2005 Saturn Ion Exhaust Smell From Heater Vents

Question: Hi Michael – I have a 2005 Saturn ION. Every time I turn on the heater, it smells like exhaust is coming through the vents. Why is this????

Answer: OK, smells can sometimes be hard to pinpoint, unlike fluid leaks which can be seen. Our noses are notoriously inaccurate. Now the most common smell that comes in when you turn the heater on is leaking coolant from the engine. That would be a leaking heater core. So if you’re losing any coolant in the radiator, odds are the heater core is leaking. If this isn’t the case, then the second most common smell is either burning oil or exhaust.


Saturn Ion

To check this, turn on the AC system and use the fresh air setting,not the recirculated setting. That will bypass the heater system. If you still get the smell with the AC on, then it’s not the heater core leaking. Look under the hood then. You could have a valve cover gasket leaking, then oil drips on the exhaust and starts up a stinky smell. As for exhaust leaks, you’d hear the noise under the hood if the exhaust has a hole anywhere. It will be a noise like a hole in the muffler under the hood. Good Luck finding that smelly source.

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