15 gallons of gas fell onto my driveway!

Hello, last week during the extreme cold my 2006 Volvo xc90 dropped a nearly full tank of gas onto my driveway. I had driven each if the three sub-zero days and on the third day drove about a mile, parked for about an hour then came home to get my phone. I left the car running while I ran inside for about a minute and came out to a hissing sound and dripping gas. I moved the car away from my house and watched the fuel indicator go to empty. Once it was up on the flat bed tow truck the driver pointed out big splits in the tank. I am sure I didn’t drive over anything or through deep snow. Could the cold have caused this?
Also does anyone have any good ideas for cleaning up this mess?! Did I mention the driveway is new? Thanks!

Petrol leaves no trace, just clean with laundry detergent.

My best guess is that there was an existing problem with the Evaporative Emissions System, and that this led to a condition of extremely high vacuum in the gas tank. (Was the Check Engine Light lit up just prior to this incident?)

Under the right conditions, extremely high vacuum in the tank, coupled with rapidly falling temperatures, would probably have the ability to implode the tank sufficiently to lead to splits in the tank.

However, this is just my theory…

No check engine light… I went back to check the place where I was parked and there was no gas.

Hot top or gravel drive. It’s too bad it wasn’t summer. Diluting it if were gravel would be what I would do, spreading an absorbent compound on a hot top. It will eat away at a hot top surface and soften it up in warm weather . Any wells nearby ? Contacting a county pollutant control person and getting advice when it happened would have been best. When you are protecting your environment, you are almost always protecting your own investment, including driveways wells and ground water. It is ALWAYS cheaper in the long run to do the right thing by mother nature.

Also… The tank was about 7/8 full. But surely there is something built into the design of the tank to allow for a little expansion like a milk jug?

Is it a plastic gas tank? Perhaps in the past road debris struck it and made it weak, the cold weather made it brittle and did it in.

“surely there is something built into the design of the tank to allow for a little expansion like a milk jug?”

Yes, there is, but expansion of gas in the tank takes place during periods of high temperature, or–at least–during conditions of rapidly rising temperatures. If the weather was sub-zero when you filled the tank and continued to be sub-zero until the leakage occurred, I think that you have to rule out expansion of the gas as a cause of the problem.

I’ve been looking online to prepare myself for what this is going to cost to repair. I’ve seen just the tank for between $900 and $1300 does anyone know what kind of labor is involved in replacing the tank? We’ve just sunk all of our reserves into a new car for my husband… waiting for the shop to open on Monday and give me the verdict is making me anxious!

The placement of the tank has a direct bearing on the labor involved for removal/installation of the tanks.

If–as I suspect–Volvo places the gas tank above the rear axle/suspension (this is the safest location), then the labor can be…incredibly detailed and costly. If the tank itself costs at least $900, and if the tank is located above the rear axle area, the total cost could well go into the $2k range.

Whatever you do, do NOT go to the Volvo dealer, as their labor costs will be blood-chillingly high.
An independent foreign car shop is your best bet for having this repair done at the lowest possible cost.

VDC’s theory is valid.

Your tank breaths in and out through an activated charcoal bed in a “charcoal canister” that is part of the Evaporative Emissions System (the EVAP system). If the charcoal canister gets saturated, which can happen I n some systems by “topping off” the tank, the tank will be unable to breath. Vacuum will form in the tank’s airspace as the pump draws the gas down. Excess vacuum has been known to collapse tanks. If your tank has a side that’s 12"x20", a 2 lb pressure differential will mean that side will be under 480 total pound of load.

It’s also possible that the line that allows the vapors to purge is plugged, or even that the valve involved is stuck closed.

The hissing was air trying to get into the tank while the gas drained. Your tank should be able to breath in with very little vacuum without issue. Clearly there’s a problem with the EVAP system.

So, if you’ve been topping your tank… discontinue that practice. If not, well, sometimes stuff just happens.

The gas itself is aeromatic: it evaporates readily. That’s the whole reason we need Evaporative Emissions systems.

Thank you. We do use a great little shop that specializes in volvox, saabs and Volkswagen. So…since you seem so knowledgeable… Last year at this time we were hit by a brake drum on the highway. It rolled across the median bounced up and layed flat but there was no way to avoid driving over it at 70mph. We were lucky the ground wasn’t frozen as it would have bounced and been traveling faster. Anyway, it tore through the radiator and did other damage to the underside of the car. I wonder if there could have been damage from that accident that lead to this? I have full confidence that the guys looked at everything very carefully but can’t help but wonder.

It absolutely could have creased the tank’s underside and left it ready to fail. Then, as it vibrated and went up & down under the weight of the gas, the crease could fail. Take any piece of sheet metal and bend it back and forth and it will fail.

With this new information, I’d like to change my previous theory…

Maybe your shop can find you a used gas tank at considerably less then a new one.
Good luck

Is this tank plastic? If so, it could just be that a little age, stresses (tank, not you), and sub-zero temps combined to cause the tank to fracture.

Gasoline, cold weather, and age can embrittle plastic.

Depending on where the gas was dumped, it may have trickled into sewers or might get into the groundwater, causing an explosive hazard or health risk. If you really dumped that much gas, it might be worth consulting with the local fire dept. to see if any cleanup or containment is necessary.

I would look for a used gas tank. Maybe a body shop can point you in the direction of a less expensive replacement. (the replacement might even be better designed)

"Specializes in Volvos, SAABs and VWs."
There is a shop near where I used to work that did the same along with selling used Volvos, SAABs and VWs. To them, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

Alas, it mostly drained into my garden. My local fire fighters recommended that I not smoke back there! (Thanks?) It was too cold to do anything about it until today so my husband spread cat litter to absorb what was left and then scrubbed with detergent as suggested by one of you. The stains are slightly less noticeable on the concrete. We will learn the fate of the plants in the spring. I don’t think any of it went down the drain but it sure smelled bad for several days. Now it smells like the detergent aisle at target. Not my favorite thing since we are avid recyclers, com posters and gardeners and typically use only vinegar for cleaning. Dagosa, we were quite aware of the cost of maintaining this car as it (as my name implies) is the third Volvo we have owned. Two are xc90’s which we have found to be reliable, safe and excellent in the snow. I would drive a smaller vehicle but have 3 active kids and a large dog so this has been a good choice for us.

Spreading sand or kitty litter on the spill to absorb it would be the standard way to deal with a spill. Then the sand with gas in it is a hazardous material and needs to be disposed of accordingly. Not sure what the going rate is for disposing of the sand but probably under $500.

Be sure to regularly turn the soil to let the gasoline evaporate out of the soil and not get into the groundwater or other plants nearby.

The standard way to deal with gas spills, like at a gas station, is to use some absorbent like kitty litter or sand and then let the gasoline evaporate away in a safe location. Then the absorbent may be reused or discarded. Not that this does you any good now. But regularly aerating the garden should leave you little long-term effects.