Stranded in Texas with a fuel leak



I have a 1989 Geo Spectrum which survived the first 700 or so miles of a road trip i’m taking. I got around Texarkana (i’m going to Galveston, tx) when I began to smell STRONG gas vapors. I pulled over and poked around looking for the leak. It is leaking out of the end of a hose that leads from a black cylinder (about 4" diameter, 6" tall) which is strapped to the back of the engine compartment (firewall). I have no idea what this cylinder is, it has what appear to be vacuum hoses leading from the top of it. Anyway, the hose in question leads from the bottom of this cylinder and forks into two. one of these leads to the bottom half of the fuel pump (on the “driver’s” side of the pump. The other end after it forks currently is hanging down almost to the axle and spouts fuel when the engine is running (anywhere from a constant drip to what i’d call a strong dribble) and for a short while after the engine is shut off. The strange thing is that the engine is running fine, i’m just losing fuel like crazy. This being the case, I attempted to pinch off the offending end with a pair of vice-grips, but the fuel then began to come out of a hole in the same hose. This wasn’t a tear, puncture, etc. It was a very purposeful looking hole right below where this hose joins the black cylinder… above the fork I mentioned. …Long story short: Any idea what’s wrong? Can anybody help me identify the black cylinder? Should the offending hose end be attached somewhere? It being sunday night, there isn’t any place open to ask for help. For now i’m planning on sleeping in my car in the parking lot of an autozone until morning when they open. Thanks.


I did some more googling and am now guessing that the black cylinder in question is a “fuel vapor canister” and that this can become filled with fuel by “topping off” your tank. However,I do not “top off” my tank when I fill up and the problem appeared when I was at 3/4 tank. I have this annoying thought in my head that my fuel pump has gone bad in some way that the fuel pump is bad… any thoughts?


Are you by chance talking about a fuel filter? Does it look like this?

I’m not a Geo guy so I’m not real familiar with the layouts.
On the offchance this is a canister problem, try removing the gas cap and see what happens.


I tried loosening/removing the fuel cap, but no affect. thanks though. the object in question is definitely the vapor canister. I took it to a mechanic this morning who put it on a lift and poked around for an hour or so trying to see if the loose hose end was supposed to hook up to something with no results. He wasn’t able to find much info. on the Spectrum, and what he did find wasn’t particularly helpful. He tried to stop the leak by plugging the end of the hose with a bolt, and the small hole in the side with another screw. It worked for about 3 or 4 miles until it started to sputter at times, making the car lurch forward. I decided I’d rather have a well-running but leaking car than a non-leaking, non-running car, so I removed the bolt and screw and promptly bought a fire extinguisher. I’ve now driven to a larger town (Longview), where i’m spending another night until a mechanic here has time to look at it tomorrow morning.


DO NOT DRIVE THIS CAR ANY FURTHER! You are endangering yourself as will as anyone around you!

I see that this car has a carb. Have a mechanic check to see if the float inside the carb is stuck open. Follow all the hoses that come off the EVAP canister and see if there is one that leads to the carb. If it does than remove this hose (Engine Off) and see if there is wet fuel inside it. If there is then you found your problem,it is the float.


I forgot to mention but I think the hose that is’nt hooked up to anything is just a vent hose. It’s not suppose to be hooked up or blocked off.


It turns out there was a tear in the fuel pump diaphragm that led to fuel pumping out the “back” of the pump up to the vent hose at the base of the vapor canister. The fuel pump has now been replaced. However, after a couple hundred highway miles in the Texas heat, the car now idles rough and seems to be leaking or burning oil (oil level slowly decreases, mild burning scent present outside the car after running for a few minutes) I’m now worried that I’ve gone and blown some gasket or seal somewhere


You might want to pull your oil dip stick and smell the oil on it. If it has a strong fuel smell you will need to have your oil changed. I would also pull your spark plugs and see if the tips of them are black due to running to rich of fuel mixture. If they are then you will need to change them out also.


Glad to hear you got the fuel leak repaired. I would recommend that you check the mounting of the fuel pump to the block. That is the most likely cause of your new found leak.


If the fuel pump diaphragm was ruptured it’s very likely that fuel has leaked directly into the crankcase through the mechanical pump arm opening…this leads directly into the engine.

This fuel will have dramatically thinned your oil and it will have a high fuel content. This will evaporate off in the hot oil and will give a heavy fuel vapour, it won’t lubricate the engine ffectively either.

Get the contaminated oil and the filter changed before driving any further.