It's time for a new perfume, Geraldine.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

My 1981 Pontiac LeMans with 60,000 miles on it has a gasoline smell that comes into the car when I turn on the air conditioner. I have smelled it outside the car for some time, but until recently, I never smelled it inside. My mechanic says he cannot find anything, but I know it's there. Not only does it bother my sensitive nostrils, but I feel I always smell of gasoline when I get out of the car. I'm a little, gray-haired, old lady who has been helped by many of your columns over the years. I hope you can help me again now.

RAY: We'd be delighted to help you, Geraldine. And we'll start with a little moral support. Even though your mechanic is trying to convince you that there's nothing wrong, I'm sure you DO have a gasoline leak. You say you smell it, and I believe you.

TOM: Me, too. Obviously, a guy who spends all day with his head up under an engine is not going to be that sensitive to the smell of gasoline. If fact, if you think you smell bad, Geraldine, you ought to get a whiff of him!

RAY: The trick is finding the leak. Years ago, when we first opened our garage, it was a very difficult thing to do. I had to hold my brother by his feet, and stick him--face first--into the engine compartment so he could sniff around. But after he burned his nose on a hot exhaust manifold for the fifteenth or sixteenth time, he turned into a real cry baby about it.

TOM: That's when we started using our emissions tester to find gas leaks. And that's what your mechanic should do. The emissions tester is designed to detect unburned hydrocarbons (which is what gasoline is) in the exhaust. But there's no reason you can't use it to "sniff out" unburned gasoline under the hood, too.

RAY: Have your mechanic poke around the engine compartment with the emission tester's probe. When the he sees the levels of hydrocarbons shoot up, he'll know he found the leak.

TOM: And get it fixed, Geraldine. I'm sure everyone in your bridge club is talking about that "horrible new fragrance Geraldine is wearing."

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