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erichw1504's avatar

Why does my car still smell like transmission fluid?

Asked by erichw1504 (26401points) February 7th, 2011

My 2001 Dodge Neon constantly smells like transmission fluid since I had it changed about 5 months ago. It only smells when the car is on and sitting still, otherwise while driving the odor is pushed back. I have gotten used to it for the most part, but when I stop at a light for a while it gets real bad.

What could be causing this? How can I get it fixed? Could the fumes from transmission fluid be hazardous to my health? Has anyone else had a similar problem?

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13 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

Are you leaking fluid? Do you have a separate transmission cooler or does it use a lower stage in the radiator? You might have a small leak at those fittings. The cooling fan blows it back on the engine where it evaporates and gets sucked into your cabin air duct. Idle the car for a while and look for wet spots on the ground or on your engine.

erichw1504's avatar

@worriedguy Yeah, I’m not a “car guy” at all, so I don’t know a whole lot about all the different parts and what-not. So, “Do you have a separate transmission cooler or does it use a lower stage in the radiator?” is pretty much gibberish to me. On the other hand I have noticed leaks on my driveway recently, but I do know the motor oil has had a small leak (next time I get an oil change, I will have them patch it up). So, it’s hard to determine if the transmission fluid is also leaking. I will check the engine for wet spots, though.

My best bet is probably to take it to an auto shop, right? Couldn’t cost much to get that checked out and fixed?

kelly's avatar

a good shop can put dye in the trans fluid to check where lead may originate. Also,could it be engine oil getting on the exhaust system? Both trans fluid and motor oil have pungent smell when cooked on hot exhaust pipes.

erichw1504's avatar

@kelly Well, I’m not 100% sure it is trans fluid, but the smell did start just after I replaced it.

woodcutter's avatar

Neons are great little cars when you get them new but after 10 years they are getting tired. Sort of like a hand grenade with the pin pulled. I doubt you want to hear this now but maybe you should consider trading up while she’s still running. I would wager most if not all 10 year old Neons are losing oil most likely through burning and leaking. I found out from experience.You don’t want to put a lot of money into that car now.

jerv's avatar

Dodges from that era are notorious for all sorts of oddities, especially in the transmission. People I know have blown more than a couple of Dodge trannies, so based solely on the year and make, I am pessimistic.

I would try the “newspaper test” to make sure though. Put a piece of newspaper under the car at night and see what drips from where. Tranny fluid is generally red, oil is amber, and coolant smells differently enough (“sweeter”) that you can’t confuse it for either of those two. Then again, given that it happens the most (when the car is stopped and the torque converter is slipping the most) and the aforementioned issues, I would wager that it is tranny fluid.

It’s possible that when they flushed it, they blew out a seal. That could cause issues… or rather, more issues than it already had merely by design.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Do you live in an area that uses a lot of road salt? Up here it is common to have lines corrode and leak. One of the favorite spots is where it goes into the radiator.

erichw1504's avatar

@woodcutter Yea, we’re getting a new car in March. I’m not too worried about it until then when we sell it. It’s got about 165,000 on it so far! So, I’m not surprised there are a few problems with it.

@jerv Great suggestion! I just may try that tonight.

@worriedguy Not really, we don’t get too much snow here. But, since it is 10 years old, I’m sure some corrosion has occured.

jerv's avatar

@worriedguy I’ve had cars far older in NH where they salt the roads until the pavement shrivels and not had that problem. Then again, I have often leaked enough oil to undercoat my car…

woodcutter's avatar

We had a ‘97 Neon we drove the crap out of. It was one of those years that the paint peeled off in sheets. It leaked and burned so much oil that I stopped doing oil changes. I had to replace so much oil often enough that it didn’t stay in the motor long enough to get dirty. It got a oil filter change every 5 k just to be on the safe side. We traded it in @ 300k miles still running pretty well. But it wasn’t going to go a lot further. It’s replacement was a Buick Park Avenue from the same year which new was about a $30k. That was about 4 years ago. Right away the quality difference was extremely obvious. You don’t get much these days with a car that costs $10k new.

erichw1504's avatar

@woodcutter Yeah, mine leaks oil fairly often. I have to fill it up sometimes between changes. 300k though? Wow, I thought 165k was a lot!

jerv's avatar

I feel inadequate now; my ‘85 Corolla only has 222k :(
It leaks like an old Toyota though :D

woodcutter's avatar

I doubt that old neon ever was on the road after that. Probably ended up as a parts car. It was pretty spent.

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