Things To Know About Fuel Tank Damage

Damage to your vehicle's fuel tank can be dangerous if it causes a fuel leak! You might also find that the fuel gauge doesn't work, the fuel lines leak or the gas cap becomes cracked and doesn't seal properly. And that smell of gasoline is more than just unpleasant -- it can tip you off to a smaller fuel leak you wouldn't otherwise notice. Below, the service team at Capitol Toyota has compiled five things you should know about fuel tank damage.

This vehicle's fuel tank is more than just a bucket of gas. It has sensors and systems for keeping gasoline vapors safely inside 

5. What If You Smell Gasoline As You Drive?

If you can smell gas in your car as you drive, you might naturally assume that you've got a liquid fuel leak from the tank or the fuel lines. While this could indeed be the case, there are other things that can create a gasoline smell. For instance, if your engine isn't burning up all the fuel it's getting from the tank, unburned gasoline vapors might be coming out through the exhaust. That means your engine needs a tune, rather than a repair to the fuel tank. And if you've got leaking fuel injectors, dripping fuel onto the engine's exterior or adding too much fuel to the engine, they may need to be replaced.

 
A damaged or rusty fuel sending unit can cause the fuel gauge to read an incorrect level of gas in your tank 

4. What If Your Indicated Fuel Level Falls Rapidly?

If you find the fuel gauge needle goes from the F to the E very quickly, that might also cause you to wonder about a leaking gas tank. However, this would likely create a pretty large puddle of fuel under the vehicle that you would be sure to notice, and it would create a very noticeable smell of fuel as well. This could instead be a problem with the fuel tank's sending unit. A float sits on top of the liquid gas in the tank, rising and falling with the level of fuel inside. This float is attached to an arm which contacts a metal resistor, which relays the current fuel level up to the dashboard. If your fuel sending unit has gone bad, it may display the incorrect fuel level. Driving around won't harm your car, but you won't know for sure how much fuel remains in the tank, which can be inconvenient.

3. What If Gasoline Is Leaking From My Fuel Tank?

As we mentioned above, you can often spot a big fuel tank leak because it'll leave a big puddle under the rear of your vehicle. However, not all fuel tank leaks will leave such a puddle. If a leak is small enough, the gasoline may simply congeal on the tank and evaporate before a puddle can form. A leaking fuel line might drip onto other components under the hood or along the chassis. That's why the smell of gasoline is often a better, more obvious indicator of a fuel leak than a visible puddle of gas.

A technician drains fluid from this car in preparation for removing the fuel tank 

2. What If I Get Debris In My Gas Tank?

In the fuel lines, a fuel filter is included to pick up any debris that might make its way into your vehicle's tank. Debris can get in there if you drive around without a fuel cap or fuel door, or if the gas station you refuel at has gotten debris into its underground fuel storage tanks. But because of the fuel filter, this isn't something you typically need to worry about. However, if you get a whole lot of debris in the tank -- due perhaps to offroading -- it may be necessary to have a professional drop the fuel tank and remove the sediment by hand. A significant amount of debris could clog the fuel filter or interfere with the fuel pickup system in the tank.

1. What If My Gas Cap Is Broken Or Missing?

Even a missing or cracked gas cap can create problems! This seemingly cosmetic part actually plays a key role in keeping your vehicle's fuel system working correctly. It maintains the ideal pressure in the tank, so the whole fuel system works as intended. If the gas cap gets lost or broken, you may even see a check engine warning light come  on in your dashboard. Luckily, a replacement fuel cap for your car is an inexpensive and easy item to come by.