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Help! Leaky fuel tank in a 1996 OBW. How dangerous?


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12 replies to this topic

#1 MischivousSlpwlkr

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 01:04 PM

The fuel tank in my 96 OBW leaks when very full, and there you can definitely smell vapor when you stand by the right rear wheel. I've just been driving it with a half full tank for the last month, but only once a week or so (been traveling for work). Today I brought the car into my uncle's garage (at his house, not a shop), to do the brakes. When he walked by the rear right wheel he started freaking out, telling me how dangerous it is, etc...Basically telling me I shouldn't do anything until I've fixed the problem. The vapor smell is definitely there, but I don't find it to be overwhelming. So my question is two fold:

1. I have an important doctor's appointment tomorrow, and it's a 4 hour drive. How dangerous is this?

2. Is there anyway to fix this without dropping the tank. I'm hoping that the leak is coming from the top where the filler line goes in, but I'm not positive. Either way, there doesn't seem to be any access. Thanks everyone!

#2 mikec03

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 01:29 PM

It could just be the filler tube. I've replaced two of my filler tubes on a 95 and a 97. You have to get under the car and try to see where it's leaking. If it's the filler tube, you can easily [well sorta] replace it yourself with one from a junk yard. If it's the tank, well that's way more difficult.

How dangerous. It depends on your definition of dangerous. If you knew that a plane had a 1/1,000 chance to crash on it's next flight, would you get on? It's probably that kind of danger. Some would say that that's not dangerous. I replaced mine the day after I was aware of them.

#3 Fairtax4me

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 01:48 PM

More than likely it's the filler tube. There is a plastic cover over the filler that traps dirt/salt/water and causes the metal to rust. Eventually it rusts through and starts to leak. Very common.
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If you can take another car, do.

#4 MischivousSlpwlkr

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 02:27 PM

I don't think it's the filler b/c when the tank was full, gas was dripping down the sides from the top.

I don't have another car to take.

#5 Fairtax4me

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 02:52 PM

OK, there are two access panels under the carpet in the cargo area behind the back seat. One on each side. Pull the carpet back and take the panels off. There isn't much room but you might be able to see if the tank is leaking from around the sending units.

#6 WoodsWagon

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 03:18 PM

As far as it being dangerous, well not too much. As long as you don't have an exhaust leak right next to the tank, it should be fine. My mom's been driving hers at less than 3/4 tank for a couple years now because it's leaking in the same place as yours. The tank rusts through where the filler neck nipple is welded on to it. If you pull the access plate up on the passenger side, you can look down at the tank where the big filler hose joins on. See if it's wet around that.

The tanks are a real PITA to pull out of these, you have to drop the diff, exhaust and rear crossmember.

Carry a fire extinguisher if it worries you, and don't fill it over half.

#7 jamesm113

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 03:20 PM

Is your check engine light on? Should be a EVAP leak...

#8 lmdew

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 07:25 PM

I have a like new Tank and filler neck if you need them. I"m in CO. Rust Free!

#9 MischivousSlpwlkr

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 09:15 AM

Thanks for the reply's everyone.

I made the trip uneventfully, but now I must decide what to do here. Most of the people I speak with seem to agree that driving with a leaky fuel tank is unsafe. I actually do have a small exhaust leak as well, though I'm not sure I understand how the two combined would cause a problem.

As I said, I don't think it's the filler pipe, as gas drips down the side from the top of the tank, and only when very full. I pulled the passenger access panel, and the vapor smell was VERY strong. However, I could only see the sending units, and they all looked to be okay.

I'm not gonna attempt to drop the tank myself, so it may be time for me to move on, unless I can find a garage willing to do it for a reasonable price. Anyone know a reliable place in Somerville/Cambridge, MA?

#10 grossgary

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 09:36 AM

sounds like you got it nailed down to the tank but i would still make absolutely certain it's not the filler pipe - they are notoriously problematic. they fail far more often than tanks and are very easy to repair.

#11 ivans imports

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:39 AM

i'm on filler tube # 12 or 13 thiss year lots of dirt on roads here remove the plastic sheilds as they trap dirt upagainst the pipe and rub trough it

#12 jamesm113

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:46 AM

As I said, I don't think it's the filler pipe, as gas drips down the side from the top of the tank, and only when very full. I pulled the passenger access panel, and the vapor smell was VERY strong. However, I could only see the sending units, and they all looked to be okay.


Which side of the tank? Passenger/Drivers Front/Rear?

There's a couple check valves on the very top of the tank (even higher than the fuel pump/sending units) that lead to hoses that eventually connect to the EVAP canister.

Slightly below that are two hoses that lead to the filler pipe. If those were leaking, they are fairly easy to replace (You won't need need to drop the tank). One is the hose for the filler neck itself, the other is called the air ventilator hose, which leads eventually back to the filler neck.

#13 Ricearu

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 05:13 PM

it could be leaking from the holes in the tank where the fuel sending unit or alt pickup bolt down. Remove your back seat and cargo floor and pull up the "gold" colored panels ( 4 screws on 1, and 3 screws on the other) and you will be able to see both of the pickups. If it looks like its seeping, lightly tighten the bolts to the tank, if that doesn't work, maybe a gasket split.if it did, it can be had at the dealer relatively cheap (alot cheaper than a vehicle fire) all it takes is one chance jerk wad to throw a cigarette butt out the window and have it bounce wrong under your car and up she goes... :Flame: get that fixed please.




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