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Engine Oil Smells Like Gas? Causes, Symptoms, and Fixes

If your engine oil gives off a strong smell of gas when you open your hood to check the dipstick, you need to investigate the cause and come up with a solution as soon as possible. It’s possible that gas has landed in the oil pan due to worn piston rings that didn’t keep the oil from going into the cylinders or even from a damaged or worn fuel injector.

While your engine won’t suffer irreparable damage immediately, you still need to find the cause and fix the situation. Although having two fluids mixing is a common problem with gas engines, it still requires prompt attention. Read on to learn why car oil smells like gas, how you can prevent it, and how you can fix it.

What Causes Engine Oil to Smell Like Gas?

There are a multitude of different things that may cause to smell like gas, and we’ve compiled a list of the most common reasons.

Frequent Short Distance Drives

With most gas engines, gasoline can drip down into your oil pan which is a common occurrence. If your oil pan heats up, however, the gas will vaporize. Nonetheless, if you only use your car to drive short distances, you are not allowing your oil to reach a high enough temperature to vaporize the gasoline, which will cause the gasoline smell.

Faulty Fuel Injectors

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Fuel-injected vehicles get their fuel from small injection devices. Since the parts that operate this function are mechanical, they can sometimes malfunction. Gasoline can then drip out and find its way into the oil pan.

Bad Piston Rings

Faulty piston rings can also cause this problem. If yours are malfunctioning, it can cause more fuel to run through the combustion chamber and into the oil pan. This is one of the lesser common problems on this list.

Engine Misfiring

Engine misfires occur when the air-fuel mixture is not ignited correctly. This will cause the gasoline to wash the cylinder walls, lowering the compression, and resulting in more blow-by through the piston rings. The gas will then pour down through the piston rings and into the oil pan.

Using Gas Instead of Oil

While this is an uncommon mistake, some inexperienced car owners have filled their oil pan with gasoline. This could also occur if the containers were misplaced or misused.

Infrequent Oil Changes

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If you haven’t changed your car’s oil in a while, it is possible for gas to have made its way into the oil pan. Even if it is only a small amount at a time, it will eventually cause your oil to smell like gas if you change your oil infrequently.

Symptoms of Oil and Gas Mixing

If a large enough amount of gas were to find its way into the oil pan, these are some common symptoms you’ll need to watch for.

Strong Fuel Smell

One of the first things you can expect is to smell the gasoline in your oil pan when changing the oil. As soon as you try to drain the oil pan, during this process, you’ll detect the odor of gasoline right away.

Likewise, the gas smell may be strong enough to waft through the vents while you’re driving as in the case of extra gas getting into the crankcase. This happens when the fuel injectors get stuck and consequently need to be replaced. 

White Exhaust Smoke

Another sign to check for relates to the color of smoke coming out of your exhaust. If it’s a solid, opaque white, and resembles a billowy cloud, then this is a clear sign that there may be fuel in your oil pan since it isn’t hot enough to vaporize the fuel. This could result directly from problems with the combustion chamber.

The Dipstick Smells Like Gas

Also, when checking your oil level with a dipstick, you might smell gas when you bring it closer to your nose. This is an obvious sign that gasoline has leaked into your oil pan, especially if you take this test a step further to see how fast the oil falls off the dipstick. If it drips off rather easily, then you have gas mixed with your oil.

High Oil Level

You’ll not only smell the oil coming from the dipstick, but you may also see an increase in the oil pressure gauge on your dashboard. To be clear, increased levels in this situation are definitely not a good sign. If you notice that your oil level has gone up significantly since you last filled it, some kind of fluid has made its way into the oil pan. This is more than likely gasoline.

How to Fix Oil Smell

Since there are so many ways for this problem to have come up, we recommend diagnosing every part of the vehicle we have mentioned. This includes your injectors, piston rings, and your engine. Once you believe you have fixed the problem, you can replace your oil filter and pan.

Is it Safe to Drive If You Smell Gas in Your Engine Oil?

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While driving with fuel mixed into your oil will not cause an immediate engine malfunction, it will harm the vehicle if you continue to operate it. We recommend not driving a vehicle if the oil has a distinct gasoline odor.

Gasoline in your oil may not cause immediate problems, however, if untreated, it could cause serious harm to you and your vehicle. The cause is usually simple to diagnose, especially if you consider the common causes we’ve listed above. If you are not experienced in car maintenance, we would always recommend taking your car to an expert before deeming it safe to drive.

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