Reader Question: Fuel Cap Smell?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Anon asks: A few months ago, I got a new motorcycle. I like the bike and I fuss over it all the time. One time, when dusting off the fuel tank, I noticed a faint smell of gas within 1-2 inches of the fuel cap. It’s not strong, nor can you smell the gas when standing near the bike; I only notice it when I’m within 1”-2” of the cap. Is this normal? Shouldn’t the EVAP canister capture all vapors from the tank? Does the EVAP canister saturate? I overfilled the tank once when I first got the bike; could I have gotten gas in the canister, rendering it unable to soak up all the tank vapors.

I asked the dealer service department about this and they said that there was nothing to worry about as long as it’s no worse than that. They said that the EVAP canister and fuel cap were both all right. They said that, if there were a problem with the EVAP canister, then you’d be able to smell it all over the garage soon as you walked in. I’m not having any problems with the bike either. There’s no check engine light, no stalling, etc.; there are no typical symptoms of a bad EVAP canister. They said that, no matter what, the tank would vent or breathe a little bit. Even though the fumes aren’t strong enough to pose a fire hazard, I’m concerned about breathing the fumes, as I keep the bike inside the house.

What say you?

My reply: I say – don’t worry! This is quite normal. Bike are less regulated than cars, for openers and so don’t have to comply with the same evaporative emissions regs that car makers do. Also, motorcycle tanks are different than car gas tanks; there’s usually no fill nozzle, for one. You open the cap and gas up. It’s inevitable that some vapor will escape, including as part of normal venting. The fact that you can only smell gas if you put your nose very close to the fill cap indicates all is well. I agree with the dealer. If you can’t smell gas otherwise, you’re fine.

However . . .

You are storing the bike inside your house – very different than in a garage. Garages are (usually) not part of the living area of a house and designed for the storage of such things as gas-powered vehicles (and cans of gas, too). There is much more air ventilation – as when the door is opened – and regardless, you’re not living in close quarters with a vehicle that has a tank full of gas in it.

I’ve stored bikes inside, too – and that’s when I could smell them. Now, the smell was worse in my case because all my bikes are older and have no emissions controls and have carburetors – but the point remains.

It’s probably not a good idea to store a motorcycle inside your living space, for both health and other reasons (such as the potential fire hazard). I moved the bike I had inside back into the garage and won’t bring it back inside the house until I decide to make it into a static display – tank (and carbs) drained.

I know that’s not a realistic option for you. Accordingly, I’d consider a shed or some such and outside storage, unless you are able to store it inside with good ventilation – which is hard to do if you live in an area that’s very cold and you don’t want to keep windows open!

. . .

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  1. I have another question about this topic: is it all right to store the bike inside the house for the winter IF the gas tank has been drained first? Also, is it all right to leave the oil in the bike? I saw one article that said to not only drain the gas, but drain the oil too. I get draining the gas, as it’s a volatile substance that vents from the tank. I don’t get draining the oil though, because: 1) it’s in the crankcase; 2) it’s not volatile as gas is. The oil will just be there in the crankcase doing nothing. OTOH, if you forget that you drained it, your engine won’t be long for this world when you start it once winter’s over!

    • Hi Mark,

      The reason for draining the oil prior to indoor (in-home) storage is to keep the bike from dripping, chiefly. I have a rubber mat, which eliminates that problem. Gas fumes, in the house, are the big problem. A health and fire hazard.

  2. “I’m concerned about breathing the fumes”

    Mercola has written about the dangers from breathing in VOC’s from carpet, I think also, vinyl flooring & vinyl shower curtains.

    I’ve read elsewhere about the dangers of breathing in fumes from the fire protective coating in mattresses (& being next to it) and any other fire retardant object, Especially from the likes of, ‘new car smell’.

    Imho, the gas vapors from the cap ain’t nothing.

    It’s a toxic & Geoengineered world.

    And, that’s not even counting the mega-tons of pesticides & herbicides let off from the thousands of single prop aircraft & helicopters saturating the air we all breathe to the point that it’s a constant in the atmosphere.

    /rant OFF.

    I hope you enjoy your bike. Sounds like you like it.
    I still miss mine.

  3. Eric,

    If the garage is integral to the house (e.g. in a bilevel or a row home), would it still be better to keep the bike there?

    • Hi Mark,

      I’ve done so and never had any issues. Garages are designed to house vehicles with gas tanks; there’s usually enough airflow to dissipate any vapors and enough physical separation to keep any fumes that do escape within the garage and out of the living area. This assumes, of course, no huge puddle of gas on the floor of the garage!


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