Why does the passenger area of my 1988 Plymouth Sundance always smell like gasoline and/or radiator fluid, even more so if using the fan to heat or cool the passenger area?
Gasoline has a smell, but radiator fluid (unless you are overheating) doesn’t have much of an an odor. Each of these odors should be recognizable as they are, but if you cannot tell the difference, the most likely thing you are smelling is radiator fluid. Unless you recently filled a gas can and some of it spilled on the carpet in front of the front passenger seat.
It could be that your heater core has a leak, and if so, with the heat on or off, vents closed or not, or with the air conditioning on, you will get a musty acrid wet smell whenever you drive the car. Eventually, the core will fail enough that vapor will flood into the cabin so that the windows fog up and you cannot drive the car.
I have always counted the failure of a heater core as a perfect time to say goodbye to an old car. You can easily by-pass the heater core though, a good option if you are nearer to the equator than most people.
Thank you for your timely response! I once had a Jeep with a heater core that failed, so I understand what you’re talking about. No gasoline has spilled in the car, and it definitely smells like gasoline now in the warmer weather but smelled more like radiator fluid in the cold weather. Driving with the windows down is fine for another few months, but apparently at some point very soon I’ll be changing rides…
I would highly recommend you take this car to a mechanic and have it inspected. Any gasoline smell needs to be checked out. If you smell gasoline, that means gasoline is leaking somewhere. This is extremely dangerous because gasoline is explosive. A coolant smell also indicates a leak. Leaking coolant will not cause your car to burn to the ground or explode, but it can cause it to overheat and leave you stranded. Anytime you detect anything unusual about your car, you need to find out what is going on and correct it. This is especially important if you smell gasoline as it is a very dangerous substance.
Please pardon my severely tardy response. The smells were fixed by simple hose replacements. Thank you very much!