With summer upon us here in the middle of Oklahoma the afternoon temperatures can get blazing hot. I don’t like to leave cars out in this heat but unfortunately I do not have a 4 car garage or workshop of my dreams at this time so some of the cars usually have to sit outside and currently that honor falls to our 2001 Volvo S60 T5 and the wrecked 2.4t that I am slowly parting out.
With the forecast calling for near 100 degree temps I decided to start pulling the T5 into the garage before heading to work since that space isn’t used during the day while I’m away. When I returned home from work that first day I noticed the smell of gas when I entered the garage. Since it was a new smell and I had recently replaced the fuel filter on the Volvo I knew it probably was the culprit. I first checked to make sure there wasn’t anything leaking from around the fuel filter. I couldn’t see any signs of wetness anywhere and couldn’t really isolate where exactly the smell was coming from. I decided to take the car to the car wash and pressure wash the undercarriage just in case the smell was caused by any that spilled out on the frame during the filter change. This seemed to help a little but the next time I parked it in the garage I noticed the smell again, this time I was able to determine that it seemed to be coming from the driver’s side rear instead of the passenger side where the fuel filter is located.
I was going to give it a week or so to see if it went away on its own but decided now was the time to fix it when a Volvo enthusiast friend of mine noticed the smell when he was running VIDA diagnostics on the car for me. Raw fuel smell coming from anywhere on your car is nothing to ignore so I did what I usually do when looking into a problem and consulted Google. This brought me to some forum posts from 7 years ago about various recalls and extended warranties from Volvo but most of these posts dealt with issues with the passenger side (RH) fuel pump housing. Since the smell seemed to be coming from the driver’s side and it was very easy to get to I decided to start there.
I removed the rear seat cushion which on the Volvo is about as easy it gets since you just pop it up at the corners on both sides and pull up and out of the car. There is a plate underneath the padding that houses the fuel level sending unit and as soon as I removed the four 10 mm nuts holding that in place I saw where the problem was. The top of the unit was damp and smelled of fuel so now I just needed to figure out why.
My friend that I mentioned earlier just happened to show me the trick to removing the fuel filter lock ring without a special tool. I took 2 long flathead screwdrivers and crossed them over making sure they had a good bite on the ring so that I wouldn’t break any of the teeth off. It took me a while to finally get it to break free and I had to exert a lot more force that I would have liked to on the plastic piece but eventually it came out. Be careful if you use this method to not let the screwdrivers slip lose and snap a wire off of the sending unit or use them close the edge of the teeth and break one off. I don’t suppose the lock ring would be useless with a missing tooth but it’s probably best to avoid finding out. Once I removed the ring the sending unit popped up and fuel started to come out of the top since the tank was pretty full and the car was parked at a slight angle towards the side I was working on. If I have to do this again I’ll make sure to park it the other way to see if that makes a difference. Hopefully I won’t have to do it again and if so I’ll make sure it has less fuel in it as well. I ended up using a pump to get the excess gas out of there which worked out well since I needed some for the lawnmower anyway!
It was pretty clear once in there what the issue was, apparently this unit has been worked on before and whoever did the work had 2 O-rings in there. Which explains why the lock ring was on so tight as well as why it was leaking. I tried to show in some of the pictures how this crimped the sending unit O-ring. Luckily for me I have an S60 parts car in my driveway so I was able to use an O-ring from it and hopefully the small fuel leak will be a thing of the past. If not I guess my next step will be to buy a new O-ring and replace it.
I’d like to also note that I cleaned up the area where the O-ring would be seated along with the sending unit before putting everything back. I didn’t want to take a chance of any debris getting in there and compromising that seal but I also just like to clean things while I’m working on them.
I will be keeping an eye on this for the next few weeks just to make sure the leak and smell is gone. I also plan on checking the fuel pump side as well just to make sure this same double O-ring situation doesn’t exist over there.