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Please help to diagnose- asphalt/tar smell + Clunking


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117 replies to this topic

#1 KaraK

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 07:20 PM

If ya'll could help me out w/some ideas - what I should be looking for, I'd sure appreciate it...

Car is... 2001 Outback 3.0L Automatic with 122,000 miles.

The "other half" drove it all last week (claims nothing happened, and car was fine) got it back, and first thing I notice...

Was backing out of a driveway (slight decline) while turning the wheels to park on the street. (Turning the wheel right) Two or three clunk/thunks.

An hour later, got on the freeway, after about 2 miles at 60MPH, noticed a strong smell of fresh asphalt/ hot roofing tar. Thought I was behind a truck hauling fresh blacktop or something.

Got off the freeway, pulled into a parking lot- while turning the wheel (don't remember which way) Heard another thunk - sounded like something broke. Looked under the car almost expecting to see a broken something... (driveshaft?) Saw nothing obvious- At this point I'm about 10 miles from home, and decide to go for it.

On country highway (50MPH) I again notice the same fresh asphalt/tar smell, though not as strong as before. Car drives and steers OK - I don't notice anything weird in that regard. And it didn't clunk anymore on the way home- Parked in the garage, and now the garage has a faint smell of asphalt/tar.

I haven't had a chance yet to jack the car up for further investigation- but by looking underneath/under the hood, I can't see anything obviously wrong. I went around and felt all of the wheels as soon as I pulled into the garage, and they all felt of a similar temperature (not hot) There was no smoke, or puddles of anything.

I'm no mechanic, but I like to think I know my "car smells" this is not burning oil, coolant, rubber, or the rotton egg smell of a "cat". Smells like the asphalt plant I used to work next to.

Ideas??? any input is greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance! -K

Edited by KaraK, 01 December 2011 - 06:09 PM.


#2 lmdew

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 07:51 PM

One or more of the half shaft axle boots are torn. If you look under the car at the axle ends you will see the boots and most likely lots of grease.

MWE Axles in Denver CO has great rebuilt axles.

Larry

#3 bheinen74

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 08:01 PM

Axle on right side front has boot that got cooked. Subaru really should put a shield over the inner boot to protect it from heat being so close to the y pipe.

My dad has developed a shield made out of old license plate to fasten to protect the right axle, and it works well.

#4 porcupine73

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 08:23 PM

The grease in the genuine Subaru axles does make a very acrid stank when it gets on the exhaust. I remember when my first one went I wondered who's car was making that horrible smell. Then when I parked at home depot I realized it was mine! People were walking in front of it and wrinkling their noses and wafting at the stank.

#5 KaraK

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 08:29 PM

Axle on right side front has boot that got cooked. Subaru really should put a shield over the inner boot to protect it from heat being so close to the y pipe.

My dad has developed a shield made out of old license plate to fasten to protect the right axle, and it works well.




From what I can see of it, (from under the hood) it looks fine. I don't see any grease around it, and the cat directly below it shows no obvious signs that it has had grease burning on it. Is the temp of that cat hot enough to burn stuff off without leaving a residue??


I will be jacking it up tomorow to check further though. Thanks.

#6 KaraK

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 08:37 PM

The grease in the genuine Subaru axles does make a very acrid stank when it gets on the exhaust. I remember when my first one went I wondered who's car was making that horrible smell. Then when I parked at home depot I realized it was mine! People were walking in front of it and wrinkling their noses and wafting at the stank.


The previous owner replaced the right side CV axel with what I believe to be Napa parts, In October of 2009 at 103,000miles.

After reading USMB for about a year + 1/2 ---I know that's bad!!! (non- soob axels)

#7 porcupine73

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 08:41 PM

If you have some ramps or a ditch you can pull over that would make it fast to examine all the boots. Some of the aftermarket axles cause weird vibrations but it probably doesn't happen all the time to everyone.

#8 KaraK

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 09:14 PM

If you have some ramps or a ditch you can pull over that would make it fast to examine all the boots. Some of the aftermarket axles cause weird vibrations but it probably doesn't happen all the time to everyone.


I'm not really getting vibrations, except when I drive one specific freeway- (not the road this smell happened on)
Just this new thunk/clunk-
I was going less than 20mph and turning, when it happened, and the smell was at highway speeds.

#9 johnceggleston

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 11:18 AM

thunk clunk clicking is usually a sign of a bad axle.

my 00 legacy had the driver side boot go at 85 k, passenger side is still subaru. i assume original.

drive in tight circles, first right then left , have a friend stand on one side and then the other. see if you can tell which side is making the noise.

they should run a long time with clicking, subaru axles will at least. don't know about napa. but you don't want a failure on the road if you can avoid it.

#10 Fairtax4me

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 02:24 PM

Inner boots can be seen from under the hood. The passenger side one is very easy to see. Outer boots can be checked by simply turning the wheels all the way in one direction, doesn't matter which way, then looking behind the wheel at the axle. There will be grease everywhere.

Burning smell generally means the passenger inner boot since it sits almost directly over the catalytic converter.

#11 uniberp

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 12:23 AM

I would check first that the axle nut is tight. If it came loose, it may move enough to catch the seals and burn them up.

#12 KaraK

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 04:22 PM

I would check first that the axle nut is tight. If it came loose, it may move enough to catch the seals and burn them up.


Anyone know size of the axle nut? My biggest socket is 27 (too small)

#13 KaraK

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 04:46 PM

OK- I checked all boots, they are all fine-no grease spatters.

Drove in some tight circles, was not able to reproduce the thunk/clunk. There was however, some clicking going on- I could feel it under my feet. This is very similar to the vibrations I feel when I drive one specific hwy. (maybe the pitch of the road?)

