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It's been really cold around here lately, and over the past couple of days I've started to notice what I believe is the smell of coolant coming from the heating vents.

 

Up until now I've really only been using the windshield setting to clear off fog, but yesterday I had the heater cranked and noticed the smell.

 

Smelled it again on my way home from work today. Checked under the hood and didn't see anything out of the ordinary; coolant level in the overflow was the same as when I looked at it a week ago / no bubbles or strange smells coming from the tank / didn't see any obvious leakage on the engine.

 

What's going on?

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Any leak under the hood can smell like it is in the car. My 97 Legacy 2.2 is doing the same thing right now, and I also have not seen the water level go down in water tank resovoir. I am thinking water pump on mine, but hoping it is not head gasket. Just a small drop of coolant getting on some part of warm engine will really smell.

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Well, I don't know what's up at this point...

 

Got a coupon for a cheap oil change at the dealer and didn't feel like doing it myself in this weather, so I also had them pressure test the cooling system.

 

According to the mechanic, there were no leaks. The service manager mentioned that they checked bolts for proper tightness, etc. so I guess nothing major is wrong. I don't think they drove it long enough for the coolant smell to appear, though.

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We have a 2001 Legacy sedan with 61,000 miles on it and last Friday my wife came home complaining about a strong 'engine smell' while driving around town.

 

I went out and checked the coolant level... way down. Uh oh, started up the car, looked underneath and saw the telltale bright green color of the coolant dripping out from behind the oil pan.

 

Ironically, I'd just made an appt with the dealer for the 60K service. When I took it in they confirmed it was a blown head gasket. I was very surpised when they offered to have it fixed under the power train warranty. Like a bad cartoon, I was sure that being 1200 miles over I was going to have to argue my way to a compromise.

 

I'm sure they're making plenty off of all the other work but happy to not add the head gasket to the final tally.

 

With this engine it seems like one time an extended warrenty is worth the extra $$.

 

Good luck.

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It is strange, but it will leak when cold! My 2000 Outback only leaks when it is warming up from the head gasket on the pasenger side towards the fire wall. Once warmed up it seals back up. I have noticed the colder the worse(20's 30's here in the Cali mountains.

You smell it really strong because it leaks directly on the exhaust or exhaust shield. This explains why you do not see any leak on the ground. If you can jack up the car and look at the back you should see residue or take it to a mechanic and have it cool down. Put it on a rack and start it up and you'll spot it. The reason that it checked out ok is because the engine was warm. Try it cold! I got 20 thats the prob. Looks like Sub dealership mech. will be busy.

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Originally posted by Alan Phillips

You smell it really strong because it leaks directly on the exhaust or exhaust shield. This explains why you do not see any leak on the ground.

 

This may be what's going on with mine, as well. Never noticed it at all until it got really cold here, and have never seen any leaks. Definitely a stronger smell outside and no goo on the windshield so I don't think its the heater core.

 

Just spotted the Head Gasket Warranty thread and will definitely be following up with the dealer on it.

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