Car that smells of petrol: What to do?

Publié le 11/04/2023

A car that smells of petrol is never a good sign. It's best not to drive until you've found the source of the problem. And if you notice it while driving, we advise you to stop immediately. The consequences could be dramatic. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about a car that smells like petrol, as well as the various possible reasons.

Smelly car: When does it smell like petrol?

Your car can smell of petrol in different places. We'll tell you about them and explain the possible causes.

At the exhaust

Your car may smell of petrol at the exhaust pipe, which is normally there to eliminate odours and reduce CO2 emissions. In this situation, your car's particulate filter (DPF) is probably defective.

If the filter is no longer working properly, petrol odours and CO2 particles are released. This causes the strong unpleasant smell that you may experience.

It is therefore important to have your particle filter repaired by a garage. Please note that a defective particle filter does not allow you to pass the technical inspection.

Finally, the problem can also come from leaking injectors. This happens regularly and often requires the injectors to be changed. It is therefore important to check the injectors if you smell petrol in the exhaust.

When starting

A strong smell of petrol may be emitted from your car when you start up if you have had difficulty starting. This is because you may have overfilled the fuel pump. As a result, a strong smell is released. But don't worry, this smell disappears quickly when you drive. 

When you turn on the heater

Your car may smell of petrol when you switch on the heater. There are various reasons for this problem.

In the first instance, it may be due to bacteria and mould. Surprisingly, this may be the cause of the odour. In this case, you should change the filters and the problem will be solved. 

Secondly, a petrol smell may appear when you turn on the heater. And this is due to the ignition cap not being tight and the spark plugs being loose. Again, in this situation the problem is not huge. You just have to tighten them up and the problem is solved. 

Finally, it can be more serious if it is due to a leak in the injectors or fuel line. In this case, you should take your car to the garage as soon as possible to repair these elements.

The same symptoms are observed when you have problems with your air conditioning..

When filling up with petrol

If your car smells of petrol when you fill up, there are two possible reasons.

Firstly, it could be due to a leak in your fuel tank. If this is the case, you should see a stain forming and petrol running down the side of your car. In this situation, we advise you not to drive and to contact a garage. 

Another possibility is that your fuel cap is either broken or not tight enough. In this case, you should take care to screw it on properly or change it quickly.


Your car may smell of petrol when you are idling. This may be due to a leak in the fuel tank. You should normally see traces after the car has passed over the ground.

In this case, you will need to take your car to a garage to have your tank repaired.

At a standstill

The same applies when you are stationary. If your car smells of petrol when you are not driving, there is a problem with your fuel tank. You will normally notice a puddle under the car when the vehicle is stopped. 

As mentioned above, you will need to contact a mechanic to have your fuel tank repaired.

In the passenger compartment

You may smell petrol in the interior of the car. In this case, we advise you to open the windows quickly and stop as soon as possible. 

The smell of petrol is toxic and can have an impact on your driving and your health. This is why it is important to stop quickly. 

The smell of petrol in the passenger compartment can be caused by a poorly closed fuel cap. But it can also be that the fuel tank has a hole in it and is leaking. 

In this case, you will have to go to a garage so that it can be repaired and you can get back on the road safely.

Car that smells of petrol: the different possible causes

As you can see, there are a few common reasons why your car smells like petrol. We'll remind you of them here.

External leaks

External leaks, especially in the fuel tank, are one of the main reasons why your car smells like petrol. 

The fuel line can also leak, and in this case cause the same result: a strong smell of petrol in the car. 

In both situations, you will have to take your car to a garage to have the leak repaired.

You are strongly advised not to drive your car if it has a leaking fuel tank.

Inspect engine components

There are certain parts of your engine that may be responsible for the smell of petrol in your car.

Engine components include

If you can, try to find the problem yourself by opening the bonnet, taking the necessary precautions (gloves, masks, glasses). 

In most cases, you will not be able to repair the faulty engine components yourself. You will have to go to a garage to fix the problem.

Check the interior

Finally, you should also check the interior of your vehicle. In some cases, the problem is related to an old or rotten air filter. You will just have to change it. 

In other situations, it may be that the cap is loose or the seal is no longer effective. To be sure, check it yourself by following these steps:


As you can see, a car that smells of petrol is something to be taken seriously. The consequences can be serious if you are not careful.