By now the smell of burning olive oil in my kitchen should have made me a burnt oil connoisseur, but it took me a couple of months to identify the odor in my car.
Could it be mildewed carpet resulting from snowy paws and children’s boots?
But no, it was a more substantial odor than mildew, an entrée-smell, not an appetizer smell.
It seemed worse first thing in the morning. The stench was so bad that in -12 degree weather my daughter would gasp for air and put her window down.
Together, we would curse the car, the carpet, and our sensitive sense of smell.
I drove across the state with my two nieces and my daughter. My older niece rode the five hours with her nose twitching like a bunny’s.
“I don’t know if that is oil, Aunt Mary, it really stinks.” From my sweet niece, those were strong words.
I had taken my car in for an oil change, so I figured some oil could have been spilt on the engine. I checked the engine and there were some oil drips. My inner-Jessica Fletcher jumped.
A quick phone call to the garage and an appointment was made. The note on the work order read:
“Customer states there is a horrible burning oil smell coming from the engine near the oil cap area.”
After an hour trying to recreate the smell, the service man came to tell me that he thought he would have to open up the glove compartment to access the fan area of the car. Would I approve the extra work? Yes! Open that glove compartment, do anything, just get rid of the odor, please.
I was deep in a book when the service man came back for me.
“You may want to see this…”
“How can I see a smell?” I thought as I followed him through the cavernous cement and glass garage.
In a far corner two service technicians were standing by the passenger side of the car. They stood back and flashed a light in toward the air filter.
“What is that?” I asked, “It looks kind of like sushi…”
“Ma’am, do you have a dog?”
“Yes…” I answered, wondering where the line of questioning was going.
“Ma’am, you see in the cold weather, mice and other small animals look for heat. They go into the engine and find a warm place. Sometimes they bring snacks. Does this look like your dog’s food?”
“Why, yes, yes it does….”
I felt terrible for my daughter and my sweet niece, a devoted vegetarian, when I read the final entry of the work order:
“Dog food and animal remnants in cabin A/F and blower motor. Removed dog food and animal remains from the cabin A/F by removing the blower fan. Cleaned and disinfected the area and reinstalled the blower and a new cabin A/F.”