Why can I smell petrol in my car?

Stephen Wright, 2 years ago

2 min read

  • Advice
  • Maintenance
  • why
Petrol Pumps

WhoCanFixMyCar takes a closer look at some of the reasons for why you might be able to smell petrol in your car and what you can do to remedy the problem

The smell of petrol can be worrying, but don't worry (just yet) as most of its causes can easily be remedied. However, if left untreated it can become seriously dangerous, so make sure to get booked in with a mechanic if you think something is wrong.


Why can I smell petrol in my car?

Petrol smell outside my car

Petrol smell coming from exhaust

Car smells of petrol when switched off

Why can I smell petrol in my car?

The three most common reasons for the smell are petrol leaking from the petrol cap, petrol leaking from the fuel injector or petrol dripping from under the car.

Loose or faulty petrol cap

A loose petrol cap can sometimes be the cause of the petrol smell within your car. The cap itself may even be faulty, which in turn would typically cause the engine management light to appear on the dashboard on newer vehicles.

Loose spark plugs

Spark Plug

Loose spark plugs can cause a petrol smell inside the cabin by allowing the gas fumes to escape. To see if this is the case, you must first check that all spark plug wires or coils are in good shape, as well as the torque on the spark plugs.

As you check these wires make sure to make note of where each one goes to avoid putting them back in the wrong place. If in any doubt, have a mechanic do this for you.

A fuel smell can be incredibly dangerous. And, while it may seem initially expensive to fix, it will only get more costly as time goes on if you ignore it.

Petrol smell outside my car

Injector leak 

Open up your bonnet and check your fuel injector if you smell petrol coming from the front of your vehicle. Injector leaks are one of the most common causes of a petrol smell. Upon inspecting the injector, if you find fuel stored around the injector, then this will likely be the cause of the smell. There also may be increased moisture around the injector which is another tell tale sign that there is an issue.

The steps to take is to have the damaged o-ring or rubber seal (which has permitted the leak) at the top of the injector replaced at your local garage. If it is still functioning well you do not need to replace the whole injector as changing the the seal should be enough.

Petrol smell coming from exhaust

car exhaust

To identify the cause of a petrol smell coming from car's rear, run your engine, then smell your exhaust to see if its the source of the problem. Ordinarily, you should not be able to smell petrol if the engine is running well. If you do smell petrol, make sure to take your vehicle to your local garage at the earliest opportunity.

Exhaust fumes with unburnt gas may be the cause of the smell. These can be drawn into the passengers compartment, causing more of a worry and, unfortunately, there isn't just one diagnosis for this, so make sure to seek professional assistance.

Fuel smells from exhausts can be due to:

  • A broken ignition coil

  • Failed or worn out spark plugs

  • A broken distributor

  • Faulty ECU

Fuel leaks can be very dangerous, especially as they enter the passengers compartment. Please do not ignore them or put off repairs!

Car smells of petrol when switched off

Ford Escort 1979

Sometimes old cars (those made prior to 1985) give off a slight petrol smell after the engine is switched off. However, this smell should dissipate after a short while. This occurs in older cars such as this beautifully maintained Ford Escort RS2000 MK2 (pictured above) as they are not fitted with the evaporative-emissions system that newer models all have.

If you have any concerns surrounding the smell, the best port of call is to contact your local garage and arrange for a service via WhoCanFixMyCar.

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If you have any other issues with your car that you'd like to try and diagnose yourself, check out our guide on self diagnosing car problems. The more you know about how your car works, the better.

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