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Old 09-22-2010, 07:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Exhaust Smell Through Vents When Stopped

Recently, now that it's cooled down and I'm not using the A/C with recirculate, I have noticed a slight gas/exhaust smell through my vents when I'm stopped. When I'm moving there is no smell. However, when I open my hood and sniff around there is no smell - I have to put my nose right up to the air inlet at the base of the windshield to smell it. I tightened the fuel rail screws as I have seen online. It's not a particularly strong smell, but I'm wondering what could be causing it. As I said I do not smell it right in the engine compartment or when standing around the car - it just smells like a warm engine and like every car. And if I hit recirculate it goes right away. I can also barely smell it when recirculate is off and the heat or A/C is on, it seems to dilute the smell. My car is running fine, so I thought this was kind of an odd thing. Is there something in the air inlet that could be causing it? Thanks.
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Old 09-22-2010, 08:58 PM   #2 (permalink)
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slight antifreeze leak someplace. Engine oil leak. CV boot leak. Start there.
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Old 09-22-2010, 09:04 PM   #3 (permalink)
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slight antifreeze leak someplace. Engine oil leak. CV boot leak. Start there.
I constantly monitor fluid levels, and coolant has been constant and there are no leaks under the car. Just got the oil changed the other day (smell started before), and there are no leaks or anything. Both CV boots intact (one had already been replaced). It's not a very strong smell and definitely a gas/exhaust smell. And I just think it's weird that I really can only smell it in the air inlet/vents. Engine compartment doesn't smell like anything. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with the car, it was just at the shop for the oil change and everything looks perfect. Basically just wondering if there is a common Subaru thing for it. Or if it's a "they all do that" thing. My car does not have a cabin filter and I just ordered a carbon/particulate one for it to install, so that may help. Thanks for the help!
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Old 09-22-2010, 09:25 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Have the cooling system pressure tested. It may be a tiny leak someplace that only happens when hot. can be a heater core with a itsybitsy leak
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Old 09-22-2010, 09:28 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I can also barely smell it when recirculate is off and the heat or A/C is on,
Sounds as if it's not a very significant smell, especially if it's "like every car".

I'm wondering if the rubber seal across back of the underside of the hood is misplaced or missing. Smells, even normal ones, from the engine compartment could escape to the heater intake area. (#7 in this diagram: http://opposedforces.com/parts/legac...ont_hood_lock/ )

Does this happen when you're out on the road, or just parked, say, in your own driveway. (Could it be drawing in exhaust fumes, albeit very diluted, from other cars?)

Is this a "new" car for you, or is this a new symptom in a car you've had for a long time?
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Old 09-22-2010, 09:39 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for the replies. This happens in my driveway, so it's not other cars. It doesn't happen every time, and if it was the heater core, wouldn't I smell it on recirculate too? It goes away completely when I'm moving too. What I mean by "every other car" is that the engine compartment doesn't smell really like anything, but if I press my nose against the air inlet I can smell it. I've smelled in every corner of it, but when I smell the air inlet I can faintly smell it.

I will have had the car for a year this December, and haven't really noticed it until now - I may be being paranoid right now and it has always smelled. When it's cold, I notice a gas smell outside the car right when I start it that goes away quickly - I've been told this is normal as cars run rich at first and as long as it goes away you're good. Doesn't seem to be leaking fuel either, as I don't see anything and my gas mileage has been great. And when I put on the A/C or heat it seems to dilute the smell a bit sometimes to the point where I can't smell it at all, and I never smell it with recirc. on or the windows down. Also, this is with just the fan on and the temp control turned all the way to cold. I have not checked the hood seal.

If I smell the air inlet I can smell it but if I move directly next to it into the engine compartment to the fuel lines or something, I smell nothing. Will the charcoal cabin filter help with the smell?
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Old 09-22-2010, 09:51 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Is there a CEL light?

The gas smell can be a few things. It can be a leaking injector line, a clogged charcoal canister, another posability (replace it anyway) is the PCV Valve.
Cars dont run rich when first started as Fuel Injection solved that issue. I think this is closer to your issue. It is not unusual to have a fuel hose leak going to the fuel injector, as that smell is hard to trace down just by nose. It wont do it all the time. Running rich on is a dying Enegine coolant temp sensor.

Also when was the last time this had a tuneup? before anything else start there.

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Old 09-22-2010, 10:03 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Is there a CEL light?

The gas smell can be a few things. It can be a leaking injector line, a clogged charcoal canister, another posability (replace it anyway) is the PCV Valve.
Cars dont run rich when first started as Fuel Injection solved that issue. I think this is closer to your issue. It is not unusual to have a fuel hose leak going to the fuel injector, as that smell is hard to trace down just by nose. It wont do it all the time. Running rich on is a dying Enegine coolant temp sensor.

Also when was the last time this had a tuneup? before anything else start there.

nipper
No CEL. Tuneup (plugs/wires/etc.) about 6000 miles ago when head gaskets were replaced. Car runs great, very smooth, steady, proper idle speed. It only has the fuel smell on startup when cold outside, so I figured that was alright and since it goes away so quickly. I will look into the PCV valve, how easy is it to replace this? I know it has not been replaced, so I should do it anyway - car has 85k. Should I go with OEM part or will something from the parts store do? I haven't done an in-depth look but when I tightened fuel line screws I didn't see any leaks, but will check again. It also does not burn or leak any oil.
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:07 PM   #9 (permalink)
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A shop can easily trace down this fuel issue by using a hydrocarbon sniffer. It may be a little hard to find right now, and may have to wait for it to get a little worse to find.

PCV valve can be from any place. It is on the intake manifold. Easy to replace.
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Old 09-23-2010, 07:28 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I went out this morning to investigate, and when I started the car, I smelled a noticeable gas/exhaust smell on the passenger side of the car under the hood. It decreased in intensity after 30 seconds or so, but there was a faint smell afterward. The other side had no smell. I looked around with a light and couldn't see any leaks/wetness on any fuel rail hoses, and didn't hear any exhaust leaks. The exhaust/intake gaskets were replaced with the head gaskets, so that shouldn't be a problem. I understand the PCV valve is on the passenger side of the engine, so this is where I will start. Any other ideas would be welcomed. Thanks!
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