Dear Tom and Ray:
My friends and I drove my Honda Civic to a hike in the Sierra Mountains last weekend. Unfortunately, the dirt road turned out to be quite a rocky road, and at the trailhead, I smelled gas, checked, and found that gas was spewing out of the bottom of my car. We drove the car back down the mountain to a local gas station, where a very nice guy named James plugged up the hole with a screw and an O-ring, and emphasized that this was a temporary fix. Should I go ahead and get the tank replaced or patched up? One of your previous columns suggested an epoxy patch. Does that work for 1/4-inch holes within a dent? Thanks for any advice. -- Carole
TOM: I'm amazed that the screw and O-ring worked at all, Carole. It's a testament to James' skills that it stopped the leak, even temporarily. If I were you, just to be safe, I wouldn't smoke any cigars in or around the car until you get a permanent fix.
RAY: You definitely need a more permanent fix, Carole. The gas-tank epoxy is worth a try. You have to plug the tank temporarily, or drain it out, because the epoxy won't work in the presence of liquid gasoline. Then you sand and dry the area to be repaired, mix up the epoxy and spread it over a net mesh, which you use to cover the hole. If it does "take," that can be considered a permanent fix, because it'll be as strong as the metal tank itself.
TOM: But if your mechanic can't get the epoxy to stop the leak completely, then you've got to replace the tank. And that's many hundreds of dollars. If that makes you wince, Carole, just be grateful that you didn't tear open your oil pan instead of your gas tank. If you had, you'd still be hiking now.