Subaru Outback - gas smell on cold start up

Why would my car’s exhaust smell excessively of gas on a cold start up? Is it easy to fix? The car is a 2000 Subaru Outback and the dealer insisted that they coulnd’t find a problem, and that all cars smell of gas on start up. This is really bad though.

“all cars smell of gas on start up”. Yeah right.

Is the gas smell come exclusively from the exhaust?

Personally, I don’t stick my nose in the tail pipe so perhaps I’m wrong.

Perhaps the charcoal canister is almost saturated. (EVAP system) Faulty purge valve? (Excessive gas fumes?)

It is normal for your exhaust to have a slight fuel odor to it on cold start-ups. As long as it isn’t black, blue or extra steamy, don’t worry about it. Also, avoid inhaling exhaust. If there was a problem with your evap system, your car would let you know in the form of a check engine light and code.

Early 2000’s Subaru’s amongst other issues, sometimes have loose fuel clamps. Make sure they are tightened around the fuel filter, where they connect near the firewall and connect to the engine fuel rail itself. Good luck, it is a putrid smell I remember when trying out a used 2002 Subaru WRX which was a first year car plagued with the problem.

Loose clamps around the fuel filter would not impact exhaust odor in any way.

I back into it every day. It is very strong. I’m pregnant and have taken to holding my breath as long as I can to avoid poising the baby. I don’t remember this ever being a problem before and I bought the car new in 1999.

The smell is the strongest outside and seems to come from behind the car (the exhaust).

Molly, I Wouldn’t Waste Any Time Having This Checked By A Good Independent Shop, Particularly One Familiar With Subarus.
Here’s some of my thoughts:

[list]I’ve never been pregnant, but those who have often experience an extraordinary sense of smell, likened to a Bloodhound. Link:[/list]
Could this be it? Have you had a non-pregnant person or two verify the odor?

[list]No? The car’s fuel tank and some fuel lines are located near the back of the car. Could be that the gas smell is coming from a leak there. You would notice it more when the car is stationary or backing up, like when you first start it. [/list]

[list]Have you noticed if the smell is more pronounced after you fill the car’s gas tank and for a couple of days after that ? This is helpful information. [/list]

[list]Are you positive the smell is that of raw gasoline, like that at a gas station ? Could it be an exhaust smell, like sulfuric acid?[/list]

[list]I’d fill the car with gas and go for a second opinion. Have somebody else take the car for you. I’d hate to advise you to in case it’s dangerous.[/list]


A good mechanic could improve the efficiency of cold engine operation which would reduce the amount of gasoline not burned in the engine and passed out the exhaust. Some of the things: Replace old spark plugs and spark plug wires; inspect/replace the air cleaner; use an MAF (Mass Air Flow) Sensor Cleaner, and Throttle Body Cleaner to cleaner the intake tract, throttle plate, and throttle body, and idle air control valve passages. This is about a 30 minuet, novice mechanic, procedure. There are a few more things which a competent mechanic is expected to know about.

Subarus of a particular vintage, which (I think) included the 2000s, were notorious for this problem. In most cases, the cause was fuel lines that shrank during cold weather, resulting in leakage and the smell of gas. Check and for more info, and see the following link for one guy’s experience with this problem with an 02 Outback:

The smell I was referring to was the interior of the vehicle and is common in this year Subaru. Not sure of outside of car except my 04 Subaru WRX does not smell pretty either when started cold either. Not gas but not nice either.