Would this clicking turn into a thunk/clunk if I was on an incline/decline while turning? As I was, first time it happened?

So, I pulled LF wheel, to check axle nut- don't have proper socket at the moment (size??) but, how tight should it be?? Just so it's not loose??
Also, how much play should there be in this axle?? I can move it a bit by hand.

Thanks all for your input!

#14 johnceggleston

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 05:17 PM

i'm pretty sure the axle nut is a 32mm, or 1.25 inches.

yes clicking could be thunks or clunk under certain conditions. my son's 95 lego had a bad axle. usually it just clicked, but when backing up hill out of my drive way while turnoing it would clunk big time. i think click means wear, and clunk means stressful, loaded, if that was my knee joint it would really hurt.

were you able to identify which side is clicking?

i'm curious to know if it is the original subaru axle or the recently replaced napa axle.

i don't think you need to loosen or tighten the axle nut. just check to see if the nut is ''crimped'' at the notch. if so, it is probably tight. at least it hasn't loosened. i guess there is a small possibility that it wasn't tight enough in the first place but the shop would have to be really lax for that to happen.

my money is on a cheap replacement axle that has gone bad. but for your sake i hope it is the older one. that is more understandable.

Edited by johnceggleston, 14 November 2011 - 05:31 PM.


#15 KaraK

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 06:37 PM

I am assuming it to be the LF, since I could kinda feel it under my feet while doing circles. I didn't have a friend to help listen.

Upon further review of the reciept, prev. owner paid for 2-front CV axles. I must have mis-read it the other day...it says R&R front CV axles duuhh... means "remove & reinstall" correct? Parts were Napa 95-3170 cost $87.99 each.

Someone had said, they can go a long time clicking. Will I be doing damage to other stuff if I don't have this done right away? Not sure I'll attempt it by myself. That said, I don't want to be stranded "out in the sticks" during a Wisconsin winter either.

As for the axle nut-there were two crimps in it- neither one was in the notch.

#16 uniberp

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 09:14 PM

If the axles are new, there should be a new nut with one (1) crimp sitting in the notch. Nut is supplied with axle. Never seen it otherwise.

That nut torque spec to 123-151 ft. lb. Which is REALLY tight.

Maybe they tried to tighten it while in the air, which cannot really be done. The car has to sit on it's wheels in park or braked to tighten the nut.

All are right hand threads, so one side MIGHT have a tendency to come undone because of ac-decleration if only finger tight. But there is that torque spec...

#17 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 12:29 AM

Get those axle nuts checked. They can be tightened in the air by sticking a big screwdriver in the rotor vent and using the brake caliper to 'backup' the socket torque. i just replaced an axle this way on the wife's Outback. Supposedly, tightening them on the ground can somehow mess up the bearing?

And leaking valvecovers or powersteering lines or ??? could lead to odd smells if the fluid gets on the exhaust.

#18 Mike104

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 10:07 AM

Pretty much any fluid leak on the Subaru seems to make its way to the exhaust Y pipe and burns. Typical fluid leaks are power steering, engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, or as mentioned CV joint grease. Probably best to get under the car with a flash light and see what is leaking.

#19 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 10:23 AM

sometimes you need to actually get your hands on the rubber boots to find splits. Don't just glance in one area. Also, a replacement axle put on my WRX by Service King after a wreck started leaking grease out the end of the boot. It was never clear to me if it was 'over packed' or the band was loose - just another possible failure mode I guess.

#20 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 10:24 AM

Pretty much any fluid leak on the Subaru seems to make its way to the exhaust Y pipe and burns. Typical fluid leaks are power steering, engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant, or as mentioned CV joint grease. Probably best to get under the car with a flash light and see what is leaking.

And, on other cars, I've had oil filters and oil pressure sending units leak.

#21 KaraK

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 12:46 PM

Wow! Thanks for all the input!

#1 Axle nut... OK it is wierd that there were 2 crimps, neither in the slot. By right hand threads, this means regular clockwise right? Soooo- it might make sense that the Left (driverside) may have loosened if it wasn't torqued properly. If this is the case, is the axle now ruined? or can I just tighten it, and it'll be OK? If I can drive it to a friends place 35 miles away, I could probably borrow socket/torque wrench. Think this is OK? or should I take it to a nearby shop?

#2 Boots... Hmmm, I only "felt up" the ones on the LF where I "assume" the clicks to be coming from. But, I didn't see grease spatter near any of them- will check further.

#3 Leaks/smell... Been wrenching on my (old GM's) for a couple of years now, this smell is like nothing I've ever smelled coming from a car. This is why I maybe agree burning grease in a CV might be it... my other cars are all RWD... I will check further.

Need to know... Is axle ruined if nut is loose???

#22 Mike104

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 01:35 PM

Axle is not likely ruined if the nut is loose but it is possible that the wheel bearing may die an early death if the nut was loose.

#23 KaraK

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 10:18 PM

Ah ha- took a roadtrip in the ElCamino- borrowed a torque wrench, and a 32MM socket- will check that axle nut at the first opportunity.

#24 bheinen74

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 10:41 PM

cool what year elco, my dad has a sweet 65.

#25 KaraK

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Posted 16 November 2011 - 12:43 AM

cool what year elco, my dad has a sweet 65.


Ah haa-"a not quite as cool" -1986... all original, 305- crappy metric 4spd trans.,I bought from an old guy, right before I got my Soob last summer.
It is pretty clean for being a WI car it's whole life, but needs a little lovin'
Broke windshield, needs complete exhaust-from the engine back, door skins are seperated at the bottom, doors don't unlock from the outside,a little rot in the rear quarters, paint is so-so(on second thought... paint's bad) Front end is a little loose... But- it starts,runs,stops,and steers-so what else can you ask for??? Gotta love them old Chevys... (gotta few of them)




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