, Salem, MA

February 9, 2013

Subaru gives off an odor of gasoline

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Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: I have a 2001 Subaru Forrester. For a couple of years now, I have had this terrible gas odor only in the cold weather and usually when I put the heat on. Several people have looked at it and no one seems to know the cause. It can be pretty bad at times. Sometimes it smells like it’s burning, too. I would have it looked at again, but don’t want to spend money for someone to tell me they don’t know what it is. Any suggestions?

A: My first suggestion is to continue pursuing this problem. A few common places for leaks that are hard to find would be the top of the gas tank, a porous diaphragm at the fuel pressure regulator, a leaking vent hose at the filler neck and also the fuel tank filler neck itself. It’s interesting that you did not mention a Check Engine light. Your vehicle is equipped with the OBD II computer diagnostic system. One of the major functions of this system is to check for fuel vapor leaks.

I would be more inclined to look under the hood for this leak if the back underside looks OK. The reason is that you say it’s worse in cold weather. In cold weather, you are using the vehicle heater at a higher fan speed. The air intake for the HVAC system is located near the engine compartment, so you could have been pulling in fumes from the engine. However, you need to be sure it’s really gasoline you are smelling and not antifreeze from a leaking heater core.

And finally, you didn’t mention any loss of antifreeze, but your car has a reputation for blowing head gaskets, which will make a horrendous smell when leaking externally from the gasket and hitting the exhaust pipe. Don’t let this go. This could be very dangerous.

Q: I recently brought my 2009 Honda Accord in for a standard 15,000 mile service. I got that inevitable follow-up call suggesting additional items, one of which was a four-wheel alignment. The technician said they recommend this once a year. The steering wheel is centered and I do not feel any pulling when driving on a straight road. I inquired if there was any evidence of uneven tire wear. There was none. I drive this car only about 5,000 miles a year. What is your recommendation? Oh, another thing, I would be reluctant to incur the expense of an alignment with pothole season quickly approaching.

A: You’re very astute to decline the alignment. All the reasons you stated convince me that the car does not need an alignment. Front suspensions on today’s cars are much tougher than those of 10 or more years ago. It really takes a lot to knock a front-end or rear-wheel assembly out of alignment. Any signs of tire wear, wheel pull, or off-center steering, however, should prompt you to have an alignment performed.

Car Care Tip: Know what oil your car uses. In your owners’ manual there will be a section that lists all the proper fluids that your car requires. A repair shop will not be offended when you go in for service and you state what grade and weight of oil you want in your car.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to