The Scent of a Subaru

I have a stickler of a problem with my 2001 Subaru Outback (111,000 miles). In cold weather when idling, the smell of gas is very intense. I estimate the temperature usually needs to be at or below 30 degrees to experience this. It is quite noticeable at a stop light, for example, and after the engine has warmed up. This never occurs at warmer temperatures. The mechanic at the dealership has never been able to find the problem through diagnostic testing; no leaks were ever detected. I have been loyal with the maintenance of the vehicle. Some days the smell of gas is so bad I cannot put the car in my attached garage because it will stink up the entire house! My husband seems to think the problem is related in some way to the catalytic converter. But, how? Any ideas out there? It’s winter and we’re driving around with the windows down once again. In addition, the problem has been going on over the past couple of winters.

Thanks for any advice! Cyndi

I’m not familiar with Subarus fuel filter and lines running to and from it.

If there is a steel line attached directly to the filter there shouldn’t be any smell/leak.

If there are hoses attaching the fuel filter in-line, there is a possibility the hose connection(s) may be cracked from age and will not seal in cold weather.

The hoses shrink when cold and most times IF this occurs, the cracking will be under the clamp where you can’t see it.

If you are in the habit of ‘topping off’ the fuel tank when you fill up, the charcoal canister MAY be becoming saturated, hence the fumes.

Are you referring to a raw gasoline vapor smell or a smell due to exhaust out of the tailpipe?
It sounds like the latter, so maybe the gasoline brand or formulation is changed during the winter where you live and this is causing the problem.

Ever had a Check Engine Light on?

The odds are that the rubber fuel hose that connects the metal fuel line under the intake manifold has the same problem as I and many other Subaru owners do. The short rubber fuel hose is to short and when the weather gets cold (subaru claims it only happens at <30 below) the rubber fuel line shrinks in length, as rubber does in cold weather, the clamps can no longer seal the rubber fuel line to the metal fuel line and leaks fuel. The fuel leaks on to the top of the engine under the intake manifold and when the engine gets warm the fuel evaporates and no longer smells. The warmth also expands the fuel lines and the leak disappears. I have take my car in the last two winters (in SF bay area in CA) because the fuel line was leaking fuel. However, because I have tightened the clamps (of which several were not tight) and stopped the leak they won’t fix it. They can’t see it leaking so no fix is necessary. Take a look under the drivers side of the engine, under the intake manifold the next time you smell it, the puddle and the dripping fuel should be easy to see.

Good luck getting the dealer to find it, since you have to show then when it is actually leaking.

What does it smell like?  Rotten eggs?  Raw gas? ...

For me, it was raw gas, and a puddle of fuel on the engine block. No raw egg or exhuast smell was present.

there is a TSBon this for the earlier 2000’s subarus. this is due to a change in diameter between the metal fuellines and the rubber lines. usually located on each side of the motors behind the injector banks. cold weather will leave enough tolerance to let fuel; seep by until it warms up. the problem will be corrected with new rubber lines