1989 Camry is leaking gasoline

Hi Tom and Ray,

I own a 1989 Toyota Camry that has been driven about 180,000 miles. I inherited it from my folks about 8 years ago, when it had only 75,000 miles registered on the ondometer. My dad was meticulous about its upkeep and obviously didn’t drive it much.

It’s been reliable throughout the years, still getting about 28-29 miles per gallon, with only minor problems that my mechanic has always been able to fix for minimal charges.

However, it’s now smelling of gasoline, and though my mechanic has performed various troubleshooting, including forcing smoke through the pipes and removing the back seat to check for possible holes or cracks in the fuel line, he can’t find the source of the leak.

Do you have any advice on what to do to locate the problem. Currently, I’m afraid to drive it and I’m considering junking it, though I’d love for it to get fixed, and drive it for another 50,000 miles.



Try another mechanic–preferably one who smokes cigarettes while working. I guarantee he will know exactly where the leak is when he finds it! Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

On a more serious note, are you smelling leaking gas when the car is parked, or are you smelling unburned gas in the exhaust when the motor is running? Is it more or less when the tank is full or empty? Any puddles on the ground?

A little bit of gas can lead to a lot of fumes which you smell. If the smell increases when you put on the heater/AC blower then look in the engine compartment. If the smell increases when you are outside of the car then check the fuel lines, and fuel filler area.

There are lots of rubber hoses and clamps that can fail on a car this age. If a mechanic can’t find anything in the motor compartmeent perhaps a body shop can find the leak somewhere in the body.

Fuel fumes are dangerous, so you shouldn’t drive the car until you know better what is going on.

Ouch! They better not smoke…I really like these guys. They looked throughout the car for the source of the problem and didn’t charge me a penny. I highly recommend the Import Doctors of Seattle.

Anyway, I never smelled the gasoline while driving, but it definitely stinks while parked. Our garage is attached to our house, so I had to start parking it outside, because the fumes were wafting into our home. Initially, that’s how we realized that there was a leak. I’ve never seen any puddles on the ground. I didn’t notice the amount of gas in the tank.

Anymore thoughts?


Hmmm…I hadn’t thought about taking it to a body shop. I haven’t driven it since we discovered the smell; in fact it’s still at the mechanic’s.


A good shop should be able to find the leak. If the car was driven to the shop the underside could be wet and in the northern areas of the US full of ice and road sand/salt. After a few days the gunk should dry and it is easier to look for wet spots that could be gasoline drips.

Perhaps the shop should get the car inside for a few days, let it dry out, and then look harder.