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Gas Smell in Car?

On and off over the last couple weeks, my '97 Infiniti J30 has smelled like gas inside the cabin after starting the car and on my way to work. When I get in the car to go to lunch, there is no longer a smell of gas; it only seems to happen for the first 10-15 minutes I drive the car when it does happen. This morning the smell was unusually strong, but once I went to lunch a few hours later, no smell.

I’m not very mechanically-inclined, but what can I do to figure out the problem? Is it anything I’d be able to find and potentially fix on my own? Are there any good resources online that might help me?

Is your check engine light on?

If you were asking about something like a minor coolant leak I’d say this is a good time to start learning. But for the smell of fuel - well, its just kind of dangerous and you might be better off just getting it to a shop.

Does it smell more like fumes - or more sharp & strong like liquid gasoline? The former suggests a disconnected evaporation line, probably near the firewall w/ the fumes getting sucked in the air vents. You could look all around the firewall area for small black rubber or plastic tubing that looks like its broken or disconnected. If its stronger, find your fuel lines and fuel rail where the injectors are & start inspecting and sniffing all around any connections.

Yes, the check engine light is on - we actually took the car to the shop not too long ago to get that fixed, but now it’s back again.

The smell this morning was sharp, but previously it was more like fumes.

I think we will probably just take it in, because I don’t want to be driving dangerously. Thank you for the advice!

The reason I asked about the light is that if you do have a broken evap line it should turn on the engine light. So its worth it to pop the hood and look around the firewall area for a broken/disconnected line. If you see something obvious it could save you some time & $$.

Awesome - I will take a look and see if I can see any obvious leaking!

Mice can also chew through evaporation lines in places that are impossible to see. If the source of the fumes is not obvious, your dealer can smoke test the system and pinpoint the leak.

But as cigroller said, a leak in the evaporation system should set the Check Engine light.

Other areas to check for gas odors are a leaking fuel pressure regulator and leaking fuel injector O-rings.

For the fuel pressure regulator, turn the ignition switch to the run position so the dash lights come on to run the fuel pump and turn the ignition switch off. Remove the vacuum hose from the fuel pressure regulator and if gas leaks out of this connection the regulator is defective.

For fuel injector O-rings, take a flashlight and inspect where the injectors are mounted into the intake manifold. If an injector O-ring is leaking, it’ll usually leave witness marks where gas has pooled.