Is this gas tank leak dangerous?
April 22, 2004 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Gas tank leak. I drive a 96 Honda Accord with about 100K miles on it. I've been noticing a gas smell in my car for the past 200 miles or so, more noticable when I fill-up though I assumed it was because I got gas all over me. How immediately dangerous is this? [more inside]

Today I noticed a small puddle of gas under the car -- in approximately the gas tank area -- after it had been parked all night and a steady slow drip. I called my mechanic who told me how to check to see if the leak is in a pressurized fuel line. He can look at the car in a week and said in the meantime I shouldn't worry too much. I have very few other mechanic options, and I have a spare car to get to work. I can wait til next week. The car is parked outside on pavement, pretty far from everything. I am looking for "I've been there" second opinions. My question is this.... is this an immediate crisis? Can I drive the car to the mechanic's place [10 miles or so]? Should I drive for hours to an available mechanic to keep the car from leaking? Can I still take the car to work? Any tips for dealing with this? I'm more likely to err on the side of super-caution, I'm just wondering if that's irrational in this case.
posted by jessamyn to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
My current "work car" had a leak at the top of the tank for a while. Every time I filled it too far, it would drip. It was never a problem. Of course, it wasn't leaking directly over any hot pipes, but yours probably isn't situated that way either. Nothing to worry about, really.
posted by Shane at 12:38 PM on April 22, 2004

I've been there. It took me a couple of days to get the car to the shop, though in my case the leakage only occurred when I topped off, so I kept the tank about 1/4 full until I could get it replaced. Quite different from your situation, now that I think about it.

I would not use that car. As this gentleman's experience reminds us, it's not so much the liquid of gasoline that's so (in)flammable, it's the vapors. Siphon as much gas as you can out of the tank into a safe container until you can get it all repaired.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:42 PM on April 22, 2004

I would not use that car.

On second thought, I'll change my vote and echo Flanders. I'd bet a large sum you could drive cross country with no problem, but I don't want to be the one responsible if the absolutely unlikely happens and you die in a blaze.
posted by Shane at 12:51 PM on April 22, 2004

check under the car every morning to see how bad the puddle is. chances are it won't be bad due to few drips and evaporation. if you have a puddle and overwhelming fumes, call a mechanic.

if it seems ok and you want to drive, then make sure the inside doesn't reek of fumes. if you are concerned, open the windows, get some fresh air in there, get your windows open and if this doesn't do any good... call da man.

that's what i'd do

and i'd give up smoking in my car for awhile for peace of mind and general healthness.
posted by Frasermoo at 1:01 PM on April 22, 2004

As Flanders says, it's the vapors. Perhaps surprisingly, this means you're best off if the tank is fully topped off--no room for vapors to form.

This may not be practical, depending on the leak rate, and with a full or an empty tank, I'd be cautious.
posted by adamrice at 1:39 PM on April 22, 2004

I'm a volunteer firefighter (seen plenty of car fires) and I wouldn't drive that car for long without knowing where the leak is (I'm thinking about the location of the catalytic converter). The fumes aren't good for you but if you can open the windows and not smell them, as mentioned by Frasermoo, you're probably okay. In general, most of the non-electrical car fires I've seen have been because of fuel coming in contact with something hot (like the exhaust), hence my concern about the converter location.

As long as you don't need it right away I'd drive it to the mechanic's and leave it, even if he can't get to it right away. Leaking gasoline tends to dissolve blacktop, so why not dissolve his instead?
posted by tommasz at 1:41 PM on April 22, 2004

If you can spot the leak you may be able to effect a quick repair yourself. I've known folks that patched a pinhole leak in the gas tank by rubbing a bar of soap on it. Lasted quite a while (I think he junked the car before he made a permanent patch).
posted by Daddio at 2:35 PM on April 22, 2004

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