5 Reasons why your car smells like gas when you start it

Have you ever asked yourself: Jeesh, why does my car smell like gas as soon as I start it? If you have, we’ve got something cool to show you. We’ve selected 5 possible reasons behind that weird (is it weird at all?) phenomenon. You’ll also find out what can you do if your car smells like gas. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

Did you know that some folks like the smell of gasoline? For all we know, you might even be a part of that club. Anyway, whether you like the smell of gasoline or not – it’s good to know why your car smells the way it does.

One of the reasons why your car smells like gas might be a fuel or an Evaporative Emission Control System leak. Also, you might want to check if your spark plugs are properly tightened. If your car still smells like gas afterward, you might have a flooded engine. Lastly, you could be running your car on spoiled gasoline.

Is there more to this story?  Of course, there is. Stick around to see the 5 reasons why your car smells like gas when you start it. Also, we’ll feel free to show you some bonus info and tips.

Table of Contents

Wait a minute, are there really folks that enjoy the smell of gas?

It’s weird you’re surprised because that’s a pretty common thing. Many people all around the world enjoy smelling gasoline. There are even scientific analyses of this curiosity. The results mentioned the two most probable reasons behind this:

  • The so-called Proust phenomenon. Name after the famed French novelist, it has something to do with nostalgia. People remember the smell of gas from their childhood. Once they sense it, they’re immediately transported to the good old days. A fun fact: people remember 35% of scents they’ve ever smelled.
  • Gasoline can easily get you high. Did you know that benzene is the key ingredient of gasoline? Also, it’s sweet-smelling and can get people high. In other words: it can suppress the activities of our central nervous system. As soon as our nerves sense the smell of gas, the brain starts releasing the happy hormone – dopamine.

A potentially redundant disclaimer: by no means do we want to affirm getting high on gasoline. Hopefully, that was evident even before you read the previous sentence. Anyway, now you see that people enjoying the smell of gas isn’t something strange. Quite the contrary! Many folks have experienced this phenomenon!

Is the smell of gasoline in your car a cause for alarm?

Alright, let’s say some people enjoy the smell. Should they also be alarmed if they sense it? As it turns out – they should!

Most experts would agree that a car smelling of gas should be properly inspected. One of the reasons why your car smells the way it does can be a fuel leak. It’s safe to assume that you’ll want to take care of that before you do any driving.

Okay, so let’s cut to the chase. Here are the 5 reasons why your car smells like gas when you start it. Also, keep in mind we’ve ignored discussing gasoline spilled inside your car here. That’s because it’s pretty obvious what’s causing the smell. We’ve also written an article about how to get gasoline out of vehicle interior. Feel free to check it out!

#1 A fuel leak

We’ve mentioned this one in the previous section. That’s why we’re choosing to start this list with it.

The smell of gas present inside your vehicle might come from a fuel leak. Don’t worry, there are other symptoms that will help you determine whether there’s a leak. For example, you might notice your fuel gauge unreasonably going down overnight. That’s one of the most evident signs you have a fuel leak somewhere in your car.

Are there other ways of finding out if there’s a leak?

It’s good you asked because there are. You can try idling your car for a little while and check if there’s a multicolored puddle beneath it. A leak could very well come from the fuel tank, fuel line, injection line, or injector.

Is it alright to drive the car if there’s a fuel leak?

Nope. You should get it towed to the nearest auto repair shop. Fuel leaks are among the most popular causes of vehicle fires. As we all know (and we mentioned it in the previous texts a hundred times), fuel is highly flammable.

A car set on fire being handled by a fireman. One of the reasons why your car smells like gas is a fuel leak, which could cause a fire.

#2 Loose spark plugs

Another reason why your car smells like gasoline might be loose spark plugs. Maybe your spark plugs have loosened over time? Anyway, let’s check out why that happens.

This could be caused by your sealing rings around your spark plugs not being seated properly. Maybe your spark plugs were never properly tightened.

