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    Thread: Burning oil smell in cabin

    1. 12-17-2001 09:10 PM #1
      Lately I've been noticing a burning oil smell every time I park the car, after driving for a while. It's coming from the HVAC vents.
      I checked the engine bay and couldn't see any oil in plain view. The exhaust manifold is kind of hard to get a look at.
      Anyone else have this problem?

    2. 12-18-2001 12:07 AM #2
      This happened in my Toyota (waiting for my Passat to show up). Smelled it when the vent was set to 'fresh' and when I got out. After a 140,000 miles my oil pan gasket was starting to seep in one spot and was dripping onto the cat. Nothing like pulling up to a stoplight and seeing blue smoke coming up out of the hood !!
      You may have a drip onto an exhaust component. I'm not familiar with the disposition of the oil components in relation to the exhaust components in the Passat yet. Do you find oil on the pavement after parking overnight?
      Of course it could be as simple as a 'mis-pour' during an oil change that has run down the block...
      Sorry, but I can't actually provide any answers, just suggestions. Please post your findings.

    3. 12-18-2001 09:39 AM #3
      You may have a drip onto an exhaust component.
      Yup, I'd have the engine compartment blown out with compressed air first. Then, drive it for a few days and see what happens.
      Good luck!

    4. 12-18-2001 09:54 AM #4
      Thanks guys. I'll give that a try this coming weekend when I get under the car.

    5. 12-18-2001 09:54 AM #5
      Do you do your own oil changes or someone else do them for you? Regardless of who does them, I've found it be about impossible to change it without spilling at least a little bit. Most recently I tried the plastic bag trick over the filter, that worked pretty well, but some is still lost as soon as you remove the filter before the bag can go into the threads. Inevitably those drops don't make it to the drip pan and they end up in places that you can't get it all wiped up. By the time it burns all off, it is time for another oil change. I had the same problem when the dealer was doing oil changes, or I do them. I even took the car in under warranty thinking that there was oil dripping on hot exhaust components (not that there really are any areas close to the exhaust system that would drip oil) but that wasn't the case.

    6. 12-18-2001 02:18 PM #6
      Your signature doesn't suggest it, but have you put in a K&N filter? I put one in about 4-5 months ago, and ever since, under the right circumstances, I can smell a vague burnt oil odor, especially when stopped at lights, etc. My theory has been that with the benefits of freer intake of air, there may be a bit of "back flow" from the engine. I've been planning to put the old filter back in for a month and see if the odor disappears. Have you changed your original filter? BTW. I don't think the oil-change-drip suggestion is very likely - as opposed to my last car (a '91 Accord EX in which the filter was located DIRECTLY OVER THE EXHAUST PIPE!), at least the V6 filter and drain plug are NOT in a position where I'd suspect a spill would get to the hot exhaust system.

      [Modified by P. E. Johnston, 11:19 AM 12-18-2001]

    7. 12-18-2001 07:59 PM #7
      I smelled oil one day in my GLX V-6 but didn't think much of it (wasn't even sure it was coming from my car). Two days later, the car wouldn't start and all because of a faulty oil pump pressure relief valve. The dealer replaced the oil pump. Not saying this is your problem, but don't rule it out. If your dealer checks his computer, he should find the bulletins on it from VW Tech.

    8. 12-18-2001 08:29 PM #8
      BTW. I don't think the oil-change-drip suggestion is very likely - as opposed to my last car (a '91 Accord EX in which the filter was located DIRECTLY OVER THE EXHAUST PIPE!), at least the V6 filter and drain plug are NOT in a position where I'd suspect a spill would get to the hot exhaust system.

      Oil dripped onto any part of the engine where the temperature rises is suspectible to producing the burning oil smell. While it may not be as noxious, the odor will certainly be much more noticeable than if it was sitting at room temperature. The typical place for the oil to drip when doing a 1.8T oil change, is next to impossible to totally clean up.

    9. 12-19-2001 02:18 PM #9
      I'd agree that if you drip oil from the TOP of the engine (pouring in new oil), such a clutzy move should be rewarded with the burnt oil smell as a penalty! The V6 drain plug and oil filter are positioned so a spill would have to be of gargantuan/Exxon Valdez proportions to encounter a hot engine part!

