I've taken a few hours towards my private pilot's license and each time we land I've smelled this plume of engine exhaust that we seem to fly/roll through just as we're touching down. I must be sensitive to the fumes because I usually end up with a slight headache after a few minutes. I haven't asked my instructor yet (because he may think I'm nuts) but is there any way to avoid this short of holding my breath? I'm flying in a Cessna 152 for my training.
Smelling exhaust in the cockpit is not normal. Tell your instructor and squawk the problem. Bonus - turn it into a learning experience by arranging to be with the A&P when he decowls and inspects. You can learn a lot about the engine that way.
If you are getting a headache from this you may have mild CO poisoning. This does need to be checked out.
Dear Aspiring Pilot;
By all means; you have stumbled onto the most important issue of being a PIC [Pilot in Command]. You only let that happen ONCE without fully understanding why it is happening. There are no little issues as a PIC.
Part of your pre-flight check walk around should have included pushing down on the 'nose' of the Cessna and check the condition of the shock on the nose-wheel. I.E. leaks in hydraulic shaft, tire condition, [nails,glass?]. It also seems when you were checking the wing tanks for water and checking engine oil you would have seen a black 'smudge where the exhaust was leaking.
It is imperative that walk around is done; It can point out little things like the fact that a '152' DOES NOT have retractable landing gear;