Is driving with loose spark plugs dangerous?

As you can probably guess – it is. Let’s take a closer look. Fumes from your combustion chamber will go into the air intake for the HVAC system of your vehicle. That basically means the engine will spout gas fumes right into your air vents.

How to check if this is causing the smell?

You can check your vehicle for loose spark plugs issue yourself. The spark plugs have washers on the threaded part that seal the whole thing. Pay close attention! If these washers are cracked, broken, or even – missing, then the gas smell might come from your spark plugs.

#3 EVAP leak

The acronym above stands for Evaporative Emission Control System. As you might know, gasoline has a very low flashpoint of -45°F (-43°C). A flash point is a temperature at which gasoline releases vapors (that could be ignited). The EVAP system is made to catch (and contain) these dangerous vapors. EVAP keeps them in the fuel system so they don’t leak outside.

How to notice if there’s an EVAP leak?

If there’s an issue with your car concerning the EVAP leak, you’ll most likely notice a check engine light. It might only signal that your gas cap is not screwed on nicely. Still, it could mean that these very harmful vapors are escaping your car in a different manner. Anyway, your first step should be scanning your vehicle for codes.

#4 Flooded engine

One of the reasons why your car smells like gas might be a flooded engine. Say you attempt to start the car, but there’s no spark. Did you know that the injectors would still pump fuel? Unless, of course, they’re disabled. Unburnt fuel will stay in the combustion chamber or the exhaust system, and cause your car to smell like gas.

What’s there to do about it?

You might want to crank the engine without starting the car. This is also done while performing a compression test. Some car models let you disable the fuel system by holding the throttle wide open while cranking. Other models demand you pull the fuel pump relay. Anyway, make sure you consult a repair manual for the proper procedure.

#5 You’re running the car on bad/old gasoline

As we’re sure you know, gas doesn’t get better with age. It can only deteriorate. In other words: it gradually loses its computability. If you can’t remember the last time you last visited the gas station… Well, it might be a sign that the gas inside your vehicle has gone bad.

You’ll need to empty out the tank and fill it with fresh gas. If there’s little gas left in your tank, there might be no need for this. The fresh gas will dilute the bad stuff.

How to enhance the shelf life of gasoline?

This can be done by adding a fuel stabilizer. Also, driving your car every now and then is a good thing to avoid your gas being stagnant all the time. This will, subsequently, make you sip fresh gas into the tank.

Bonus tip: How to store excess gasoline?

So, we’ve gone through the 5 reasons why your car might smell like gas. To reward you for your patience, we’ll give you a bonus tip concerning gasoline storage. So, how does one store excess gasoline?

  • Use only containers approved by your local government. They’re most probably made from metal or high-quality plastic (HPDE).
  • Store your gasoline in a building that’s separated from your living spaces. It should be at least 50 away from the building you sleep in.
  • Keep your containers out of the path of direct sunlight. Also, make sure they’re far away from any heating sources.
  • Make sure the containers are out of children’s reach. Gasoline’s not something they should mess around with.

For more tips on storing gasoline long-term, click right here.

A quick recap on how to figure out why your car smells like gas

Okay, so we’re almost there. Let’s take a look at what might cause your car to smell like gasoline:

  • A fuel leak. If you notice a puddle of fuel beneath your car, take it to the nearest auto repair shop.
  • Loose spark plugs. Make sure your spark plugs are properly tightened.
  • An EVAP (Evaporative Emission Control System) leak. Scan the vehicle for codes.
  • A flooded engine. Make sure you consult a repair manual for the proper procedure for handling this issue.
  • Bad gasoline. If you don’t remember the last time you sipped gas, this just might be it.

Final words

Alright, dear folks, that’s about it for now. We won’t keep you any longer! Also, we hope you’ve enjoyed this one. See you soon!

Oh, and if you’re concerned about your boat smelling of gasoline, visit this page.