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Subaru Forester exhaust/fuel smell in cab



  • Having similar problems - have 2003 Legacy, auto, 52K. Just started last weekend when temps in PA dropped to under 10 degrees. Inside cabin smells like gas when car is cold and then started w/heat on- seems to smell less when car gradually gets warmed up, but still significant. Tightened clamps that I could see with a screwdriver last night, but still smell present this afternoon. Taking it to the shop tomorrow...don't seem to be losing gas in the meantime.
  • Last year I had this problem so I took my car to the mechanic and told him what everyone has been saying on here. He didn't smell anything and couldn't find a leak so I told him to take it home that night and leave it in his garage (it was below 10 degrees that night). The next day he called me and said he had to park the car outside because the gas smell was so strong and was seeping into his house. He said the leaks are detected in really cold weather. He ended up replacing the whole fuel line because he found a crack. It hasn't even been a year and I'm having the same problem again. I found a site showing where the clamps are. I tightened up 4 clamps on the driver side and 1 on the passenger side. I hope that does the trick because I'm beginning to smell the fumes in my house. :(

    This site shows a pic of the 4 clamps on the driver side:
  • feudofeudo Posts: 1
    Have a 2000 Forester that needs about 1500-1700 0f repairs. I have already put in about 2000 in that last year and the car has about 113000 miles on it.Can get a new premium out the door for about 26,000 k. Should I buy it or fix the old one?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 9,532
    It all depends on the car's overall dependability (how often is it in the shop?) and your comfort with it. Even at $2000 a year, that's less than half what you would spend on payments on a new car. Typically, maintenance/repair expenses on older vehicles come in waves. So, you might spend $3700 between this and last year, then go a year or two with little-to-no surprise expenses, then get hit with another big-dollar expense down the road.

    For me, as long as the car remains reliable (at least, my confidence in / perception of its reliability remains) and meets my needs, it is worth fixing.
    2008 and 2010 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Sounds like you're looking for a reason to upgrade, and you've found one, so go for it.

    So long as you can afford the new one, it has many improvements, especially the space inside.

    I had a '98 and loved it, but our '09 is even better.
  • I had the same problem (fuel smell) with my 2003 Subaru Outback. It has 62K miles and we live in Indiana. The first time we noticed it was the morning after the coldest night of the year (7F, -5wind chill). It smelled worse while idling or if the heat (blower) is on.

    I looked under the hood to see if a fuel line was leaking. On the driver's side are a couple fuel lines going to the fuel filter and to the driver's side cylinders. The screws to the clamps could be tightened one revolution, but didnt' look like they were leaking. I got real close and couldn't smell gas.

    Over on the passenger side I smelled gas. I didn't see anyting at first, but later found a hose that was dark at the end (because it was wet with gas). It was the line that fed both fuel injectors on the passenger side. After taking off a bracket to get access, I tightened the screw to the hose clamp 6-7 revolutions. I guess it was almost completely loose. After that, problem 100% fixed. It took me about 45 min to fix after finding the leak.

    1. Leave the car in the cold
    2. Drive the car a short distance
    3. Shut off the engine.
    4. Pop the hood, start looking for discolorations at the end of a fuel line.
    5. Get your nose up close and start smelling for gas.
    6. Tighten any loose hose clamps along the way.

    If you smell it in the car, you should be able to smell it under the hood.
  • It has been down in the low to mid 20's here. I'm having the same issue you're all describing with my 2001 Outback. I've tried tightening the clamps and I noticed this moring a bolt missing right above the two spark plug wires on the left side of the engine. The hole looks pretty clean like it happened recently. Could the smell be coming from there?
  • First, I assume the left side is the passenger side (left when viewing engine). On the passenger side, the spark plug wires go from the spark plugs (far left) to distributor (center of engine). At least they do on the 2002.

    I'm not sure which bolt you mean, so I had a look at mine. There are bolts on the valve cover (at the spark plugs), and on the fuel rail above the valve cover. The engine block itself has an extra machined hole for a bolt that was never installed.

    Bolts generally don't have anything to do with fuel. They hold something together, so if you're missing a bolt, you should have two things that should be attached that now aren't. What are the two things?

    The fuel lines are either hard metal, or soft rubber. When metal meets rubber, the only securing method is a hose clamp.

    I'd recommend going on a short drive in the cold. If you can smell it in the car, you should be able to smell it much worse from the source in the engine (after your drive). Is the hole you describe stink of gas? Try the smell test again moving very slowly around the engine. It was amazing to me how little the driver side smelled of gas, but how strong it was on the passenger side. Follow your nose.
  • :sick: We have a 2002 Forester w/ approx 160K on it. Last summer we started having strong gas fumes inside the car. I had a mechanic look at it and after finally driving them around for a while, they finally smelled it. Smoke machine found no leaks on the lines inside the car (I was blown away that they would run inside?!?) and they concluded it must be an evap leak at the top of the gas tank. (We also have an evap code that intermittently turns on the CEL.). In the winter months this has been much less noticable, almost nonexistent. Anyone else have a similar problem, solutions? I am told dropping the tank is very costly on this car.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I think it's under the rear seat, so they may be able to access it from above.
  • I have exactly the same problem with an 01 Forester. Although, seems to be just as bad whatever the weather now. The CEL evap code seems to come and go no matter what they replace and fix.

