Can you help Tom and Ray solve a very stinky problem?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

I own a 2001 Jaguar Silverstone XKR. When I use the windshield washers, the smell is a cross between very bad breath and cow manure. I've emptied the tank several times and flushed it with Clorox, but it still puts out such an odor that if I'm at a stoplight and use the washers, the guy behind me passes me and gives me a look like I ate a gallon of beans and couldn't make it to the toilet. My mechanic is befuddled. He told me to take it to a gastro doctor. What to do, short of replacing the whole system at a very expensive cost? -- Max

TOM: Max, we have no idea.

RAY: But we're printing your letter because this is the second complaint like yours we've heard recently. We heard the same complaint on our radio show a few weeks ago, and then yours came in. So we're starting to wonder if something is going on.

TOM: Maybe Taco Bell has gotten into the windshield-washer-fluid racket?

RAY: We're aware of some windshield cleaners that have a fairly strong, and not entirely pleasant, odor for some people. But we're not aware of anything that smells like, well ... how you described it, Max.

TOM: My only guess is that some particular brand or type of fluid is dripping onto the hot exhaust manifold, and when it vaporizes, it produces an unpleasant smell. But most windshield-washer solutions are just water and alcohol, and a little bit of soap.

RAY: So if anyone has had this problem and solved it, drop us a note on our Web site ( and let us know. If we can get to the bottom of this mystery, we'll report back.

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