Hopefully, this might just flush out the source of the gas smell.
-trace your fuel system from filler cap to injector, then from the exhaust maifold to tailpipe.

Does your engine have an EGR valve? EGR cooler?

Is yours a turbo or N/A car?
Thanks for the help, kinda weird I just filled up again today, and not sure if its me but does smell a little more, maybe it is a gas issue.. I will be replacing the fuel pump with a dw65c next week so i will evaluate the issue, but the problem of "exhaust" smell has definitely dissipated.

:woohoo:
 

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2010 Forester
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I found my problem, loose bolt on Downpipe and the axleback gaskets were leaking because they were not properly tightened.. I foudn this by using the soapy water and plugging the mufflers with a rag idea..BTW THERE WAS NO SOUND, it only happened when the mufflers were plugged that I could hear little (whisping)
Where were you using soapy water?. Not sure where the axle back gaskets or the downpipe are. I'm still having a problem and I believe it's gas, not exhaust...though it could be a combo. Smell is DEFINITELY coming from the engine compartment, as I can smell the general location it's coming from (passenger side).

No smell when ignition is on, but engine off. Smell is only apparent when engine is running.
 

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2010 Forester
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
CO detector arrived. I got a few concerning readings, but they don't persist. Took the car to an independent, and they DID smell what I what I smell. They believe it to be an exhaust smell. I found a similar problem on an Outback forum. Here's the link:

Exhaust Smell Through Vents When Stopped - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums

Same symptoms, same location. Going to try my local dealer with that printout and some attitude and see if I can't get better results.
 

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2010 Forester
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I wanted to bring closure to this thread in case anyone else has a similar issue. The smell stopped around a year ago. Right after that, I started getting a squealing sound in the engine compartment. Belts. One of the belts was split cleanly down the middle.

My best guess? As the belt was delaminating, it created that smell.
 
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