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Forester - 53 Reg - smells of fuel outside the car


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Hi all, 

advice please about a  53 registered normally aspirated automatic Forster with the all weather pack.

This is the good news, I've had the car nearly 4 years & mileage is about 114k  It does exactly what I bought it to do, brilliantly.   Apart from normal servicing of oils & filters I've only had to have the drivers door window motor replaced, & I've fitted one main beam headlight bulb & Wiper Blades

Here's the bad news though, I've begun to smell petrol fumes outside the car around the offside rear wheel area.

I had it MoT'd within a fortnight & the tester picked up on the smell, but couldn't identify where it came from. There was a 'clean" patch at the back top of the tank which tapered down toward the bottom of the tank, which may be significant.  Couldn't see any problem where the fuel pipes from the tank go into the body en route to the engine bay

Last Friday I had a mechanic pop the Forester onto his lift, & with the wheel off,  inspect the fuel fill pipe from fuel cap to tank after removing its shield .The metal was sound as a bell, so no problem there. I'd expected to see a lot of rust & corrosion

The mechanics conclusion was a weep from the fuel tank horizontal seam & that it wasn't an economic repair (for me to have him do the job) with a new tank & his labour as you have to remove a lot of the drive train to get the tank out and with bolts that will have rusted solid shearing off etc. 

I can't detect any fumes in the car, so my latest guess or hope is a leak or weep from the fuel pipes at the top of the tank where you can't see them. Maybe removing the fuel pump access plate give you access? Is it a daft idea, or is it worth getting my mechanic to have another look see?

If anyone has had this problem & got it solved it or has had it sorted, or any other suggestions I'd welcome any pointers

Thanks in advance for your input:       Effsweet

ps It's much too good a car to go to the breakers & I'd really like to keep it on the road


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The filler neck is prone to rusting out over time, there's a black plastic cover that doesn't really cover much and acts as a dirt trap,

Easiest thing to do is remove the rear wheel, and have a look, replacement necks are available, bit of a pain in the rear end to do, I had a pic somewhere I'll see if I can dog it out

Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk

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Thanks for your advice. my mechanic didn't see anything corroded when he took of the shield to look at the pipe. Do you think he could have missed it? I'd guessed it would be obvious?

That black plastic cover you mention seems to have the metal fill point for the tank bolted into it so it can't be removed by undoing the 4 crosshead screws under the Filler cap door.

is that where you reckon it could be corroded through, just under that black saucer thing?


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It will be obvious, here's mine with the guard removed you can see it's in a sorry state very rusty, but wasn't leaking at the time.

As sandals says it may be the tank gasket that's perishing or a slight weapy line

If you do remove the inspection hatch & tank lid be gentle when doing it back up 0940112fd31dfc2b6d0f03e5d5bbd5e6.jpg

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Thanks, Stants & Sandals:

Stants, thats a helpful picture, thanks for digging it out. The tank filler tube on mine is, as I said bright shiny metal, no trace of any rust.

Sandals: that's also a very helpful comment that it might be a weep at the top of the tank. - It reinforces my thought that its the next obvious place that is sensible to look at

I had already booked it in with another guy who works only on Subaru's to have a look at Tuesday week, before I'd read your post. 

 He did a very thorough inspection service for me 7000m ago with all oils & filters changed.

I'll let you all know his conclusion, as I've already decided how much it's worth to me to sort out this little problem & what I decided to do.

This particular guy knows me from a while ago when he was employed at the Saab only workshop I've used for longer than I care to remember.


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Mr B, thank you,

I have a permanently connected ScanGauge OBDII reader in the car. It only ever throws a PO420 code, which I clear after checking for pending codes, I never see codes pending.

I'd hope to see an evap system code if there was an evap problem?

I've never heard of a "smoke test" before. Is it simple for any experienced mechanic to do? or does he need special kit & experience in interpreting what he finds out from it.

As you say "Get someone who knows how test it have a look"  -   finding that someone is my problem!

Any suggestions in the Bath/Bristol area?

Thanks Mr B for any further advices


ps I can't see if this forum allows private messages. Could anyone tell me if it does,  & if it does, where on the site you can find it? TIA Effsweet



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they will need a smoke machine but any half decent garage doing diagnostic work not guessing will have one .

I would expect see faults if evap but not always and as really need pinpoint leak due to costs involved if wrong a smoke test would be way forward on gas leak regardless and hopefully conclude the issue within an hours labour I would of thought . no idea on recommendation in your area but sure someone on here may ...

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Thanks Mr B    ........

....... for your further helpful comment & explanation.  

As yet no-one has suggested/recommended anyone local to Bath/Bristol, that they've used for smoke tests.

out there has suggestions they'd be gratefully received!

So: thanks in advance guys!



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  • 2 months later...

Hi guys,

I promised you all I'd let you know the conclusion about the fuel smell.

In short, a mouse that nibbled the blue anti rattle foam around the bonnet stay & the red insulation on the  HT coil in September had nibbled nearly through the high pressure fuel line running across the top of the tank at the same time.

I had expected to see fuel leaking if a fuel pipe (I thought about that possibility at the time) had been chewed, but I didn't.

Problem is now resolved, Nik B had to drop the tank & replace the pipe. 5 hours of labour, but an economic repair for the vehicle.

When Nik reported on the nibbled fuel pipe I looked for & found a mouse nest in the Garage  in some polystyrene packing around a (2 wheeler) fuel tank I'd had stored for 30 years. Caught the mouse that got away, before I'd got the nest out of the garage , a fortnight after the repair.

Regards to all & thanks for your comments.

I hadn't realized that leaking fuel could be contained at the top of the tank due to its shape & not drip onto the ground.

At least I was correct about the possibility of leaking tank seams!

With 4  new tyres as well we're off to Scotland next month.  




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