Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Gas Leak From Hell

One of the most dangerous and smelly things to have wrong with your car is a gas leak. When I picked up Number 2, I knew it had a gas leak. What I didn't know was just how serious the leak was. I was pretty sure the rubber hoses going to the tank had never been changed, so right after I got the car home, I put it up on jack stands and dug in.

I swear that these Oldsmobiles were designed for fuel injection. There are no less then 4 hoses going to the tank, one of which is 3/8 inch, and there are 3 more above the rearend going to the vent system. I have often thought of getting an intake manifold off of a '78 - '79 Cadillac Seville, which was factory fuel injected, to use on a 350 Olds. The Sevilles used Oldsmobile 350s that were port injected, not throttle body! I use to see crap loads of them out at Pick-a-Part, just waiting to be cannibalized. Now I believe most of them are owned by an individual who lives out by Little Rock, CA. Yes, California, not Arkansas. There must be 200 Sevilles in this person's yard. I will try and get a picture of this bizarre collection soon.

Here is what the hoses looked like after I got them off. Notice what fine shape they are in(!), and to think the previous owner drove the car like this.... scary! If you have ever seen where these hoses are located, you know it is kind of tight up there. One trick to get the hoses off is to slice each end (the direction of the hose, not across) so that the hose pulls off easily. Use the old hose as a template to cut the new one, this way you won't end up with a hose that is too long or too short.

After all the hoses were replaced I test drove the car and everything seem fine. I could still smell a little gas but it had been pouring down the tank since Nixon was President so I figured it needed to dry out. One of the problems that the previous owner had was fuel starvation at higher speeds. They thought it was a fuel pump or clogged filter, but I just knew it was the cracked fuel lines, right? The outlet hose was cracked so bad it had to be sucking tons of air. The next day when I drove it to work I noticed it was still starving for fuel, and the gas smell was just as strong. To make matters worse, after I parked the car I looked under it and saw part of the tank was still wet! Not as bad, but still there. What the heck?? A loose clamp maybe? No, I double checked them. Hole in the tank? No, it only leaks when it's running. Broken/cracked tube coming from the sender? I hope not! Shoot, am I going to have to pull the tank? Time to put it back on jack stands and do another visual inspection. After a lot of looking and a few choice words, I finally found the source, thanks in part to the gas stain that I spotted above the gas tank.

Here is what I found. This hole was on the back side of the fuel line facing inwards. The metal fuel line had been rubbing probably since Jesus was a child and was about half way through the line. I actually felt it with my fingers before I could see it. I ended up cutting out the bad section and putting in a small piece of rubber fuel line. Guess what? Problem solved! No more gas leaks, no more smell, and no more fuel starvation problem.

Here is what it looked like after all was said and done. You can see the section I had to splice on the left. I also left as much of the metal line as possible because of the exhaust pipe being close by. The dark area on the exhaust pipe is were the fuel had been leaking on it. I think I'll go buy a lottery ticket because I must be lucky!

So now all is safe (relatively speaking) and I don't have to worry about the car suddenly bursting into flames. As was the case here, you never know what you will find when it comes to gas leaks. When checking or repairing your classic car for fuel leaks, always be careful, double check your work, and remember to keep a fire extinguisher close by just in case. I guess I better start gearing up for the next project. Stay tuned for more fun stuff.

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