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Old 12-26-2014, 08:09 PM
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Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

2003 grand cherokee 4 x 4 Laredo. 4.2 6 cyl. Just had it serviced, inspected and new tires (within 2 months) but I have put long trips in the last few weeks. 160k on it and just today, a horrible melting plastic smell started to come from under the hood. It has all new rotors and brake pads. New cv joints, and new e brake (which I never use.)

No lights are glowing, and fan and all fluids seem ok. Of course we are 3 hours from home for the damn holidays! Hoping to find an open mechanic to take a peek tomorrow, but in the mean time, wondering if I can trouble shoot a bit.

It seems to be driving ok. 4 WD is ok, and I can hear it going in and out, so I'm sure that isn't sticking. No alarming sounds.

Thanks for any suggestions,

Dani in Maine


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Old 12-27-2014, 09:15 AM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

I've been asking around and the consensus seems to be relays and resistors burn up from the fan/blower motor/AC parts. Haven't used AC for months here in Maine, and fired her up this morning and let idle without my fan on for a half hour and no smell. Starting to think it is a relay and I'll have to dissect the passenger side dash when we get time at home.

Has anyone done this before? Checked all fluids again, to be sure, and it isn't coolant, tranny or oil. No leaking into my passenger floor boards so I don't think it's the AC stuff. The smell is intoxicating so we will attempt the ride home with no heat.


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Old 12-27-2014, 09:57 AM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

New brake pads can give a very unpleasant burnt smell when they become hot during braking. This can last for some time, when i remember well on my jeep a few weeks. Ofcourse this depends on how much you drive and use the brakes. Did the smell start after some downhill driving or using the brakes quite a bit?
The blower motor and resistor are sitting in the HVAC housing on the passengers side, so any smell from them would be inside the cabin and not under the hood.
Radiator cooling fan relay sits under the right headlight assy, but sofar never heard from anybody that this relay gives any smell, eventhough they get toast quite a lot.
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Old 12-27-2014, 04:06 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

We did jus travel 3 hours the day before, but the brakes and rotors were two months ago, and haven't had any typical brake smells. I've been from Southern Maine to western mass, to central Maine in three weeks. This is very noxious. The good news is we made it home safely (another 3 hours) without using the heater and no smell. Going to dissect my dash this week and see if anything is melted or burnt. Doesn't seem to be mechanical so far. Rides fine too, no sticking or smelling while braking in the highway or ramps.


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Old 12-27-2014, 04:07 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

I think by the time we smelled it, it was everywhere. My father thought it was from the driver side, I thought passenger side, etc. by morning, I could distinctly smell it coming from my vents. Not the hood. That was so overwhelming of a smell it was hard to tell.


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Old 12-27-2014, 04:08 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

Huh, just replaced the fan relay too. It's been twice in ten years. Seems these relays are a weak point in the jeeps.


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Old 12-27-2014, 06:49 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

So when you now use the blower, do you get any bad smell? The blower motor controller ( on the dual zone control system) is well known to melt the controller connector, but then usually the blower motor stops working and sofar i didnīt hear about bad smell in that case.
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Old 12-27-2014, 07:08 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

Yes, like burnt electrical. Only in defrost setting, but yes.


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Old 12-27-2014, 07:08 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

Still blowing but so noxious. It lingers after too.


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Old 12-27-2014, 08:36 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

I would first remove the blower motor and see if the smell is coming from there. It sits in the passenger footwell area when you look up, just mounted with 3 screws.
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Old 03-07-2015, 04:46 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

Ok, so the update is, took all my relays apart and found none melting. Never had the smell again until just recently, while the defrost was going. Got out of the car and definitely smelled stronger at my drivers side wheel. Saw black dust on my rims and I'm concluding its a caliper sticking or my brakes? Was weird, that it was exceptionally unstable a day ago on the highway so I was going to schedule an alignment but now I"m thinking I need to take it apart and have a look. Just replaced that caliper a year ago. From Napa. Can't remember the brand. Is this common? I did just make a long drive north and back for a family emergency. (6 hours round trip)

Dani


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Old 03-07-2015, 08:34 PM
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Re: Horrible smell? Burning plastic or electrical?

Check the brake caliper sliding pins for being properly lubricated. If they get dry or rusted, they will cause the brake to drag.
But since you say that the smell occured when in defrost mode, i would also check the AC compressor. In defrost mode the compressor will be switched on automatically to reduce the humidity of the air.
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