Thursday, April 16

That Gasoline Smell on Jax Roads

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Since I'm driving around Jacksonville a lot more recently, I have noticed something that makes me kind of ill. At least once per day, I get behind a vehicle that smells of gasoline, and I kind of wonder why. The smell isn't coming exclusively from old pickup trucks, though old pickups almost always smell like something is wrong with them. (I tell my kids that an old Dodge smells like gas, an old Ford smells like oil, and an old Chevy smells like gas and oil.) In Jacksonville, it seems that decade-old compact cars, newish SUVs, pickups, delivery vans, motorcycles, and everything in between, often emit a gassy smell.

The Weather
I am going to blame some of the smell on the weather. My increase in driving has coincided with it being winter in Jacksonville, which means I tend to open the windows or use the AC less. Therefore, I probably smell the cars more just because my AC isn't filtering out the smell, since I can tell the AC helps a bit with the smell.

Emissions Testing
Of the several causes of gasoline smell coming from vehicles, at least a few of these causes would be eliminated by an emissions test, which we don't have here. In fact, it's possible that some of the cars have been modified in some way to smell worse, but I think it's really more about leaky fuel lines, bad canisters, or leaks in fuel injectors or spark plugs. I know for a fact that one gassy car I had failed an emissions test back in Wisconsin, and I think if you showed up to an emissions test with a gas tank leaking or a missing gas cap, you'd get the old failure notice.

Deferred Maintenance
I read that 99% of gas leaks are easy to find. You can smell them and often see them. The people I smell driving around must know something is foul in the state of their Dodge Rams, but fixing the problem would require time and effort. And money, of course. I understand if you have to make a choice between fixing a small fuel leak and buying baby formula, especially if the problem is not going to cause your car to break down.

Laissez Faire
In general, people will ignore car problems if no one forces them to fix them, as long as the car still works. If the police aren't told to pull people over, there's no emissions test, and other citizens don't complain out loud, then the owners of the offending vehicles have no real reason to spend money on a fix. Most people in Jacksonville won't complain directly to a neighbor and don't really want government intervention, which means we probably will have gassy cars until we convert to electric vehicles and whatever problems unmaintained EVs will provide.

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