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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had my '07 for 7 weeks. When driving with the top off, I noticed the smell of gasoline would drift in and out. When stopped, the smell is nowhere to be found - not the filler, under hood, exhaust pipe - it will magically disappear the second the car stops moving, and reappear when it starts rolling again. With the top on, no fumes.

Only takes 20 minutes of driving around town to give me a splitting headache. It even clings to my clothes.

Took two different gearhead buddies in the car, they agreed - gas. Wife, she can't tell. Took belly pan off, bottom of tank is sterile, no signs of drip, no smell. Drive car without pan and diffuser - no change.

Took it to the Dealer in Newport Beach two weeks ago. They did the fuel system smoke test, found the charcoal canister vent close valve was leaky and replaced - made no difference in the fumes. Took the mechanic for ride, "I smell nothing", of course, this guy has spent his life working with volatile solvents, probably no nerves alive in his nose anyway.

Now I'm tearing my hair out, I spent every dime I had to get this car and I hate to drive it.

Today I read the thread about the Cobra antenna wire mod and decided to do that. As soon as I removed the panel in the dash, GAS! Coming from inside the dashboard. Even my wife can smell it.

So, my theory is there is a tiny leak at top of the tank - too little for the smoke machine to find, or to amount to a drip, and the fumes are wafting through the side rails to the dash. When driving with the top off there is enough of a vacuum created in the cabin that the fumes are drawn out and in my face. Alternate theory is previous owner is a sadist who stuffed a gas soaked rag in the the dash to torture me.

Flaws in my theory? Alternate theories?


Thanks
 

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that is really interesting. I'm checking mine tomorrow! Have you taken apart your side sills? I noticed my oil smelled of gas when I changed it, perhaps an oil line is leaking?

One flaw I can see in your theory is: why is the smell not rearing its' ugly head when the top is on if it's in the dash?

I wish I knew what to tell you. Going to have my car in on Monday and hoping for the best. I'll let you know if they find something else that might help you.

Temp fix for me - drive with windows and top on - and I don't get sick or headaches anymore. The only time I can smell the gas at all with the top up and windows up is when I go into reverse. I have no idea of what that means, but that's the matter of it.

It sucks cuz I'm in AZ and the weather is perfect right now, but... what's a president gonna do?
 

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During this time have you (or maybe your dealer before delivery) accidently over filled your tank? Perhaps the overflow drain tube (16 in the picture) either isn't there or doesn't lead down under the car.

Maybe sniff around the passenger side intake scoop or pull off the rear passenger side wheel well liner and sniff around back there. You will also get a good look at the fuel filler neck/drain tube.
Motor vehicle Auto part Automotive exterior Automotive lighting Automotive window part


Note: This picture below shows the European style fuel filler so isn't quite the same as what is fitted to our cars.
Motor vehicle Engine Vehicle Auto part Car
 

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Hi, kevinthefro. BTW, I'm in nearby El Segundo.

You might want to check with Qais, who has a independent Lotus repair at South Bay Autohaus on Rosecrans by the 405. Qais was head mechanic at South Bay Lotus before it closed. His number is 310.200.0022. :up:

Otherwise, get a bunch of Lotus people togther for a diagnostic party! :D
 

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I think I met you at NE. Hope you solve your problem. I'd hate to find out later that you sold your Elise because of it.
 

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I noticed my oil smelled of gas when I changed it, perhaps an oil line is leaking?
Perhaps I've misunderstood, but if gas is getting into your oil, this could be quite bad. Gas + oil = poor lubrication.

Do you have leaky injectors? Is the car running rich?

Yrs ago, gas in oil often meant the mechanical fuel pump diaphragm was broken, leaking.

Pls keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Baysailor, thanks for the pics. The drain tube is in place and dry.

Demonized, It smells like raw fuel, not rich mixture, nevertheless, I shoved my head in the engine compartment from top and bottom, and muffler compartment, with the motor running and nada. No signs of leaks at any flanges, but I did find a pinhole in a weld on the Borla, and it doesn't line up quite right, so Friday I pulled it off and put a stocker on - no change (except it's too quiet!). I stuck a WB O2 in the post-cat bung and drove around. AFR never varied from 14.7 under 4k RPM, and the fumes were ever-present, so it definitely is not running rich.

Albert, yea, that was me. I think the smell from the dash is strong enough that John, (mechanic at Newport Exotics) can't miss it, so I plan to take it back and let them figure out how this is happening. I will not sell the Elise. There is a solution in there somewhere. The Elise is a thousand times more fun than my Corvette.

The only thing keeping me from taking it to Southbay Autohaus is that the car is under warranty. If I can't make the dealer acknowledge the problem I will go to Qais. He's down the street from my favorite Chipotle.
 

