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sprinkles08, ASE Certified Technician
Category: Car
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Experience:  ASE Master and Advanced level certified. Factory trained with 15 years dealership experience
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Volvo V50 T5: Lately my wife was complaining of a gas smell

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Lately my wife was complaining of a gas smell inside the passenger compartment on starting. I was getting a little wiff of it also and would describe it as a short spell of smelling exhaust fumes on initial startup. The problem is, we have no windows open, I just changed all 5 plugs to the OE plugs from a volvo dealer and did notice a smoother operation at idle and through acceleration with the 2.5T. It still gets the same gas mileage of around 25 average. 30 hwy and less city, more like 20 when daily commuting. On changing the plugs, I did notice the writing on the coils were numbers in sequence from left to right of 3, 4, 5 then 1 & 2 written in white grease pen or original factory numberation. There was no real difference in the appearance of the plugs showing the small electrode worn away with normal deposits of dark grey and slightly brown on each of the plugs. They were tough removing them and was sure they were original since they were all so similar. The history of the V50T AWD was we purchased from a dealer who bought it at auction from an other dealer in Minnesota. It was serviced several times, as noted to us, and the original owner noted it was skipping and was not satisfied with the job and he was able to claim under the lemon law and was re-imbursed. My wife and I saw the car and drove it without noticing any exaggerated skipping, knowing a 5 cyl may not be naturally as smooth as a 6 or 8 and made and offer and purchased it. After several engine code issues and starting failures we didn't need to bring it to the shop after 3 or so months. We've had 3 1/2 years of perfect performance or longer. Just purchased some nice Michelin Defender sneakers too! She has said she noticed the smell for several months now more noticable when cold. I noticed it was somewhat less after the plugs were replaced but don't know if that is at all related. I've heard it can be serious enough to warrant immediate attention and didn't know if it was common an affliction with the V50s enough to be an easy diagnosis. It's hard as hell seeing anything under the hood. I didn't know where the oil filter was until I had changed the plugs. Can you tell me if there is a common denominator with these engines in S40T and V50T being 2.5L Turbos with an inherant issue with seals or turbos for something?????? I've had a dozen or so vehicle over the last 4 decades and wouldn't know where to begin with something like this. I don't want my wife exposed to toxic fumes unknowingly or otherwise for any length of time with this car. We really like the powertrain volvo has designed but like with all configurations, they are bound to have their issues.
Please respond as soon as possible. I'm going to check back after I eat my dinner with my honey. We're at the end of our vacation and may use the car again for another day trip and would like to fix what ails her. Thanks in advance. Mike from Boston.

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer!


It sounds like you only get the smell after the vehicle has sat for a period and you restart it? If you don't have any fuel smell while it's sitting then most likely you don't have an actual external fuel leak and if the engine light isn't coming on then you shouldn't have to worry about an evaporative emissions leak.


Your symptoms point to a possible fuel injector leak. When you shut the engine off there is a check valve in the pump that prevents drainback and holds pressure in the system. Fuel injectors can develop leaks, sometimes small and sometimes large, which will drip fuel when the engine is off. When you go to restart it then this will cause a fuel smell and possibly light colored smoke from the exhaust.


If you only have the smell when starting the engine after it has sat for a little while then I would recommend checking the injectors for leakage.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

My wife thought it was a gas smell, I felt it was an exhaust smell. I wasn't sure if there were some issues with exhaust tubes under the hood of the Volvo V50 that may leak on initial startup. It goes completely away within 30 seconds but you get a good wiff coming through the dashboard vent ports. Volvo serviced the turbo for a small leak on the seals for oil passing by. I'm too unfamiliar with Volvos to even consider having done that type of work. If there were some residual leaks like you describe, why would the smell come inside to the passenger compartment? Shouldn't it be a closed area so air from the engine compartment never enters the passenger area? This is what confuses me. I like your reply and will note it to Volvo when bringing it in for its oil change this week. There's no way of knowing if it is continously leaking air from the engine compartment or not. Especially if it is what you say it is. The fuel would just burn away that quickly I guess and not be noticable. Thank You for the reply.

The smell can come in through the heater box's outside air intake. Air is drawn from outside the vehicle any time you are using any mix of defrost or unless it is manually switch to recirculation mode. The air intake is in the cowl area above the engine so it's possible that you could be smelling something from the engine compartment.


It's possible that you could be smelling exhaust. Small exhaust leaks can be there when the engine is cold and then seal up as the components heat and swell. If you had an exhaust leak then you should be able to hear it tick or hear what sounds pretty apparently like an exhaust leak if you start it up with the hood open and listen there. If you start it with the hood open you may also be able to smell that it's coming from that area. If it was an exhaust leak and is bad enough to smell inside then I would expect you to be able to hear it at least on a cold start.



Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks. I think you're right. There is a very small interval of clicking sounds which dissappear within 10 seconds on cold starting. I thought it sounded like an old pvc valve clicking but must be related to the smell.


I did remove the vacuum lines and replaced them on reassembly after the plug replacent. Something is surely leaking there to make that sound. I'll open the hood today on a cold start and try to isolate before it goes in.


Thank You!

That may very well be an exhaust leak then. A small exhaust leak can make a tick that resembles a lifter ticking when cold. If it's more of a singular tick like you seem to be having then the leak is most likely where a single cylinder is contributing to it, like the exhaust manifold gasket or possibly that manifold itself.


You're welcome!

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