I'm smellin somthin don't smell good. Smells like burnt... somthin I don't know what. Smell like a big withdrawal comin from my bank account in the near future.

But it only happens when:

  1. I'm a really layin it on the gas.

  2. Already going pretty fast (60-75)

  3. Going uphill (although it did happen once not goin uphill)

  4. Acceleratin

Situations like... mergin on a uphill road or havin to assert your dominance on someone who is encroachin on you at high speed on the interstate.

I'm worried cuz I just slapped a new radator in this 98 Ford Van 5.4 v8 two valve version... and while I was doin that, I lost some transmission fluid cuz on this van it runs the transmission fluid through the radator... I guess cuz it's bad ass and heavy duty.

Anyhow... I checked the transmission fluid level and it is still in the acceptable range on the dipstick, so I was thinkin... whatever retard filled the trans fluid up last time prolly just put too much in there anyhow.

And maybe I don't have nothin to do with the transmission anyway... I'm just tryin to trouble shoot here.

So... what I don't understand is how the heyl I am smellin this smell inside the van going 75 mph. You would expect any smell caused by the van to be long gone before it could possibly reach your face. So it cain't be the tires... or really even the transmission in my opinion cuz how the heyl that smell gonna get inside the vehicle? So I'm thinkin it must be comin in the dash. And that means it must be comin from under the hood and gettin in the vents somehow. And that means it must be... well that's where I'm head scratchin on it.

I cain't help but wonder about the transmission though cuz that's the only thang I dun messed with recently before the smell arrived on the scene.

But.. then what makes it even weirder is that I scanned the live computer information for the transmission temperature and it ain't never gone higher than 167... and it's always at least 20 degrees below the coolant temperature too. I see another reading called "transmssion slip ratio" that kinda stays around 1.0 and goes up or down from time to time... but I don't even know what that is. I know on a manual slippin is bad.

So what's up with that? I wish I could say exactly what this smell is like but I cain't... I guess it kinda sorta smells like when they are pavin new roads with the black goo and steamrollers and stuff. MAYBE. I don't wanna throw anybody off though... it also could be burnt peanuts or like burnt electronic devices. I really don't know. But it definitely smells like heat is the major factor. Oh... and it definitely does NOT smell like burnt manual clutch. I know what that smells like. It don't smell like coolant neither.

My trans fluid still looks good on the dipstick like you could serve it on ice cream and get away with it.

So I know I've been a ramblin cuz this is stressin me out... so here I'll try to put it simple:

How can I rule out the transmission as a reason for this smell? Thanks!

  • Are there heat shields missing off the exhaust that is causing heating of the passenger compartment panels? Maybe the smell is coming from there.
    – HandyHowie
    Jun 22, 2020 at 7:35

1 Answer 1


Two things you can do (which I can think of) to eliminate the transmission as the culprit:

  1. When you pull the dipstick, if you smell the transmission fluid and it doesn't smell burnt (there's a DISTINCT difference when it is burnt) and is a nice cherry color as you've already stated, it should be in good shape.
  2. On the radiator, there are two small hard lines which go to/from the transmission. These are the transmission cooler lines. Ensure there's no leakage coming from either of these. If either of them are, it'd be self evident, as you'll see the fluid around the area and maybe even dripping. If either of these lines were leaking, it could be spraying tranny fluid onto hot exhaust and thus causing the smell you're talking about.

The most likely cause of this is a leaking valve cover gasket. The only way you'll know for sure is by doing a thorough inspection. Any oil leaking down onto the exhaust headers is going to give you smell and possibly smoke, depending on the amount which is coming off of them. Finding a leak on your van may be a lot of fun, though, considering how the engine is situated.

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