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I will not sell the Elise. There is a solution in there somewhere. The Elise is a thousand times more fun than my Corvette.
That is good to hear! I keep thinking about getting a c6 vette or the new camaro some day as another fun car, mainly b/c i've never owned an American v8 or any v8 for that matter. But i would keep my Lotus as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I think Baysailor nailed it.
If gasoline dripped down from the filler, or spilled from the gas pump nozzle into the cove, it would go into the sill, and the sill runs directly to the dash.
I set my shop-vac to "blow" (bring on the wisecracks!) and stuck the nozzle in the open end of the side rail by the right rear tire, and stuck my face in the dash panel - nothing.
Then I stuck the nozzle in the cove and gas-rich air blew right out of the dash panel.

I thought the best way to illustrate this phenomenon was with an open flame.

I poured several 5 gallon buckets of hot soapy water into the cove. About a quarter of it came out the front. I repeated the air blowing test and it smelled like soapy gasoline. The gas smell was reduced, but I guess it has probably absorbed into some of the materials - I can see open cell foam inside the sill from the door light switch hole.

Gas or no gas I don't like the idea of air drafting from the engine compartment through the sill to the interior, so I will plug this up tomorrow, probably with some latex spray foam.

Baysailor is a genius.
 

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Hmmmm..... blow some gasoline vapors towards a flame.... why haven't I ever thought of that???
 

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Hurray, he's keeping the Elise! Keep us posted as to whether this is truly the problem.

I thought you were kidding about the open flame. It does illustrate the air flow, but perhaps a strip of tissue paper would have worked just as well. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Anybody use the old Freon leak detectors? Basically a Bunsen burner with propane can and rubber hose drawing air into the flame. Freon burns purple, so you poked the hose around couplings where R-12 might leak and watched for the flame to turn purple.
Burning R-12 also creates phosgene gas, (a popular chemical agent in WW I), so we were advised to keep the garage door open when using this instrument.
 

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Kevin - You are the man.

I am definitely checking this phenomenon out if my car is not fixed when it's returned to me. I've been walking home from work every day in the meantime. Good thing it's only 10 miles.

I have a few questions based on this troubleshooting...

1. how do you plan to "plug" this hole

2. was the soapy solution ok for cleaning this, and do you believe one might be able to use some form of a brush, like the kind used for cleaning rims, or a test tube to clean the "gas" out of it?

3. what material has been saturated? the foam you shot a photo of in the picture? can this be removed or replaced?

4. would removing the side sill cover help to clean it?

5. would I be able to call you if necessary to help me walk through getting this sorted a bit better? I am such a visual person, I might even ask if I could drive out to Cali to see you and get it sorted, if you'd be up for it.

6. is there a way to prevent any additional fuel from leaking out this tube and running into the frame? can one extend the drain tube somehow to extend to shoot underneath the belly pan?

7. Has the smell subsided since doing this?

8. lastly, how far along do you believe the fuel has had the opportunity to spread? is it possible that fuel has leaked out and splashed all over the entire belly pan along the length of the entire car? If so, someone is gonna have to help me out with a way to clean that sombitch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
1. how do you plan to "plug" this hole
find some scrap foam rubber and shove it into the hole on the right side of the dash - internally just above the door hinge, or squirt latex (not polyurethane) foam into sill about where the shop vac hose is in the pic.

2. was the soapy solution ok for cleaning this, and do you believe one might be able to use some form of a brush, like the kind used for cleaning rims, or a test tube to clean the "gas" out of it?
I believe the soap helped, but there is no direct access to the sill to get a brush in.

3. what material has been saturated? the foam you shot a photo of in the picture? can this be removed or replaced?
Not sure if anything has been saturated but most plastics don't play well with gasoline. At the bottom of the doorjamb is the switch for the interior light. I pulled the switch and looked inside. Can't see much but there is a piece of gray foam rubber similar to the one in the dash pic. No way to get to it without removing the sill.
I started thinking - maybe that foam rubber was there to block air infiltration and the gasoline has eaten away at it?

4. would removing the side sill cover help to clean it?
The service manual states the sill is glued on and has to be destroyed to be removed.

5. would I be able to call you if necessary to help me walk through getting this sorted a bit better? I am such a visual person, I might even ask if I could drive out to Cali to see you and get it sorted, if you'd be up for it.
Sure

6. is there a way to prevent any additional fuel from leaking out this tube and running into the frame? can one extend the drain tube somehow to extend to shoot underneath the belly pan?
The tube does exit the pan behind the right rear tire. I think somebody pulled a Jerry Lewis with the gas nozzle and dumped a cup's worth of gas into the cove opening. And then I bought the car.

7. Has the smell subsided since doing this?
Too soon to tell

8. lastly, how far along do you believe the fuel has had the opportunity to spread? is it possible that fuel has leaked out and splashed all over the entire belly pan along the length of the entire car? If so, someone is gonna have to help me out with a way to clean that sombitch.
Not sure
Have you opened the dash yet to see if you have the same symptom?
 
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