    10. 12-19-2001 02:36 PM #10
      What you mean your oil filter isn't blessed as being in there at a 45' angle like ours? You lukcy bastard! Unless VW has a special tool (not mentioned in Bentley or Hazet's site) there is no way to get that thing off without spilling at least some!

    11. 12-19-2001 06:28 PM #11
      Shaggy: The V6 is much nicer than the 1.8t in respects for oil changes. There's nothing in the way of the oil filter so any spillage goes right onto the floor.

    12. 12-19-2001 06:42 PM #12
      I recently put a K&N air filter in and almost immediately noticed this smell, I just assumed some oil was spilled during the oil change.

    13. 12-19-2001 07:38 PM #13
      K&N Air filter has nothing to do with the smell.

    14. 12-20-2001 11:51 AM #14
      I'd still like to know if AlphaPepper has a K&N filter. And, for crew217, how can you be so unequivocally positive that the "K&N filter has nothing to do with the smell?" At least anecdotally, several of us have noticed the smell in close chronologic relationship to installing the filter. In my instance, I've had NO oil spills and my V6 uses NO oil between changes. I'm open to alternative/better explanations. I'm poised to reinstall my old original equipment filter (which was not that dirty when I replaced it) and see if the smell disappears.

    15. 12-20-2001 12:37 PM #15
      OK . . . here is why the K&N filter has nothing to do with it. . . . the air filter does not have to do with any air that is being circulated within the cabin. There is a separate cabin filter for that. The K&N is sealed inside the airbox and any oil that comes off of that gets burned inside the engine and comes off the exhaust. It is completely sealed off from the engine compartment. Most likely, oil was spilled somewhere or another theory is that cosmoline from the car itself is burning up somewhere. Cosmoline is a petroleum based / wax / rustproofing that is sprayed on the inside of body panels at the factory. It is sometimes that white goo you see oozing out of the door panels.
      Do you really need more indication of why it isn't the K&N filter? I've seen a lot of crap posted about the K&N filter and this seems to be the most ridiculous yet.

    16. 12-20-2001 02:10 PM #16
      I'm not enough of a novice to think the K&N filter/engine air intake system has any direct connection to the cabin. That was only true with a friend's '60 Corvair which produced an instant headache anytime the heater was turned on as a result of engine emission leaks.. However, without doing a continuous flow study, how can you be sure that some of the ambient gases in the intake manifold (which could have a burnt oil odor) can't "ooze" back past the thinner/lower resistance K&N filter into the engine compartment and be detectable when the car is stopped (little air circulating around the engine...). And, to make a devil's advocate comment, "Cosmoline.." - wasn't that one of Kramer's girlfriends? (I must have far too much time on my hands to argue over something of so little consequence!) I'm still open to a better explanation!

    17. 12-20-2001 02:28 PM #17
      Go to a real forum, http://www.clubb5.com . You can read about cosmoline there. One of the mods there is a top-notch chemist who works for the company that created cosmoline. As for your reasonsing . . . the air intake is constantly sucking in air . . . do you really think that the engine just stops when you idle? If air is being sucked in, then how can air be pushed out that same route? Plus, if air was being pushed out the intake manifold, it would be ejected through the front of the car since that is the only opening in the intake. Your argument is so faulty its no wonder that you are on vortex.

    18. 12-20-2001 09:55 PM #18
      Go to a real forum, http://www.clubb5.com
      Your argument is so faulty its no wonder that you are on vortex.
      No need to slam the Vortex. If you don't like it then go somewhere else.
      I took out my K&N about 1000 miles ago because I noticed a fine powder on the filtered side of my intake which I found a little disconcerting (that's a whole other topic). Anyway, I don't think it has anyting to do with the smell.
      Hopefully this weekend I'll be able to get a closer look at my engine to check for oil leaks. Dealer will charge me $75 just to look at my car. I just had it in there for a new ball joint, not eager to take it back just yet.
      Thanks for the info


      [Modified by AlphaPepper, 9:54 PM 12-20-2001]

    19. 12-21-2001 07:12 PM #19
      Are you running Synthetic oil? I run synthetic and if there is a drip it takes forever to burn away. I still have not figured out why I get the smell for no reason! Just a idea.

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