Do you think the gasoline fumes are following you everywhere? If you are smelling gas inside your car while driving, the problem may not be quite simple. Here are six common reasons why your car smells like gas.
Been a day or two since your last trip to the gas station, but it still feels like you never left the pump. If you can smell gasoline inside your car while driving, it’s time to get serious about the odor. Do you think the smell is coming from inside the car? Waste no time in heading to the auto shop! In extreme cases, getting your car towed is better than driving with a gas leak.
But first, let’s find out what’s causing the smell – is it the car or you? If you got gas on your hands, this is the article you need to get the smell off. No – you sure the car’s reeking of fuel? Then, keep reading.
Why does my car smell like gas?
The answer to this question can be as simple as a loose gas cap or exposure to gasoline fumes or as serious as a leaky fuel system. The former is a quick and inexpensive fix, while the latter requires immediate expert attention. Depending on the degree of damage causing the gas smell, you might need to foot the bill for repairs or replacements.
Here are six common reasons why your car smells like gas:
Exposure to Fumes
Spent a little too long at the gas station? While it isn’t strange for the gasoline smell to linger for a few minutes after a refill, you might keep smelling it for longer if your car had a longer exposure. Say you parked the car near a gas station, or there was an accidental fuel spill in or near the car.
Luckily, it is easy to solve if exposure to gas fumes is causing the gas smell inside your car. Read this to figure out how to clean up a gas spill inside your car – like in the trunk. The odor will eventually fade; you don’t have much to worry about, even if you drive around a bit before cleaning up the spill. But be careful about open flames near the spill, like a cigarette lighter.
Gas Cap Issues
Gas smells in and around your car must simply be because of a loose gas cap! You might have forgotten to tighten it after filling the tank, or it could be a cracked rubber gasket/O-Ring. A quick inspection of the cap can confirm the exact reason.
Lost your gas cap? Just get a new one and screw it on. It’s a cheap fix; you don’t need a mechanic’s help. The same goes for damaged O-Ring or gasket that seals the gas cap. Sometimes, it could be debris instead of damage – clean out the gunk, and the cap will fit right. Regular car inspections can avoid such minor issues.
Fuel system damage
Damages to your fuel system can cause gas leaks that stink up your car. You shouldn’t take fuel leaks lightly, even if the tank just needs a patch-up. It is sometimes hard to detect the source, as the leak may occur anywhere in the fuel system, from the fuel injection line or vent hose to the gas tank.
The fuel tank is the usual suspect. Look for gas puddles under your parked car – especially to the rear. The leak must be because of a punctured tank or worn-out fuel lines. Your car’s fuel system gets wear and tear like any other part, and regular servicing is vital to keep it in optimal condition. Gas puddles are high risk as it is a leading cause of vehicle fires – make sure you get the leak check as soon as possible.
The leak’s location in your car’s fuel system determines how soon you smell the gas inside your car. You’ll notice the odor while driving and right after you stop if it is due to damaged fuel lines. Gas vapors can also leak from the fuel system if the vent hose connected to the tank leaks. Apart from the spill, you will likely notice an unexplained dip in your fuel gauge.
A gas leak from the car’s fuel system must be looked into by an expert as soon as possible. Read this to learn more about gas leak causes and how to fix them.
Fuel Pressure Regulator issues
A malfunctioning Fuel Pressure Regulator can mess up the fuel mixture – it becomes either too rich or too thin. In such cases, the engine burns more gas than necessary, which increases the fumes heading out of the exhaust. Excessive fumes eventually leak through your car’s ventilation system and cause the gasoline smell you notice while driving.
Problems with the Fuel Pressure Regulator also affect fuel efficiency and decrease engine power. You might also encounter poor acceleration and engine misfires. Replacing the regulator is the best solution to the problem.
Spark Plug issues
The Spark Plug triggers combustion in car engines by igniting the fuel-air mixture. It is ideally screwed tightly into the combustion chamber so the mixture won’t escape. If the O-ring seal isn’t correct or you have a cracked spark plug, some fumes exit the cylinder and move to the car interiors through the HVAC intake.
You can avoid this cause of gas smells in cars through regular checks and tune-ups. Let an expert do it if you aren’t familiar with car maintenance checks. Remember that spark plugs cannot be too tight, and if there is oil on the plug, the mechanic will have to fix the leak before replacing or repairing your spark plug.
EVAP system issues
The faint gasoline odor is common when driving cars from the early 80s. It is usually because older cars did not have EVAP (Evaporative Emissions Control System). In newer cars, the pollution control system traps gas vapors inside a charcoal-filled canister and then sends the filtered fumes to the engine via a purge valve, where they burn.
If the EVAP isn’t working properly, these polluted fumes escape, and your car smells like gas. A short in a valve circuit or a damaged canister could be the reason, and the malfunction will likely turn the Check Engine light on.
Your car may smell like gas because of any other reason. If none of the above checks out, it’s time to give the auto mechanic a visit. DIY-ing might not be an option if the problem turns out to be technical. So, unless you have the experience and skills, do not risk further damage to the car.
Is it safe to drive if the car smells like gas?
Fume exposure and loose gas caps are harmless and won’t cause any trouble if you drive a car that smells like gas. The odor will disappear quickly as soon as you fix the problem. However, inhaling gasoline fumes for longer periods is a health risk and can even be fatal.
As for gas smells inside your car due to a fuel leak, it’s best not to drive. As per the severity of the leak and damage to the fuel system, you might want to get your car towed to the shop. Stop the leak and repair any damage to the car as soon as possible. The cost you incur for the repair and/or replacement will vary – patching up a small hole and replacing the fuel tank can’t cost the same. Driving with a leaky fuel system might worsen the problem.
Prevention is better than cure – get your car serviced every 10,000 – 12,000 miles. You may also want to check the gas cap when changing the oil every 5000 – 7000 miles. Look for signs of damage, especially to the rubber gasket or O-ring.
Also see: Strange car smells and how to fix them