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My situation is that I drove a few blocks to the grocery store because it was super cold out and when I tried to leave, my car didn't want to (It's still there and I'm contemplating my options). When I got in the car to leave it started but there was a strong smell of gas, and when I pressed on the gas nothing happened except a bit of backwards coasting. I got out and looked under the car and it and was leaking fuel. It was -15F so I'm assuming my fuel line broke or is loose...I've read this is a common issue. I pushed it back into the spot and walked home. I'm in a really rural spot in Montana. I can get it towed for ~$300 (only 24 miles, that has to be robbery right) to a shop that might fix it for $???, hopefully not $????. Or I can maybe convince my wife to tow it back with her Subaru and I can try to fix it myself. Last option...have it towed to a salvage yard.

So my questions to help me figure out what to do are:

1) Can you, or maybe would you try to, use a Subaru with a 2,700 lbs tow capacity to tow another Subaru that is ~3,500 lbs five blocks? The last block being up a bit of a snowy incline.

2) Is it safe to flat tow the broken car a short distance if it is running and someone is behind the wheel of the broken down car? I've read about the dangers of flat towing automatic AWD vehicles, but not for short distances and if it is running and someone is behind the wheel. Is it bad for the car?

3) Would it be worth it to try to replace the fuel line myself given limited experience but the necessary parts, tools, and online instructions?

Thanks for any input you'd be able to give.

  • Check your car insurance - it may cover towing for similar incidents (ours does) – PeteCon Jan 12 '17 at 3:54
  • Does your tow car have a hitch? If not, how are you going to attach the vehicle to be towed? – cory Jan 12 '17 at 18:31
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1) Can you, or maybe would you try to, use a Subaru with a 2,700 lbs tow capacity to tow another Subaru that is ~3,500 lbs five blocks? The last block being up a bit of a snowy incline.

Normally, the rule of thumb for towing is not to tow anything heavier than the lead vehicle. In your case, the towed vehicle exceeds the towing vehicle by a bit. In your case, though, with only five blocks to tow if done carefully and slow (under 15mph), should not be an issue. Five blocks is far less than a mile, even in rural Montana. Problems with towing usually occur due to complacency which starts happening after you've been towing for a bit.

2) Is it safe to flat tow the broken car a short distance if it is running and someone is behind the wheel of the broken down car? I've read about the dangers of flat towing automatic AWD vehicles, but not for short distances and if it is running and someone is behind the wheel. Is it bad for the car?

If the towed car spews fuel when running, I don't think it would be wise to have it running while it's being towed. You are creating an ecological hazard by doing so. If the vehicle is towed slowly there shouldn't be an issue with doing so without the vehicle running. The steering will be harder and the brakes won't function as well, but other than that it shouldn't be an issue. Again, considering the short distance of the tow, there shouldn't be an issue with damaging the towed vehicle.

3) Would it be worth it to try to replace the fuel line myself given limited experience but the necessary parts, tools, and online instructions?

If the car wouldn't move after it was started, there would seem to me to be bigger issues than a busted fuel line. If it is only a fuel leak, I doubt it's the a line which is at issue. More than likely it's a junction or the fuel filter which has split. You won't be able to tell until you get it somewhere you can do a better inspection. The non-moving part (under its own power) leaves me wondering what's going on. Since it isn't moving, this would leave me to believe there's a bigger problem with the drivetrain itself. Something with the transmission or what have you. You don't state whether this is an automatic or manual shift transmission. Either of which could be having a different issue causing what you're describing. Again, you'll need to get it somewhere you can inspect it better to have a better idea what's going on.

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    I just want to underline @Paulster2 's point in #2. The fuel system is generally pressurized when the car is on, so a leaking fuel line will be actively spilling gas when the car is on. This is not just bad for the environment it can lead to fiery death! Which can put a crimp on your social plans. To avoid that pull the fuse or relay for the fuel pump before turning the car on. – Ukko Jan 12 '17 at 14:52
  • @Ukko ... really, if you aren't running your car (and I HIGHLY suggest they don't if it is actually fuel), there's no reason to pull the fuse. Just turn the ignition to "Accessory" to unlock the steering wheel and go from there. Good point here, though. And +1 (if I could) for the "fiery death" comment ... classic! – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jan 12 '17 at 15:47
  • @Paulster2 thanks for taking the time to consider my questions and giving your input. Fiery death has to be the worst kind of death...I think I'll refrain from starting it. I'm coming to terms with paying the tow company and the garage. – Kevin Jan 12 '17 at 20:40
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I have to admit that I forgot the steering wheel would unlock in the "ACC" position, thanks for keeping me honest. – Ukko Jan 12 '17 at 21:57
  • @Ukko - Only if there is an "ACC" position :o) Keeping myself honest as well. No worries. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jan 12 '17 at 22:03

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