Intermittent engine smell

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Main Forum' started by Henrik Helmers, Jan 3, 2020.

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  1. Henrik Helmers

    Henrik Helmers New Member

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    Hello. This is my first post here, so apologies in advance for mistakes.

    I currently own a 2009 gen 2 Prius. It has been well taken care of and has about 65000 km on it. I have noticed that on occasion there is a smell emitted I cannot identify, seemingly coming from the engine. It does not smell like gasoline, and not like burning electronics. There are no leaks as far as I can tell.

    I thought it might be washer fluid being heated by the AC or defroster. But I experienced it again today, without running the AC or defroster. But there could be old fluid trapped somewhere? The vehicle is a bit dirty, but there are no foreign objects stuck anywhere as far as I can tell.

    No errors on the display, and as far as I can tell the car runs well.

    I am wondering if this is something I should have a professional diagnose, and am curious if anyone knows what the smell might be.
     
  2. ydpplqbd

    ydpplqbd Member

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    Is it sweet smelling?
     
  3. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Senior Member

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    Can you be more specific about location and type of smell?
     
  4. Luc_S

    Luc_S New Member

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    The best known Smell of Prius comes from two rubber tubes mounted across HV battery cells. They stink like old cowshed (check an air inlet located between right rear door and backrest). I must say however, that after one year of daily driving I can't feel it anymore ;).
     
  5. Henrik Helmers

    Henrik Helmers New Member

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    Using my nose detector I have tried sniffing the battery vent, but I don't think the smell is coming from there. The smell is much stronger outside the vehicle than inside.

    When I discovered the smell yesterday I forced the engine off with the magical EV-button, and the smell went away. After a while I toggled the engine back on and the smell came back. But it goes away on its own after a while.

    I struggle to describe it. Perhaps a bit alcoholic, a bit sweet and a bit plasticky? It does not smell like something you are meant to drink.
     
  6. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Senior Member

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    That magical EV button is not magical at all... When you use it you discharge your battery so fast that you measurably shorten the lifespan of your battery pack... When some state's in the US created laws to require 150K mile (241K KM) warranty on hybrid battery packs, Toyota made the decision to eliminate the "magical" EV switch from the US market to protect themselves from the liability that switch exposed them too.

    A hybrid car is not an Electric car!

    It requires both the engine and the battery pack and motor to compliments each other in a very specific sequence. When you hit the EV switch you over-ride the efficiency of that process and push the limits of the system closer to failure than is wise.

    Let us know if smell is still an issue after you no longer use the EV-button.
     
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  7. edthefox5

    edthefox5 Senior Member

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    get searchin':

    Smell the ac vents. Is it there? Has the AC evap coil under the dash ever been serviced?

    Take the hatch apart to get to the spare tire. You may have a trunk full of water if you store the car outside many g2's including mine leak water into the hatch from crack in the hatch valley. Get a flashlight and see if any standing water in the bottom of the 12 volt battery well.
    If water in battery well you must get that out it will rot out that well area and battery can fall out.

    Open the hood. Take the black plastic cover off the top of the radiator its like 4 screws. push them from behind while you unscrew them. Under that cover is the radiator cap. Open it the coolant should be right too the top.

    Check the engine oil level on the dipstick. Should be right at the full line always. If no oil its a little oil eating monster like many g2's.
     
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  8. Luc_S

    Luc_S New Member

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    If the smell is strong outside (in front of the car I guess) and disappears on EV mode, I would suspect some leak from engine cooling system (when engine stops, water pump stops too). Maybe it leaks onto some hot parts like exhaust pipe, so the fluid evaporates quickly.
    Another idea is the blown head gasket... in such case you can find traces of oil in cooling system and/or cooling liquid in oil.
     
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  9. edthefox5

    edthefox5 Senior Member

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    Prob the cat was stolen lol....
     
  10. Henrik Helmers

    Henrik Helmers New Member

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    I do not constantly fiddle with this button. But I have discovered it is a way to stop the ICE when it is running only for heating (i.e. slow downhill) and will occasionally do that. And in this case it lets me keep the AC and other systems on while not running the ICE, which hopefully helps narrow down the issue.

    Thanks for all the suggestions! I store the car in a garage, as did the previous owner. The car is reasonably dry on the inside, both engine bay and spare tire area. The oil levels are good. I'm not comfortable with the screwdriver, but I will bring up the other suggestions with the service center on my next appointment.

    I read up on the blown head gasket, and my symptoms are reversed. I have only noticed the smell at the beginning of my drive, when leaving the car to heat the cabin for a couple of minutes. I have not noticed it when arriving at my destination. The smell has absolutely been strongest on the outside, and only seem to partially enter the cabin through the AC system or through open doors.

    I am due for a service appointment in not too long, and I'll see if my local dealer can see what (if anything) is up.
     
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  11. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Senior Member

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    Your local Toyota dealer is the absolute worst place to take the car for a diagnosis... It's a ten year old car and I bet you $10 they will come up with a list of repairs that "will cost more than the car is worth" and even if rip-off repairs were done, they'll likely do nothing to solve the problem. But don't worry, they'll have you signing for an upside down financing package for a brand new Toyota in just a matter of hours...

    If I were you I'd stop by as many auto parts stores and mechanics and ask them if they can smell it... My hunch is an automotive air conditioning & heating specialist is going to solve it. Get good at re-creating the smell and get as many people in the auto biz to take a whiff and don't give anyone any money unless their theory seems like the best one you've heard...
     
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  12. Henrik Helmers

    Henrik Helmers New Member

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    Hello again. Today was a somewhat cold day, at about -10C/14F. I let the car warm up and after a while (still parked) I noticed the smell. At the same time I noticed a bit of water coming out of the exhaust. And my nose detector agreed, it is from the exhaust.

    So now I wonder. Is this a bad catalytic converter? Are there easy ways to check the health of my cat?
     
  13. valde3

    valde3 Senior Member

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    If you don't have a check engine light and fault code (P0420) catalytic converter is working good. Prius is monitoring the catalytic converter all the time and will trip the code if it works bellow acceptable level. So it's already checked.
     
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  14. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 'Orrible Oracle

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    How does the coolant level look, in the engine coolant reservoir?

    upload_2020-2-29_14-47-59.png
     
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  15. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Senior Member

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    Extreme cold temps like that are gonna cause funky behavior from exhaust systems, which are designed to run hot, especially catalytic converter. The smell you're noticing is most likely because the the catalytic converter won't clean the exhaust until it heats up more. Once you get into warmer weather you'll know for sure.
     
  16. edthefox5

    edthefox5 Senior Member

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    Are you sure your not smelling the sulfur smells the cat normally makes?

    This is a safety issue. Do not take it to the dealer the exhaust system is just like any other modern car cats and a muffler. Like Camper says they will take you on a full wallet exploration at whatever ridiculous amount of $$ they get in Norway.
    Most Toyota dealers around here get $150 an hour.

    Take it to a muffler shop for free exam. A good muffler guy will find it in about 2 mins. Never been to Norway but there all over the USA.

    Probably have a rotted muffler. there is an adjustable tension bolt where the engine manifold meets the first cat its spring loaded. Mine acted up a little years ago and need to be tightened.

    Do us a favor get under the car in the rear and take alot of pictures of the suspension and the muffler/cats and post them here lets see how rotted you are under there.

    And if the under dash evap coil has never been cleaned that may be real stinky too. Its a maintenance item just like the front condenser just like your home ac system. Constant maintenance keeps the ac guy away.
     
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