    Took it to the mechanic who phoned me to say that they're going to have to take the carpet up inside to inspect the fuel line - I thought he was joking, but apparently it's true: the fuel lines run INSIDE the car!

    Ho hum.
  • Fuel lines inside the car have their good aspects and their bad ones. The good news is that they are much less likely to rust and corrode, since they are not exposed to all the road salt and crud that they would be if they were outside the car. The bad news is that if they leak, the smell is horrible and almost impossible to get rid of.
  • fibber2fibber2 Mid Hudson Valley, NYPosts: 3,765
    edited April 2010
    I had a similar problem on my '02 OBW. The 'fuelline' link does a nice job showing the multiple hose to metal line connections on the drivers side, but there quite a few also located on the passenger side. All of them needed to be tightened, but these were my biggest source of smell on a single digit cold start. IIRC, there was at least on more down below the one circled on the left side of the picture, and there were 2 very difficult to get at clamps under the circled cover up front. There is a hole in that cover (see arrow) for access, but my clamps were rotated requiring the drilling of another hole to align with a screwdriver.

    I've had headgasket issues requiring intake removal twice. Removal and reinstallation of things that aren't meant to be taken apart is probably the main cause of repetitive leaks. I imagine that next year it will probably be time to replace some of these hoses and clamps.

    Hope this helps!

    imageSee more Car Pictures at
  • I was wondering if you've discovered more about what's causing your gasoline smell. We have a 2002 Forester that has a similar strong fuel smell on the passenger side of the car (near the rear wheel) after we drive the car for a while. It doesn't matter what temperature it is. The smoke machine didn't find leaks in our system either.
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    edited October 2010
    ".... 2002 Forester... strong fuel smell on the passenger side of the car (near the rear wheel)..."

    Could be a rusty perforated fuel filler neck: - - /#post542647
  • I was just wondering if anyone got any concrete answers to the exhaust / fuel smell issues...


  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    edited January 2011
    "I was just wondering if anyone got any concrete answers to the exhaust / fuel smell issues..."

    What more do you want on the subject of a fuel smell from the rear passenger area?
    Now an exhaust smell is another subject not presented by the original poster. Do you have both issues?
  • After temp went to 15 deg F I started getting a gas smell also
    I also periodically get a code for my emission system
    Says gas cap lose
    There is prob a hose cracked somewhere causing both problems?
    Not sure
  • jd_24jd_24 Posts: 92
    I have the fuel smell come and go in my 2001 Outback. Typically its a slightly loose connection to the fuel filter. The cold weather causes a little shrink. This last time I tightened the hose clamps myself. Not sure if that solved it or not since the next day was warmer, but the fuel smell was gone. I've never noticed actual leaking gas in the 3 or 4 times its happened over the years.
  • I have a 05 Forester XT, getting fuel smell in cold weather, did some search and it's been a common problem, a fuel leak due to the fuel line hose shrinking causing the clamp loosen up a little. There was even a recall on certain WRX models in 01 or 02 that had the same engine. It's easier to fix on a non turbo engine, but for the turbo, they have to take the intake manifold apart where the fuel lines are underneath. I could actually see the fuel dripping using a flash light. I called SOA and they were kind enough to cover my repair. Most dealers quote $800 for turbo engine, under $200 for non turbo. Do a search on youtube and Forester forum. there was a guide on how to DIY if you have the mechanical skill.
    Get it fixed, you are talking about fuel leaking, not safe to keep driving it.

  • My month old 2014 Forester xt has proven to be an enjoyable and fun decision. This is my first turbo experience and I'm quite impressed.
    However, I'd like someone to explain the smell coming from the vents. It smells like body odor. I only detect it when the car is idling or backing up as I park. Its winter and maybe I'm smelling fuel additives.
  • ssabourinssabourin Posts: 2

    @bluewater2014 said:
    My month old 2014 Forester xt has proven to be an enjoyable and fun decision. This is my first turbo experience and I'm quite impressed.
    However, I'd like someone to explain the smell coming from the vents. It smells like body odor. I only detect it when the car is idling or backing up as I park. Its winter and maybe I'm smelling fuel additives.

  • ssabourinssabourin Posts: 2

    I have the same problem with my new, Forester XT. The dealer opened the hood and showed me where the smell of body odor was coming from. It is assembly lube. The manufacturer puts it on some of the engine parts. If you open the hood of your car, you can smell exactly where it is coming from. I was told it should burn off eventually. I hope this helps. I have noticed the smell is not as strong as it use to be.

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