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Why can I smell petrol in my car?

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The smell of petrol can be worrying but fret not (just yet) as most of its causes can be remedied simply. However, if not treated efficiently it can become seriously dangerous so make sure to get booked in with a mechanic promptly.

Guide to petrol smells:

Petrol smell inside car

Petrol smell outside the car

Petrol smell from the 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.

Although, identifying which one of the three is your problem, or whether its something completely different can be a difficult task. Therefore, we have created the below guide for driver assistance. Check out our other 'diagnose it' guides if you're experiencing issues with your car that you are struggling to award a diagnosis and book in for repairs.

Loose or fault petrol cap

A loose petrol cap may be the cause of the petrol smell within your car. The cap itself may even be faulty which is causing a fume leakage, this faulty cap would typically cause the check engine light to illuminate on newer vehicles. If the cap is missing, do not drive before replacing it as oil will be slung all over the engine compartment leading to much larger problems.

Loose spark plugs

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, so not to put them back in the wrong place! If in any doubt, have a mechanic do this for you.

A fuel smell can be incredibly dangerous. It may be expensive to fix, but it will only get more costly as time goes on. So deal with it promptly and get it checked out ASAP by a mechanic.


Petrol Smell Outside My Car

Injector leak 

Open up your bonnet and check your 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 there is fuel stored around the injector it is the issue causing the gasoline smell. There also may be increased moisture around the injector which is another pointer of the gas smell.

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 by a mechanic.If it is still functioning well you do not need to replace the whole injector, the seal is enough.


Petrol smell coming from exhaust

To identify the cause of a petrol smell coming from car's rear, run your engine, then smell your exhaust to check if its the source. 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 a mechanic swiftly.

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's not one diaganosis 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

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 as they are not fitted with the evaporative-emissions system that newer models all have.

If you have any concerns surrounding the continuation of the smell, the best port of call is to contact a mechanic for a service via WhoCanFixMyCar.

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