Reader Question: Dear Mr. Davis,
I am having some trouble with my 1994 Ford Taurus. A few weeks ago, I ran over a branch that broke and bounced up into my undercarriage. I parked the car and turned it off only to find that smoke was coming from behind my left rear tire that smelled. The smell was nothing I could recognize or describe.
Later that day I started my car and it was fine- no smoke. About 2 or 3 weeks passed problem free. Then yesterday, while idling at a red light I noticed the smoke again coming from behind the rear left tire.
When I got home, I tried to look and see if I could tell where the smoke was coming from but I could not. I looked at it while in park and while in drive. The smoke does not seem to be coming from the muffler or exhaust pipe, and it does not smell like exhaust or gas and it is only coming from my rear left tire and no other tire.
Do you have any idea what this could be or what I should do?
Thanks you so much for your help,
Is the exhaust system (muffler and tailpipe) on the left side behind the smoking tire? If it is, you might have something stuck and melting on the muffler and tailpipe. I have seen plastic bags that were on the highway get stuck onto the hot muffler and exhaust system that produces smoke and a strange burning odor.
If you can get your head under the vehicle when the smoke is present can pinpoint where the smoke is coming from? If the smoke is coming from the exhaust pipes or muffler, either it will burn off with time, or you can get a mechanic to grind off the plastic with a grinder.
If you do not see the smoke coming from the exhaust pipes or muffler, I would then check to see if there is a problem with the brakes on that side. If the brake shoe or brake pad is rubbing on something or was damaged by the branch it could overheat, the brake pad thus causes smoke and a burning odor.
The easiest way for you to check for this problem next time the smoke is present feel all four metal wheels with your hand.
CAUTION: Each wheel will be hot to the touch after driving on the freeway for a while, this is normal. What you want to identify is the left rear wheel is MUCH hotter than the others are. If it is, you need to have a mechanic check your brakes for you.