Gas drips while fueling

I’ve posted a few times with questions about my 1996 Dodge Neon (125k). About a month ago I had the timing belt and water pump replaced as regular maintenance - albeit a few thousand miles late - as well as the cam seal and valve cover gasket to hopefully stop the minor oil seep the car had developed. So far, so good! I haven’t taken it out for a long drive yet, but the faint burning smell is gone and I haven’t noticed oil drips after I park. Thanks, everyone, for the great advice!

Not long after leaving the mechanic, I’ve found a couple new issues. I’ve got a squealing drive belt, but I’m taking the car in this week to have it checked out and replaced. I’ve also got some kind of fueling problem.

Three tanks of gas ago, I noticed a very small puddle, probably about a cup of gas, on the ground near the rear passenger wheel. Two tanks ago, I went to the same gas station and replicated the problem. The last tank, I went to a different station and watched more closely. Something drips a gas steadily beneath the car while I fill it, and the drips stop within a couple minutes after I stop fueling.

I don’t top off my gas tank, but the car’s only been mine for a year and a half so I’m not sure how the tank was filled for most of its life. It’s possible that it’s the charcoal canister (assuming my year has one?), but I don’t have the typical overwhelming gas fumes in the car. I’m inclined to think I’ve got a leak in my fill line and not the tank because the leak only occurs while filling.

Anyone have an idea what’s wrong? I’m having it looked at on Thursday, but I don’t know what to expect at the mechanic. How difficult is this to diagnose and/or fix? Will they have to drop the tank?

Most importantly, do you consider this a safety concern? I will be getting it fixed, but I want to know if I’ve been an idiot these last couple weeks.

Thanks again for all your help!

I forgot to ask this - what is the fill line typically made of? Is it rubber or something that could be rusting out?

It is possible the drip comes not from the tank or filler neck, but something simpler. Look underneath the car, under where the rear passenger sits and you will see a metal plate. This is the cover to the fuel pump access, the fuel filter, and rubber drain plug. There are a number of rubber hoses running around there. If one of the rubber parts is cracked you have found your leak. Repair is quick and easy, even DIY if you so care.

Of course it is possible you have a cracked filler neck. This may be a more difficult repair. Depending on its location, maybe the fuel tank needs to be dropped. If you have no drips except when filling up, this is your most likely cause… and I would not consider it dangerous to drive this car until its Thursday checkup.

By all means, let us know.

I’ll try to take a look, but I’ll definitely let you know tomorrow or Friday how it goes! Thanks, Steve.

My mechanic confirmed that it is indeed the filler neck that’s leaking. I guess it’s pretty rusty and there’s a small hole in it. Unfortunately the part has to come from the dealer, so I’m looking at up to $300 ($200 plus labor) to fix it. There’s probably a salvage part out there somewhere, but I didn’t think about it until just now. I’m from the rust belt that is Central NY, so I’m not sure a used one would be much of an improvement over mine anyways.

According to my mechanic, my belts are all showing some wear, but he recommended I hold off til the next oil change or until one of them breaks (because I have three separate belts and thus hopefully won’t be stranded on the side of the road somewhere if one does break).

There are a number of 1st-generation Neon owners now parting out their cars. You can get virtually anything you need, cheap. See here: Save this link, it may come in handy over the years.

Thanks! I bet that’ll come in handy for the future. I feel a little better because I didn’t see anybody
with filler necks…so I can tell myself the dealer filler neck was unavoidable. :slight_smile:

It turned out to be $320 (ouch) and the mechanic (not my regular guy, and I don’t even know if he worked on my car cause my guy was there too) told me I’d be lucky to make the car last til next winter (double ouch). I’m not sure what basis he has to say that since the engine and transmission are good and he didn’t mention any other specific problems. The next time I’m in, I’ll have my mechanic explain what exactly is wrong, if anything.

Pay no attention to that fool. With reasonable care you’ll get another five years out of your car. Some folks harbor an irrational attitude toward all Chryco cars and to the Neon in particular. But experience has shown that the Neon is a very durable little car; that’s why you see so many 1st generation Neons still on the road.

Yeah, but…

If the filler neck failed because of rust, then I suspect bigger rust problems are on the way. Aggressive rust problems are killer for these unibody cars, especially if it gets into the pinch welds and reinforced panels.