Does Your Car Smell Like Gasoline? What Mechanics Say Could Be the Cause

If you smell gasoline while driving, pull over safely and turn your car off as soon as possible.

Jamie Bichelman - Author

May 6 2024, Published 4:24 p.m. ET

A woman plugs her nose due to the offensive smell inside her car.
Source: iStock

Whether you're driving an eco-friendly vehicle or a car model known to be a heavy polluter, the smell of gasoline while driving is among the worst-case scenarios and a big cause of stress. Especially for those operating gas-only cars, the fear of a fatal occurrence must be taken seriously.

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Join us as we review the possible causes of why your car smells like gas and what to do to ensure your safety. We will also explore what to do if you smell gasoline but cannot detect a leak, and how to safely remove the offensive odor from your vehicle.

Regardless of the culprit of the smell of gas in or around your car, always consult a trained professional mechanic to ensure the safety of your vehicle and the safety of the lives inside your vehicle as well.

A woman plugs her nose due to the offensive smell inside her car.
Source: iStock
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Why does my car smell like gas? It may indicate a gas leak or fuel leak.

If you smell gas while driving your car, pull over to a safe location — preferably in a well-lit area away from traffic — as soon as possible, turn off your engine, and get out of the car.

According to a article, the worst-case scenario is a fire starting due to a fuel leak. In this scenario, a confluence of factors, including high pressure from your car's fuel lines and the running engine creating extreme heat, leads to leaked fuel catching fire.

When it comes to fuel leaks, per, two dangerous scenarios may be at play and can cause a fire to start:

  • the leak originates from the engine compartment or near the hot exhaust system;
  • if the odor is definitely inside the car (rather than noticeable with the windows down) you've likely got a significant leak in the engine compartment, leading to gasoline fumes leaking into the car through the vent.
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Smoking while operating a vehicle that smells like gas could increase the chances of a fire starting. Be sure to safely extinguish your cigarette immediately.

A smiling car mechanic squats beside a customer inside a garage.
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My car smells like gas but isn't leaking.

According to auto care company Firestone, a gas or fuel leak isn't always the source for the smell of gas inside a car, and the fix may very well be as simple as tightening your gas cap. Additional reasons for the smell of gasoline in your car may include:

  • you accidentally spilled a drop of gas on your clothes while filling up;
  • the fuel injector may be clogged and it needs to be cleaned;
  • the Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) may be faulty.

According to J.D. Power, a problem with the EVAP is likely to be accompanied by the check engine light turning on. Additionally, per Car-X, an exhaust leak and a failed pressure regulator may be causes for the smell of gas inside your car unrelated to a fuel leak.

In any case, having a professional car mechanic diagnose the issue is imperative.

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A car maintenance professional vacuums the driver seat of a car.
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How to get a gas smell out of car:

The temptation to clean your car immediately to mask or get rid of the smell of gas is tempting, but it's critically important that a mechanic diagnoses the issue first. Unsafe cleaning methods with dangerous chemicals may make the situation even worse. In fact, there may be additional odors symptomatic of other faulty car parts, per Progressive.

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When it's safe to do so, be sure to choose eco-friendly cleaners that will both protect your car and be better for the environment. If the odor is due to a drop of gas spilling inside the car, Family Handyman recommends soaking up the spill using a rag, then cleaning the spot with a mixture of equal parts baking soda, vinegar, and hot water.

According to autoevolution, to neutralize and clean the smell, you can also try a combination of shampoo and water. Or, try placing ground coffee or baking soda on the spot and leaving it there for a week. This can help absorb the odor once and for all.

Thankfully, eco-friendly methods are aligned with the most effective ways to treat smells of this nature, as commercial sprays and dangerous chemicals will only mask the odor or, potentially, make the spill even more flammable.

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