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Headlights causing a plastic burning smell #752245
September 07th 2019 4:55 am
September 07th 2019 4:55 am
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 6
Culpeper, Va
A
AllanWms Offline OP
stranger
AllanWms  Offline OP
stranger
A
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 6
Culpeper, Va
2003 Dodge Ram Van 1500

Issue: First time driving the van at night and after about a 15 minute journey, I exit the van to a strong plastic burning smell.

Indications: In trying to isolate the source I found the following. The negative battery terminal was hot to the touch. Through farther testing the negative terminal cooled after the headlights were turned off and reheated when they were turned back on.

I did not have time to troubleshoot further but I’m thinking a short in one of the headlight sockets or a bad light switch. The smell seems to be isolated to the engine bay so leaning towards a bad headlight socket (both headlights work without flickering).

I have never had an electrical issue that made the negative terminal hot.

Any suggestions?

Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: AllanWms] #752247
September 07th 2019 12:42 pm
September 07th 2019 12:42 pm
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 11,991
Fircrest, WA
Reed Offline
Maniac
Reed  Offline
Maniac
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 11,991
Fircrest, WA
Are the headlights the stock headlamps or did someone install an aftermarket housing or aftermarket bulbs? I would start by cleaning all the terminals (including the grounds) for the headlamps and checking what bulbs are installed. I would also check the cleanliness and tightness of the battery cable terminals at both ends.


Windows- they're what make a van worth owning!
Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: Reed] #752248
September 07th 2019 4:34 pm
September 07th 2019 4:34 pm
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 6
Culpeper, Va
A
AllanWms Offline OP
stranger
AllanWms  Offline OP
stranger
A
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 6
Culpeper, Va
One headlamp is oxidized and one is somewhat clear...so most likely one has been replaced. The ground terminal was snug but I was able to twist it loose without tools to remove it for the night. I had to work today and hope to troubleshoot tomorrow. I was hoping to drive it to the work site this morning (2hrs away) but had to leave home at 5am and would have needed headlights.

Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: AllanWms] #752250
September 07th 2019 5:26 pm
September 07th 2019 5:26 pm
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 1,210
West Texas
W
Wedgy Offline
old hand
Wedgy  Offline
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W
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 1,210
West Texas
Welcome Allan,

Hey good call to not operate the lights until you get this sorted eh. Fire is no fun but an Extinguisher sure is a good idea always. Somethings not right but it sounds like you're on the right track.

The Dash headlight switch failed in my 94 B350. The lights wouldn't work. Middle of the night out in the desert. I had fog lights, which was fortunate. The switch is quite fun to replace. You have the newer dash. Also, LMC markets a kit which routes the full amperage draw of the headlights through relays, which greatly lessens the electrical load on the switch.

Also. if you smell Bacon while operating the vehicle, check the exhaust system...

Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: Wedgy] #752251
September 07th 2019 6:58 pm
September 07th 2019 6:58 pm
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 14,450
Van Diego California
frscke1 Offline
frscke1  Offline

Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 14,450
Van Diego California
Originally Posted by Wedgy
Also. if you smell Bacon while operating the vehicle, check the exhaust system...


LOL your too funny Billy

https://www.vanning.com/threads/ubbthreads.php/topics/687568/1.html


SUNSHINE VANS-VAN DIEGO
ADRENALIN BY THE GALLON & CHASIN RACIN
ONE FOR THE DIRT & ONE FOR THE STREETS
'93 CHEVY G30 454 4X4 SPORTVAN EXT 146" WB
'92 CHEVY G30 454 BEAUVILLE EXT 146" WB
Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: AllanWms] #752270
September 08th 2019 6:57 am
September 08th 2019 6:57 am
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 6
Culpeper, Va
A
AllanWms Offline OP
stranger
AllanWms  Offline OP
stranger
A
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 6
Culpeper, Va
I found the source of the mysterious burning plastic smell. After much troubleshooting the headlights and associated wiring I concluded that they were not the culprit. I removed the engine cover and ran the engine until reaching operating temperature. Walked around the van to find an area where the smell was strongest. (I now know what a bloodhound feels like.). This time the smell was in the interior of the van! I guess with the cover on the smell bounced towards the front.

Long story short...pun intended.

[img]https://flic.kr/p/2hcjqtx[/img]

Last edited by AllanWms; September 08th 2019 6:58 am.
Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: AllanWms] #752403
September 12th 2019 10:34 pm
September 12th 2019 10:34 pm
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 4,365
Dundee, Michigan
Ram4ever Offline

pooh-bah
Ram4ever  Offline

pooh-bah
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 4,365
Dundee, Michigan
What exactly did you find? (I can't see your photo for some reason) Post mortems can be quite helpful to others.

A note - if you have a battery terminal which is getting hot to the touch, you really should clean it up. There are little circular wire brushes, as well as terminal post reamers made just for that purpose.

High contact resistance (from corrosion, or being loose or misshapen) causes the heating. None of the wires other than the starter cable should be large enough to carry enough current to heat up that mass of metal without burning the insulation right off the wire, (which it sounds like might be what you found?) or even acting as a fuse and blowing apart at a weak spot.


-It's been such a LONG TIME... BlueShift>> 1981 Dodge Ram B250 Custom Sportsman Maxi Van


[Linked Image]

It's what you learn after you know it all, that counts...

Are you living to work, or working to live?

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Learning from my own mistakes is good, learning from yours would be much better! [Linked Image]
Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: AllanWms] #752414
September 13th 2019 3:41 pm
September 13th 2019 3:41 pm
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 11,991
Fircrest, WA
Reed Offline
Maniac
Reed  Offline
Maniac
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 11,991
Fircrest, WA
I also can't see your picture. Dodge wiring systems are notorious for having corrosion problems at the bulkhead connector on the firewall and in the headlight switch. A very good upgrade to do is to install a relay in the headlamp high and low beam systems. THis takes the load off the headlamp switch and gives you much brighter headlamps.


Windows- they're what make a van worth owning!
Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: AllanWms] #752415
September 13th 2019 3:48 pm
September 13th 2019 3:48 pm
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 14,450
Van Diego California
frscke1 Offline
frscke1  Offline

Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 14,450
Van Diego California
Ill post them .... they are a flicker pic ....

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


SUNSHINE VANS-VAN DIEGO
ADRENALIN BY THE GALLON & CHASIN RACIN
ONE FOR THE DIRT & ONE FOR THE STREETS
'93 CHEVY G30 454 4X4 SPORTVAN EXT 146" WB
'92 CHEVY G30 454 BEAUVILLE EXT 146" WB
Re: Headlights causing a plastic burning smell [Re: AllanWms] #752416
September 13th 2019 4:54 pm
September 13th 2019 4:54 pm
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 11,991
Fircrest, WA
Reed Offline
Maniac
Reed  Offline
Maniac
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 11,991
Fircrest, WA
Sweet! I love your van. I have liked LA West conversions for years and recently purchased a 95 Ford LA West conversion. A dark green shorty Dodge with an LA West conversion is high on my list of cool vehicles.

That looks like a plug wire (?) or some other wire burning on an exhaust manifold, unless I am completely misinterpreting that picture.


Windows- they're what make a van worth owning!

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