What a Gas Smell in Car Means and How to Fix It
What do you do if your car smells like gas? Like most people out there, you will check the usual and most logical places on your vehicle for where the smell is coming from. Since the fumes of gasoline can have adverse reactions to your body, it is best to take care of it right away. Headaches, dizziness, feeling light-headed, and even feeling nauseated are some of those reactions your body will have to those fumes. In this blog, we will discuss what to look for and how to get rid of the gasoline smell in your vehicle, depending on where it is.
Common Reasons Why Your Car Smells Like Gas
There are many places to look at for a gas smell in your vehicle. This is something that you should have taken care of right away or risk getting ill. Here is a list of places that are more common to look and some that are uncommon in that you might not even consider looking for the gasoline smell.
This is something that is not common, but if your fuel injector is leaking, it is usually leaking by the seal or O-ring. Make sure your car is running and look along the fuel rail, which is the area we locate the injector. If this is leaking, you will most definitely smell it, and there will be wetness around the injector.
The injector has a seal and O-ring placed at the top and bottom and can tend to dry out, which will cause cracking in either of them. If this is the case, then just put, replace whichever one is damaged, and you are good to go.
If the injector itself is damaged, then you will need to replace the whole thing. This would be a tough job on your own, so it might be beneficial to have your trusted mechanic to do this for you. The improper placement of the injector can cause the O-ring to be damaged.
Fuel Tank Leak
This is probably your most common form of leaking that you can have when looking for a problem. Your tank is under the car, and since it is exposed to the elements and whatever is on the roads while driving, there is potential for it to crack, rot, or be punctured.
When you drive out of your spot where the car is parked, you will generally find a puddle under your vehicle. Get under your car, and look for the fuel tank, then once there, look for wet spots or stains on the fuel tank. If this is the problem, you will need to have it removed and see if you can fix it yourself or replace the tank altogether.
Unfortunately, if you don’t catch your leak right away, you could be on the road and find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. If you are following someone who throws something out of their window that could ignite the fuel under your car.
Fuel Line Leak
Your fuel line runs under your vehicle from the fuel tank to the engine itself. Most fuel lines can become squeezed or rotted out because of the road debris while traveling. The old age of the line can also cause the line to leak or be damaged if someone who doesn’t know what they are doing is working under your vehicle and crushes the line or breaks it unknowingly.
Fuel pressure in your car will run anywhere from 35 psi to 60 psi. So if there is a loose-fitting, or it compromises the line in any way, fuel can spray a mist outside of the line. If you follow the fuel line, especially if it is fuel injected, noticing a drip will be easy to find. It is best to let a mechanic repair the fuel line, and while they are doing completing that, they can check for other problems with the fuel.
You probably didn’t know this, but there is a charcoal canister in the vehicle. They make this canister of plastic and filled with charcoal to filter out most of the excessive vapors from the fuel tank to reduce the number of emissions there are before being sent out the exhaust.
If the canister has a crack in it or a leak in the seals, you will get the smell of gas. Usually, this type of leak will set off a diagnostic trouble code, so you can take it to the mechanic to have it read on a reader.
Missing Gas Cap
This one may be silly to some, but if your gas cap is loose or not there, this can emit a smell of fuel in your vehicle. This will also set off a diagnostic code if they equip your car with this type of system. Since the newer model of cars has a vacuum test placed on the tanks for the gas cap when it fails, the light will go on in your vehicle.
It goes without saying that you need to make sure you have the cap on tight and adequately. Fumes can escape from anywhere that is not sealed, so be careful.
Gas Station Exposure
Silly, we know, but when you go to the gas station, you need to look around for spills. Sometimes when gas fumes from the station get into your car, you will need to open a window, drive for a while, and hope the smell goes away. If it doesn’t, however, you are more likely the one causing the smell.
Sometimes when pumping the fuel, you are likely to spill gas on your clothes or hands accidentally, so make sure to check and wash your clothes and hands immediately if you notice it. This is relatively common when filling a gas can for your smaller engines at home, like the lawnmower.
