You might think it is okay to keep on driving with obvious signs of a fuel leak. No, it is not safe to drive with fuel leaking from your system. While it is true that a fuel leak is one of the many causes of vehicle fires, it also happens to be the number one cause. This is true in the case of gasoline as it has the tendency to catch fire a lot easier than diesel. It is more combustible and more flammable. As such, if you notice a fuel leak, then don’t hesitate to pull over and call your mechanic at once.
Why It Is Not Safe to Drive with a Fuel Leak
Many of the fluids present in a car have flammable, corrosive, and poisonous properties. Gasoline is the worst of these fluids. Your vehicle’s engine relies on gasoline to produce power by igniting it. A simple spark from your spark plug is all that is needed to produce combustion. The good thing is that this combustion or explosion occurs within the confined space of the engine’s combustion chambers.
Now try imagining some of this gasoline ending somewhere else, then there is nothing to stop it from igniting. If gasoline reaches a temperature of 495 degrees Fahrenheit, it can undergo spontaneous combustion. It is, therefore, easy to see why it is not safe to drive with a fuel leak. If the fuel drips onto hot metal, it can self-ignite and produce fire that can spread real fast.
Let us say you are not driving and that the fuel is not dripping on hot metal. It is still dangerous because the dripping gasoline can collect on the ground. A simple spark can set it off. If somebody throws a still-lighted cigarette in the area where there’s a puddle of fuel, then this can also set it to ignite.
There is another danger to a fuel leak. Gasoline contains carbon monoxide, a dangerous gas that can produce flu-like symptoms. You may feel nauseous or dizzy as you inhale the gas while driving. You can also get a severe but dull headache. Your vision can become blurred and you may be short of breath. There are confusion and disorientation. These manifestations can impair your ability to drive in a safe manner.
So you still think it is safe to drive with a fuel leak?
Signs of a Fuel Leak
The presence of gasoline puddle in your garage floor is one of the surest signs of a fuel leak. However, there are other signs or symptoms that may point to the same problem. If you notice any of the following signs, then there is a good chance you have a leak in your car’s fuel system.
- Strong Smell of Gas While Driving
When you’re driving, the fuel system delivers the right amount of fuel to the engine to keep it running. This system is under tremendous pressure to move the fuel from the tank to the engine. Because of the high pressure in the system, it is inadvertent that you will smell gasoline while driving.
- Poor Fuel Economy
One of the classic signs of a fuel leak is poor fuel economy. Of course, there are other possible causes why you may find yourself refueling more often than you should. This doesn’t discount the possibility that you have a leak in your fuel system. Your fuel should go straight to the engine. If you have a leak somewhere, then some of this leaking fuel escapes into the environment. As such, you will not be able to maximize the amount of fuel you have in your tank.
- Rough Idle
There are many causes why you may have rough idling. One of them is a leak in your fuel system. This is often the case if you are also having difficulty starting your engine. These two signs almost always go together to indicate a possible leak in the fuel system of your car. Either of these signs should warrant a more thorough examination by a professional mechanic.
- Presence of Vapor or Mist in the Fuel Line
Modern cars often come with direct fuel injection systems that deliver very fine mists of fuel straight into the engine cylinders. This is a very high-pressure system. If there is a leak somewhere in the fuel lines, the high-pressure can produce high-pressure vapors or mists. If these mists or vapors occur near the engine or the exhaust, then you may have a disaster waiting to happen.
Spotting Fuel Leaks in Your Car
It is often not enough to identify the presence of the above signs of fuel leak. You will need to confirm this by isolating where the leak is. Here are some ways you can employ to spot a leak in your fuel system.
- Identify the Presence of Leaks
Raise your car so that you can get under it. Follow the fuel line that runs from the fuel tank all the way to the engine. Use a flashlight to look for areas where there is unusual buildup of road grime and dirt. These is almost always an indication of a leak in the fuel line. If you notice wet spots along the fuel line, then you’ve found your problem areas.
- Put a Dye Fuel Additive
There are instances when shining a flashlight along the entire length of the fuel line doesn’t lead to the identification of the leak. What you can do is to add a special kind of fuel additive that contains a dye. Pour this into your fuel tank and run your engine. This will help move the dye-laden fuel through the fuel line. You can then use black light to shine the length of the line. You can spot the fuel leak this way because the dye will glow under black light.
- Test with a Fuel Detector
You can also bring your car to your mechanic who can find leaks with a fuel detector. This device detects substances that are present in fuel.
Don’t tempt fate by driving with a fuel leak. If you notice that characteristic smell of gas or any of the other signs of a fuel leak, have your car checked by a mechanic right away.