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I have a 1999 Audi A4. Recently there is a burning smell when driving that is noticeable when stopped after driving. At night I noticed a faint white smoke blowing out of the front in the headlights. I mentioned the smell when it was in the shop last time and they didn't find any leaks but I'm now concerned after seeing the white smoke.

I'm taking it back into the shop in a few days but thought I would ask for opinions before going in blind.

Other recent symptoms: A/C not cooling well anymore and slightly low coolant a month ago. Check engine lights back on. Was a low voltage warning last time due to a jump but not sure now.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Sounds you have a small leak. A fluid collects somewhere and then makes itself to the exhaust manifold or headers and because that's hot, it burns/evaporates causing the smoke you are seeing

Does it smell like burnt plastic? If yes, then its probably engine oil. I'm not sure if antifreeze would produce a distinct burnt smell as its mostly water/alcohol. Antifreeze should smell sweet.

I had a valve cover gasket leak which had all the same symptoms as what you are describing (not talking about your "other recent symptoms", those just sound like you have some other issue with the car). Check for leaks up top. If a mechanic jacked up the car and just looked underneath, they may not have noticed anything actually reaching the bottom.

Btw, don't put all your trust in mechanics. They are just like us: they love to fix things when they know what's wrong (they can go to a price book and look up exactly what to charge you), but if you give them something to "investigate" it is in their best interests to finish with your car as soon as possible. They make money on fast turn around, not spending a ton of time looking for a little leak (that's what yours sounds like) from some obscure spot inside your engine.

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Yes, it's a burnt oil or rubber smell. Will be tough to isolate I'm sure but I appreciate the insight. –  Michael Glenn Jun 27 '11 at 15:02
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