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Unread 11-19-2012, 02:57 PM   #1
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Default Smelly Mini Countryman

I have an awkward situation so any help is appreciated!

I'm driving a long-term dealer loaner '12 Mini Countryman. The dealer IS aware of these issues but chooses to try to wait it out until my new car comes in (who-knows-when). It is an automatic with ~3500 miles, ~3000 of which are mine and I was gentle. I'm concerned for my health and that of my child. Here's what I know:

-The car develops a burning smell that comes into the passenger compartment when at a stop. It is much stronger the longer the trip - after one 80 mile trip is was almost unbearable. It is DEFINITELY coming from the engine compartment.
-The smell is somewhat sweet, definitely not exhaust and definitely not brakes. All fluid levels seem to be normal.
-It has gotten to the point where I can smell it more often now - at slower speeds, not just when stopped - and it is giving me a headache.

(possible red herring):
-The fuel economy is 25% lower than my manual '11 Countryman that is being replaced. The dealership says this is normal but I was getting EPA fuel economy (low 30s) in the stick and now am getting low-mid 20s with the auto. Doesn't seem normal to me.

So, I'm thinking catalytic converter, maybe? Or a coolant leak? Again, the smell is sort of sweet and similar to burning brakes but when I sniffed the wheels, there was no smell - the smell was overpowering under the bonnet but I couldn't pinpoint it.

This can't be good for me or the baby... Any ideas??

Thanks!!!

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Unread 11-19-2012, 03:50 PM   #2
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Coolant leak. I can't think of ANY oil-based fluid (everything else in engine bay) that smells sweet. I would suspect a heater core leak.
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Unread 11-19-2012, 04:28 PM   #3
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Definitely coolant from your description.
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Unread 11-20-2012, 09:20 AM   #4
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Thanks. Coolant was what I was really suspecting but it is definitely not a regular coolant smell - it has been burned and I've never smelled burned coolant before... Would a leaking heater core drip on the exhaust maybe? It's impossible to see where anything is in that engine compartment.

One thing I forgot the mention is that the "Service" light comes on right when I start the motor but then goes out after a few seconds. I don't remember seeing this before about 3 weeks ago and I know it didn't happen in my '11 but the sales guy acted like it was absolutely no big deal so maybe it is a new thing and normal?

Thanks again.

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Unread 11-20-2012, 10:07 AM   #5
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Have you hooked up a code scanner? Maybe it has some stored codes.
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Unread 11-20-2012, 11:07 AM   #6
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No, the dealership doesn't want to see it in unless the light stays on. I'm hoping my new car will come in soon but it makes me worry... the '11 is being replaced because it had so many mechanical issues... now I'm in a brand new '12 loaner that has some sort mechanical issue... Not good. :/

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Unread 11-20-2012, 01:12 PM   #7
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It is normal for the "Service Engine", or "Check Engine" light to come on when you first start the engine, this is just testing the bulb, then it goes out seconds later.

I also believe that you are smell coolant.

It may be a slow leak in a hot area and the leak is evaporating before it drips on the ground. You will need to do a visual check and if that shows nothing you need to get a pressurized tester on it.
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Unread 11-21-2012, 09:34 AM   #8
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Yeah... it must be coolant. I think I'm going to have to call the dealership again because it just smells horrible. Thanks, all!

I'm not convinced about the Service light though... in the Mini, it comes up in that small central LCD screen where it otherwise displays the digital speedo, low fuel indicator, cold temp alarm, etc. The regular "check engine" dummy light is in a different place. So it would not be a case of testing the bulb. It still could be that it is normal but it startled me when I noticed it a few weeks ago and I had my '11 for just over a year and never noticed it. Now, it could be that I was just totally unobservant before!! LOL -I am gun-shy of these cars now that I've had so many problems with them... But typically that light comes on only when you get down to 1000 miles before scheduled maintenance. This car still says 13000.

I guess after the myriad electrical problems, faulty clutch, alignment issues and stress-fractured windscreen in my '11, I am getting jumpy about having a coolant leak in a brand new '12. Ugh.

But thanks again, all!

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Unread 11-23-2012, 11:11 AM   #9
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Good Luck on the new car.

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