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I have a 2001 Ford F-150 pickup. When I refueled it yesterday, I noticed a strong gasoline smell and an oily liquid (presumably gasoline) dripping down off the bottom of the fuel tank. Only a small amount had spilled (perhaps a few ounces) so I stopped fueling and drove the truck home. There is no evidence of anything leaking while the truck is parked.

Research on other sites suggests that:

  • this is probably a leak in either the fuel filler neck or the rubber hose that connects it to the fuel tank - not a leak in the tank itself or the fuel line;

  • it is relatively inexpensive to fix;

  • the vehicle is reasonably safe to drive in the meantime.

That seems plausible to me. Fuel leaking from the filler neck or rubber hose would drip down onto the top of the fuel tank and then eventually run down off the bottom of the tank. And the rubber hose in particular seems to be brittle to the touch.

Another suggested cause was overflow, but the dripping started well before the tank was full.

I would like to get a second opinion from this community as to the probable cause, and whether the vehicle can safely be driven.

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I'd suggest you're right in your diagnosis and, yes, it should be safe to drive on a minimal basis. The only issue you might see is a check engine light due to the tank not being sealed completely. Also, your fuel will absorb more water than it would otherwise, though this will still be only a small amount. Be careful while fueling and get the repair done as soon as possible to avoid any larger issues. Leaking fuel is, obviously, nothing to fool around with. (I almost said "fuel around with" but thought that might be too cheesy.)

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    Agreed, although I'd say that if you see ANY evidence of it leaking while parked, stop using it and park it somewhere safe until it's fixed - as all it would need is a passing pedestrian to innocently flick a cigarette end into the gutter... – Nick C Sep 29 '14 at 10:48
  • @NickC: Definitely no evidence of leaks while parked. Incidentally, I called my mechanic today; they suggested that I keep driving it until the fuel tank is almost empty, as it will be easier to fix that way. I will certainly plan to get it fixed before refueling again. – Nate Eldredge Sep 30 '14 at 5:42
  • @NateEldredge ... no doubt about running it out of gas. Nothing worse than dropping a tank which is full of fuel. Conversely, though, it may be easier for them to remove the bed and leave the tank in place ... with many trucks, this is the way to go. Most truck beds have 6-8 bolts and one plug for wiring ... much easier than manhandling a tank from underneath. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Sep 30 '14 at 11:21
  • Thanks. As I noted above, they did end up removing the tank; removing the bed wasn't mentioned. It should be noted that the truck has a shell and a spray-in bedliner, which may have made this impractical. – Nate Eldredge Jun 7 '16 at 14:21
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Following up with the resolution:

  • I was right about the diagnosis. The rubber hose joining the filler neck to the fuel tank was deteriorated and cracked. The same was true of the vapor return hose.

  • I was wrong about the cost of repair. I was charged about $375 in labor and $335 in parts, for a total of $810 (USD). The main labor cost was for removing the fuel tank. The parts were expensive (said my mechanic) because the hose is a custom shape and has to be obtained from the manufacturer; generic rubber hose is not suitable.

  • Safety: Undetermined. The truck didn't catch fire, but that isn't really evidence of anything.

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    Just a note for anyone else looking for an estimate, Chilton estimates 2.2 hrs of labor for "fuel tank removal". There may be additional labor for the actual replacement of components. – Jon May 4 '18 at 15:00

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