All gas-operated motor vehicles operate by igniting gasoline within a combustion engine. The heat, pressure, and energy produced during ignition are then transferred through a series of pistons and a crankshaft that turn the wheels of your car. But, if gas is leaking from the system, your vehicle will likely not operate properly and you could be at severe risk of injury.
If you suspect a gas leak, pull over to a safe location and call a tow truck or a mechanic. Do not attempt to drive your car if there is a gas leak. If you must drive, keep the windows open and do not use any electronics in the car. If you are not currently driving, we still recommend calling a tow truck to have the problem professionally inspected.
As worrying as a gas leak may seem, do not panic. This guide will explain a few possible reasons why your car is leaking, how to identify and confirm that the liquid is indeed gasoline, and then walk you through how to handle the situation. Until you’ve finished reading, avoid using any electronics or fire near the vehicle.
How to Identify Whether a Leak is Gasoline or Another Fluid
Understandably, your first thought upon seeing a leak under your vehicle is, “Oh no, my car is leaking gasoline!” But, it’s important to remember that there are other fluids in your car that could be leaking, such as oil, water, or coolant. Each of these fluids has a different process for dealing with a leak, so it’s critical that you identify the fluid before taking any further action.
One way to determine whether the leaking liquid is gasoline is by using your nose. Gasoline has a very distinct and potent smell that is different from any other fluid in your car. If you can smell gasoline, there is a good chance that it is what is leaking.
Another way to identify gasoline is by its color. Gasoline is typically a clear or light-yellow color. If the liquid is dark brown or black, it is most likely oil. If the liquid is green, it is probably coolant. And if the liquid is clear or slightly blue, it is most likely water.
Of course, there are other ways to determine what is leaking from your car. If you don’t have access to a garage or car lift, you can wait until the car is parked on a level surface and then put a piece of cardboard under the car to see where the liquid is dripping from. If it’s leaking from the rear middle section of the vehicle, it’s likely gasoline.
Once you have determined that the liquid is gasoline, it is important to take immediate action to prevent the leak from getting worse and to avoid any potential danger.
What Could Have Caused the Leak?
In all likelihood, if your vehicle has a gas leak it’s probably because of physical damage to the gas tank or gas line. This could be caused by a whole host of reasons but, most commonly, physical damage to the gas tank or line is caused by:
- A car crash: If you have recently been rear-ended or in any other type of car accident, it’s possible that the impact damaged your gas tank or line.
- Rust or corrosion: Over time, rust and corrosion can eat away at the metal of your gas tank and lines, causing holes and leaks. This is more common in older vehicles.
- Bottoming out the vehicle: If you drive over a large bump or pothole too quickly, you could bottom out your vehicle, which could damage the gas tank or line.
- Mice or other animals: Mice and other small animals have been known to chew through gas lines, causing leaks.
Regardless of the exact cause, it’s important to act quickly before the leak spills gasoline all over your carport or your vehicle breaks down while you’re driving.
How to Safely Handle a Gas Leak
Determining that your vehicle is leaking gasoline is certainly a cause for concern. But, there are a few things you can do to safely deal with the leak until professional help arrives.
First, if you are driving, pull over to a safe location, turn off the engine, and do not use any electronics in the vehicle. If you are not driving, we still recommend calling a tow truck to have the problem professionally inspected.
Once you are in a safe location, it is important to take measures to prevent any further gasoline from leaking. One way to do this is by placing a piece of cardboard or a towel under the car to catch the gasoline as it leaks. If you have a rag and can spot the leak, you can also block the gas from escaping.
After you have taken measures to prevent more gasoline from leaking, it is important to call a tow truck or a mechanic to have the problem professionally inspected and repaired. Do not attempt to drive the vehicle, as this could cause the leak to worsen or cause the gasoline to ignite, which could lead to a fire or explosion.
The tow truck will then safely transport your vehicle to a mechanic who can then repair or replace your gas tank as needed.
Can You Fix the Problem on Your Own?
It is not recommended that you attempt to fix a gas leak on your own. This is because gasoline is a highly combustible liquid that can easily ignite, causing a fire or explosion. If you are not a trained professional, it is best to leave the repairs to someone who knows what they are doing.
If you attempt to fix the problem on your own and are not successful, you could end up making the problem worse. And, if you are successful in fixing the problem, there is always the chance that the repair is not done properly and the leak could start again at any time.
How to Prevent a Future Gas Leak?
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent a gas leak. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of a gas leak, such as:
- Regularly inspect your gas tank and gas lines for any signs of rust or corrosion. If you notice any damage, have it repaired as soon as possible.
- If you are involved in a car accident, even a minor one, have your vehicle professionally inspected to ensure that there is no damage to the gas tank or gas lines.
- Be careful when driving over large bumps or potholes. Slow down and take them at a moderate speed to minimize the risk of damaging your gas tank or lines.
- Keep your garage or carport clean and free of debris. If you have a gas leak, the last thing you want is for gasoline to spill onto a pile of leaves or other flammable materials.
- If you notice any strange smells coming from your vehicle, have it professionally inspected to ensure that there are no gas leaks.
It’s also wise to pay attention to stains and puddles in your garage or carport. If you notice new stains underneath your vehicle, take note of their color and odor. If it’s gasoline, you’ll likely smell the tell-tale fumes as soon as you see the stain.
The Bottom Line
Gasoline is a highly combustible liquid that can be very dangerous if leaked. If you suspect a gas leak, it is important to pull over to a safe location, turn off the engine, and call a tow truck or a mechanic. Do not attempt to drive your vehicle any further. We also cannot recommend fixing your own gas tank, as the risks are quite high if you don’t get it right.