This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

2015 Travels June 7

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Several times on this most recent trip we were alarmed by a strong smell of burning rubber entering the Terios, as we drove it. This had been particularly noticeable in Canberra, lightning ridge and Bendigo.

Each time, it seemed to disappear after a few drives, but still was very concerning, each time.

Terios had been serviced a little while before we left on this trip, and I had noticed there was  very little travel in the handbrake lever. Because it was John driving the car whilst we were away (him not being comfortable as my passenger!), I did wonder if he was leaving the handbrake slightly on, and tried to stealthily check it when “the smell” occurred. But it seemed alright, and when the wheels and tyres were checked for heat, when we stopped, they seemed quite normal.

The smell did not seem to occur when the car was trundling along being towed by the Bus, only when we drove it after a tow. I was in the habit of starting the engine and running it for a couple of minutes, when it was on tow and we were stopped, every 100-200kms. This was supposed to keep things like the oils circulating. I wondered if the towing was causing some damage that was then righting itself? But that didn’t seem very logical.

Our Terios on flat tow

One of my first tasks, back home this time, was to take the Terios to a local brake and clutch centre and get those parts checked out for the source of the smell. They could find nothing wrong, but did back off the handbrake a bit, for me. Of course, by this time, the smell had decided to disappear again, anyway, so they had to rely on my description.

I had, on a traveller’s forum, asked for ideas from those more mechanically expert than me. One of the replies was from someone else who flat towed a Terios, who’d had almost identical experiences, including getting mechanical checks. They had concluded that, over a period of unbroken flat towing, rubbery “gunk” from the road accumulated around the exhaust area – and was then burnt off in subsequent driving.

Eureka! Our worst smell experiences had been after two or three days of towing on major highways, where trucks in particular would have left a rubbery build up. Like the Hume to Yass and the Newell coming south. Whilst we had noticed the smell in Lightning Ridge, it had not been as bad – more minor roads travelled? Also, Bendigo had been the worst and we’d travelled wet roads getting there.

So, I think the cause of the problem has now been identified. Yet another proof, too, of the worth of forum membership, with the wealth of experiences shared via same.

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