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Columbia MD Auto Repair Case Resolved: Toyota Camry w/ Burning Smell

Brian England, Thu, Jan 02, 2014

Close up of burnt plastic stuck to a Toyota Camry exaust system resized 600While to our creative side this may look like art, when we see this in the shop it’s causing some car owners a problem.  They are probably asking, “Why does my car smelling like it is burning?”

When a customer has this question, the first thing we check for is a plastic trash bag.  That’s right; the most common reason for a burning smell is a plastic trash bag becoming stuck to the hottest part of the exhaust system.  In fact, this photo is a close-up (flipped upside down) of a Toyota Camry up on a lift with a black plastic bag stuck to the exhaust system.

The hottest parts of the exhaust system are the front pipe and catalytic converter right at the front of the car as well as the second catalytic converter in the middle of the car. These exhaust components can melt a plastic trash bag in seconds.  Shortly after the bag becomes stuck a burning odor will be evident.  The odor will be even worse when the car is stopped and can be terrible in an enclosed space like a garage.

If this happens to you, we recommend that you take your car to an auto shop to have the burnt plastic removed as soon as possible.  If you leave it there too long the plastic will be much harder to remove.

Recently a customer came in with a 2011 Toyota Camry.  She had been told there was nothing wrong with her car, therefore she left the bag stuck on her exhaust for two whole months!

Here is the rear convertor showing the black plastic bag stuck to the exhaust.

 Plastic stuck to exhaust of Toyota Camry

Here is the exhaust after spending 50 minutes grinding off the plastic.  What a job! Even then, we could still smell the plastic until every last tiny spec of it had been ground off.

Plastic cleaned from exhaust of Toyota Camry

Moral of the story…  Don’t wait.  Take your car to a knowledgeable technician so he can test drive your car and sniff out the problem.


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About Brian England


Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care) got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in the northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD, and a few years later, started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. A big believer in preventive auto maintenance, Brian's philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of adhering to a regular maintenance plan.