Question about 2002 Subaru Outback

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Strong odor of gasoline inside cabin

I have a 2002 Subaru Outback with a 2.5 L engine, 65000 miles, and one really odd problem, at random times the cabin quickly fills with an overpowering smell of gasoline. The first time it happened I pulled the car over suspecting a ruptured fuel line but I couldn't find any signs of a leak. The smell of gas under the hood and around the car was barely perceptible outside the cabin. I restarted the engine and it ran fine without any indication of a problem, and acceleration under load was normal. The smell dissipated fairly quick. I took the car into the dealer to get it checked out but they couldn't find anything wrong with the vehicle. This problem has occurred about 3 more times over the past year and the dealer has never been able to find any problem.  The service manager said there was a pressure relief valve on a canister somewhere in the evaporative recovery system that might occasionally blow open and could be the source of the fumes inside the cabin. This explanation seems reasonable considering the symptoms, but what can be done to prevent it from happening again? I do have a third party locking gas cap on the car that seems to trigger the "check engine" light and report an evaporative system leak code on the OBD. Could that have something to do with this problem? 
Any advice would be appreciated.

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  • 4lawyer Jan 12, 2009

    2001 Subaru Outback. 111,000 miles. Last year drove in the snow and car filled with gas smell. Got so giddy, I backed into 2 things and just avoided a ditch. This year is happening every time i put the heat on. Just had fuel lines replaced. Did not help.

  • Anonymous Jan 15, 2009

    i have an 02 outback wagon and have the same problem.  It seems to only happen when it is very cold outside and the heat is on.  I also took it to the Subaru dealer and they could not find the problem or solution.



  • sashi1220 Jan 23, 2009

    we have the same problem with our 2001 outback. It's driving us crazy! It smells like gasoline when we're driving sometimes and last week when it was -20 degrees out we let it run for a few minutes before driving it and as soon as we got in the car to drive it, it stunk! We're taking it in to the dealership today - we'll keep you posted.

  • Oenomel Jan 26, 2009

    2002 Outback wagon, 36k, this is the third winter we've had the car and we just started getting the gas smell in the cabin this year. In the last 3 mos I've had the headgaskets replaced, timingbelt replaced, all the drive belts, and new rotors and pads on all four.

    Calling the dealership tomorrow. They damn well better be able to fix it.


  • Anonymous Feb 03, 2009

    I have exactly the same problem with my 2003 Outback. Terrible.

  • Anonymous Feb 04, 2009

    I have a strong gas odor in cabin when cold on a 2002 Subaru outback 205 4cyl. Someone mentioned a hose that shrinks in cold weather . Can be replaced or clamps tightened. Please repond.

  • neil700 May 11, 2010

    If you're getting any type of headache, or you feel like it's making you light headed, document this. See a doctor, maybe even get a blood test. Then I would suggest writing the dealership, or where you purchased it. And if you don't get a good answer or repair, write the manufacturer. Breathing in gasoline fumes, I would imagine, is very hazardous to your health, and they should respond accordingly.

  • Brandon Jan 03, 2013

    i have a 2000 outback limited with 179k miles and had the same problem. Strong smell only in the cold when the heat was on and got stronger when i was stopped. but there is a really easy fix and 9 out of 10 times with an '00 to '04 legacy or outback there will be a 3-4 inch fuel hose behind the bracket that the power steering hoses connect to. it tends to shrink in the cold and wont connect all the way. Just replace it and you should be good. It's pretty cheap and i bet a 6yr old could figure it out.

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The is a short rubber hose in the the fuel line that connects to metal tubes on the driver side of the engine. When it is cold, the rubber shrinks, and if the clamps are loose, the fuel will leak from there. Tighten the clamps or replace the short hose with a hose that has some flex, a bit long, to accommodate the shrinkage movement. 
Good luck with the dealer, because when the engine heats up the hose the fuel does not leak at all. This was a recall on WRXs but even with the same setup, Subaru denies there is an issue in the 2.5 fuel line layout.  My dealer told me to call a tow truck when it happens again, no matter where or when, and bring it in?!?!?!

Posted on Jan 15, 2009

  • Gabriel Caro
    Gabriel Caro Aug 30, 2015

    under that cover are two clamps that may be loose tighten or change them they were my prolbem





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Take a look at this post which just resolved my problem with a phillips head and 2 minutes--I actually used a drill and it took about 30 seconds since it's freezing F'ing cold out!!! Thank you soooo much--my girlfriend wouldn 't drive in the car with me anymore since it stunk so bad! http://www.****.com/fuelline/fuelline.html

Posted on Jan 14, 2010

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Same problem w/ Subaru 2002 outback - every winter a fuel smell in the car when the heat was on. Dealer could never find a problem. Local mechanic noted the shrinking of the fuel line w/ the cold weather, replaced the clamps and smell went away. I have had to do this each winter (3 yrs now). I recommend leaving it overnight w/ the mechanic so they can start the car in the morning, when its cold and the problem is worst.

Posted on Nov 08, 2009

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Also, in the 2002 Outback, the hoses exiting the fuel filter will leak in the cold weather. We didn't think we could make it home one evening as we left a concert. The temperature had dropped 40 degrees from when we arrived, ending up -10 F. The fuel smell was so strong I thought we would suffocate, so we drove 15 miles in that cold with the windows down! Annoying!!! It cured it when I tightened those two hose clamps as far as possible.

Posted on Nov 16, 2015

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This is very typical of older Subaru's, especially when it gets very cold outside. The issue is the short fuel hoses under the intake manifold to the fuel injectors. Any Subaru dealer ought to be familiar with this problem. During the cold, the hoses...especially as they age, shrink in the cold and leak. Replacing them along with the clamps will solve your problem.

Posted on Sep 20, 2014

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