If you are one of those people who collects old cars, or likes to drive them due to their simplicity, it is not uncommon to smell gas when shutting off the vehicle. This is because the newer models have built-in evaporation emission systems in them, while the older models do not.
So the fuel in your older vehicle will most likely release a small faint odor of gas once shut off because of fuel floating in the bowl of the carburetor. It will go away after a little while, but if it doesn’t, then check those other areas we already discussed.
Uncommon Reasons Why Your Car Smells Like Gas
Oil Cap O’ring or Gasket Broken
This is not something you may consider, but if the O’ring or gasket under your hood for the oil cap is broken or leaking, it will cause a smell close to gas to be taken in by your fresh air intake. This means that when you turn on your HVAC, you will smell the faint smell of gas.
If you check here and see that it is a problem, it is a simple fix. Go to your auto parts store or dealership and see about getting a replacement.
Loose Spark Plug
Simply put, if your spark plugs are not correctly placed or sealed correctly, fumes from the combustion chamber could leak fumes into your HVAC. This is because the engine compartment is right next to this chamber and will give off the smell of gas.
Check each of your spark plugs to make sure they are properly sealed, and the torque is just right one by one and see if this helps ease the smell.
Open your hood and look to see if you have any oil leaking from the engine. Valve cover gaskets are prone to leaks, and because they sit above the engine, which is where most of the heat is while the vehicle is running, they can fail quickly.
The used motor oil in your car has a degree of unburnt fuel mixed in with it, so this can cause the smell of gas in your vehicle. Generally, for an oil leak, you would take your car to the mechanic to have fixed. This is so they can clean off the engine and fix the leak.
Leaks in your exhaust can get drawn into the HVAC system if the leak is close to the engine. Any leak that is located before the catalytic converter can have a ridiculous fuel odor because of the unburnt gasses present before the converter cleans it.
So if you notice your exhaust is louder than usual or there is a ticking sound when speeding up, have your exhaust manifold checked for leaks.
Cleaning a Spill
Now, if, after looking at all these areas, you have determined that it is on the floor of your car from the bottom of your shoes in a transfer or a spill from a container, take these steps to clean the spill.
- Soak up excess gasoline with a cloth or old rag that you will not want when done.
- Get a cleaning solution or make one that is made up of carpet shampoo and water. Or, if you would like, mix an equal amount of vinegar, baking soda, and water.
- Scrub the mixture into the area that contains the spill. It will be best to use a brush to get it deep into the fabric or flooring.
- Now, dab the mix into a clean rag, trying to get as much of it back up as you can.
- Let air dry in the sun.
Eliminating the Odor
After you are done cleaning the spill, most people like to make sure that the odor is completely gone. Some options for getting rid of the smell are the following:
- Coffee Grounds – While this might not appeal to everyone, especially if you don’t like coffee, but you can rub coffee grounds into the affected area, and after about a week, vacuum it up.
- Baking Soda – Some will pour some baking soda on the area and leave it in the area for about a month before swapping it out with some new.
- Kitty Litter – This is designed to absorb moisture leftover and the smell. Leave this on for a day at least before vacuuming it up.
- Odor-eliminating Spray – These are specifically designed for fabric and might make a dent in that smell, but make sure to use a generous amount in the affected area.
If after all this is done and your car still smells like gas, but there are no leaks and nothing in the fabric, you are best to take it to the auto shop and have it looked at. They will know what to look for and where to look if you could not do so. The quicker they fix it, the better off you will be in the long run.
Be Proactive With Curious Scents
Taking care of your vehicle and its maintenance can be exhausting, but the more you can do on your own, the more money you will save in the long run. Every time you take your vehicle into the shop, the labor hours itself can be very costly, not to mention the parts depending on what it is.
Unfortunately, with this problem, it can lead to some health issues, in which case your bill just became bigger if you end up in the hospital from exposure. Take the time and find the problem using an OBD2 Scanner or take it to the mechanic right away if you can’t, this will ensure that you don’t have the issue going forward. The last thing you want to do is expose you or your family to the fumes of gasoline for an extended period.