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Q: Burning smell, small amount of white smoke, and loss of power.

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There is a burning smell from engine compartment like that of plastic or rubber (hard to decipher) and one time there was a small amount of white smoke coming from the hood (after a steep uphill drive about 10 minutes, very steep). The car doesn't lose power but has essentially no pickup when you step on the gas. The engine takes a good while to initiate any sort of power once the car reaches second gear (it is an automatic). Thank you

My car has 185000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

A: Thanks for writing in about your 2001 Jeep ...

Thanks for writing in about your 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The first thing that needs to be checked is the white smoke. Overheating an engine can damage it. One of two things occurred. The cooling system was unable to handle the heat generated by the load from the steep grade and boiled over, or there is a coolant leak.

In either case, it sounds like the engine became too hot. The lack of low-end power is a concern. If the hesitation started after it overheated, the problem could be mechanical. Piston rings can lose their tension when overheated resulting in a poor seal.

Here’s what you need to do. Scan for codes to see if the computer is seeing a problem. Check the cooling system thoroughly. The mechanical operation of the engine should also be checked. Perform a compression check, check for vacuum leaks, cylinder leak-down test, and check for a restricted exhaust. If you need help running tests for this, a certified pro from YourMechanic can come to your car’s location to diagnose the burning smell as well as any other issues that your car is experiencing.

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