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Subaru Forester exhaust/fuel smell in cab



  • I got my 2002 Outback Sport back today. It was an actual fuel leak, as one of the valves was broken and leaking. They replaced it and it seems okay for now. No more gas smell from the heater or from under the hood. I asked them to check for the bad clamp, but they said they were all fine. Thanks for all the help!
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Glad to hear they resolved it.

    Mom had a car like that and to be honest they never figured it out. The whole time she had it you could smell gas. Nasty.

    That was a Chevy in Brazil, though.
  • danielldaniell Posts: 128
    Own a 2002 Forester S auto, 60k miles. I have had the same problem a few days ago when temperatures here in Ohio dropped below 20 and the car was parked outside for 2-3 hours. I popped the hood right away and I was able to see gasoline leaking from a hose clamp. It's on the driver side, but very close to the center, about 4" long. It's probably the shortest hose I could see, and the farthest away from the fuel filter. Fuel drips on a small metal rectangle right below. The clamp appears to be tight. The leak dissapears once the engine warms up. If the car is garaged or temperatures are at least high 20s, it won't leak. It only does it right at the startup in very low temperatures, when the engine is cold. I checked the website and it appears to be the same exact problem reported with the 2002-2003 model year Impreza and WRX. Filed a complaint with NHTSA.
  • ...and I own a 2001 Forester S auto, 85K miles. Had this car since last March and with our '08 Winter in Iowa being a doozy, am experiencing the EXACT same problem you describe. All in all I'd say this car, in spite of it's rugged pretensions, isn't cut out for da Nord country, if ya know what I mean. Once the temps hit around zero, the following has happened: 1) Cracked windshield 2) Name Plate popped of after closing hood and of course, the 3) aforementioned gas fumes in the cab.
  • We have had the same problem since last winter with our 2002 outback wagon. Since it has been really cold the fumes are overwhelming. You have to drive without the heater in the coldest weather. This is our second subaru wagon and we are really disappointed with this problem. The wierd thing is that once the weather warms up the heater works and no smell of fumes.
  • jbur1jbur1 Posts: 14
    I have also been getting the fuel smell in the cold weather inside my 2003 Forester (69k miles) as well. It gets so bad at times that it causes irritation in my throat and a burning sensation in my eyes. It also leaves a foul taste in my mouth that lasts well after I exit the vehicle. I have scheduled an appointment at the dealer next week. I called Subaru and they said there was a TSB issued regaring this matter. I got them to issue me a case number in case any issues arrise at the dealer. I didn't ask them if they would help pay for the repair at this point though.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Hope they can fix that. Ours doesn't have that issue.

    My mom owned a Chevy in Brazil way back when with a horrible gas smell, we never really figured it out.
  • After reading extensivly on this problem of exhaust smell coming through the vents when its really cold out, and car is at idle here is what I found. It is a gas leak and in my case was very easy to fix(under 2 minutes). here is a picture of where my leak was coming from.

    I tightened up the two clamps which were very loose, the gas stopped leaking and the smell coming in stopped instantly. The part that I tightened is the shiney black rubber hose in the middle of the pictures. I hope this helps some people. I have a 2003 forester 2.5xs. I hope I save some people from getting robbed blind from their mechanics.
  • aathertonaatherton Posts: 617
    Both of those links merely take me to Is there some kind of public viewing permission that must be set to allow us to get to your album?
  • danielldaniell Posts: 128
    I have a 2002 Forester S, auto, 68K miles. I have had this problem intermitently over the years, whenever the temperature dropped below 15 degrees or so. There are 2 short hoses, about 4"-5" each, where I saw gasoline leaking. One is on the driver side. I am not sure how to post pictures - under the hose there is a small rectangular area, about 2"x3", almost like a tray, where I saw gasoline acumulating. The second problem is on the passenger side, close to the side and front. There are short 2 rubber hoses making a 90 degree angle (the actual angle is metal, hoses cover that). The one that is parallel to the radiator was lose. I am sorry for not being able to give a better description. Tightening the clamps with a Phillips screwdriver seems to have solved the problem for now. The service tech at the dealer (Subaru Beechmont in Cincinnati) said that he had only seen this on turbocharged motors.
  • 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: 8,391
    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.
  • 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.
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