My truck smells - coolant problem!

Later I'll post about my first real (sort of) four wheel drive experience in the Australian Outback (great fun!), but for now:
(2001 Dodge Dakota SLT, 4x4)
I'd been noticing on this trip that my truck has a strong smell of burning rubber, just as I get out of the truck after stopping. It was dissipating fairly quickly though. As I'd never gone 4x4ing before, I wasn't worried enough to look into it (wish I had), since the truck was running fine. Figured it was just something normal for a hardworking truck.
When I got home, I popped the hood, and to my dismay found that coolant had been spraying all over my engine! Looks to my untrained eye like the idiot at the dealership who did my coolant change, didn't tighten the pressure cap all the way - it took a quarter turn more to tighten it than to take it off. I'm betting this has been happening since the coolant was changed, close to two months ago. Haven't been doing much driving, this was the longest journey since then, 100 miles in two days. Today was warmer too, in the low eighties (30c). Truck was in 4Hi, but never 4Lo, both days, and the AC was on (if that matters).
Reservoir is all but dry - doesn't register on the dipstick at all, but I can see something in there. However, the line where I took the pressure cap off is full. My truck never overheated or misbehaved (don't they start pinging when overheating?), but I think I'm lucky I finally noticed this.
There's coolant sprayed *everywhere*. The entire right side of the engine block is liberally sprinkled with the stuff. There's some settled on the frame, and a little bit dripped off It's all underneath the hood, on the battery, all the way back to the firewall.
So, there's a couple of questions here: The dealership is a couple of miles away. Should I put in tap water to ensure the truck gets there, or will it be OK? Oh, yea, they're gonna be hearing from me. I'll be there on the doorstep, with the truck, when they open tomorrow. If *I* can tell when the cap's on all the way, there's no excuse for a mechanic not to get that right!
Was the hot coolant landing on hot engine parts what caused the burning rubber smell? If not, what should I be looking at?
Will the coolant damage said parts?
My lesson learned: ALWAYS ALWAYS check the mechanic's work, if you can, even on the stupid stuff like oil and coolant changes. Won't make that mistake again!
Thanks for any help.
jmc
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If the radiator itself is full, you're fine to drive it there.

Most likely - although coolant itself usually has a "sweet" smell to it.

Nah - just spray it down with the hose. Stay away from and/or plug the air intake (don't want to be spraying water in there). IIRC, you've got a big tube that goes into the right-side fender, so you shouldn't have a problem here.
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Suddenly, without warning, Tom Lawrence exclaimed (03-Sep-06 5:14 PM):

I read somewhere that a burning rubber smell could be the clutch. I didn't really have to shift much on this trip... could it be? What other symptoms would there be?
Dunno if it could be related to the rubbery smell, but somewhere where my steering column went into the dash, there was a rattle. Would this be normal, considering the terrain (was either major washboard, or rocky?)
jmc
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Suddenly, without warning, jmc exclaimed (03-Sep-06 4:01 PM):

Well, turns out it *wasn't* a mechanic's fault, my radiator cap is failing. It's been holding pressure fine for winter here and short jaunts, but apparently going 4x4 in warmer temps (not hot here yet, only in the low 80's Fahrenheit (30c)).
They tested it, fails around 17psi.
Here's where being overseas with a US-only truck sucks. They can't get the bloody part! PartsAmerica had it of course, and I've just finished ordering.
But because of a $4 part, I'm stuck with local driving until the part comes in. Just in case it doesn't come in before our next long trip - to Uluru (Ayres Rock), which is a couple hundred miles away - got a gallon of radiator fluid. Hopefully it won't be needed.
Pretty annoyed, my truck seems to be failing by bits.
jmc
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jmc wrote:

My experience with a failed cap was the rubber washer. It had swollen and wouldn't allow coolant to enter from the coolant recovery tank. In 32F/0C weather, the engine's temperature would swing wildy. Lesson: replace the !$%^&* cap when doing cooling system maintenance. That reminds me... per Snoman's advice, I gots to step up to 80/20% coolant/water. While I'm at it, I'll tighten the front pump bolts (on my manual trans) to 150 ft/lb and replace the knock sensor on my V10. After all, he's THE exspurt (ie, "formerly a drip under pressure").
Bryan ;-)
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Suddenly, without warning, Bryan exclaimed (05-Sep-06 3:25 AM):

Dunno what happens if that's exceeded though.
jmc
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Great pictures. Makes me want to hit the road again. Too bad the beautiful peacock was given such an ugly voice.
FMB (North Mexico)
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