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Discussion Starter #1
Hello guys,

I'm pretty upset. I literally just bought the Insight because my previous car (12 year old Mazda) had gas fumes coming into the cabin (not exhaust but gas!) and it caused me health issues. I confirmed that with a Formaldehyde and TVOC air detector which was maxed out at various times.

I've had the Insight for a week and I've been monitoring the air quality rather frequently because I was afraid of the off-gassing of the new materials. Luckily, my car has been manufactured a year ago so most of the off-gassing is already done. But today I randomly turned it on again. I left work, was in EV mode for a quarter mile then went on the highway. After maybe 2 miles, the monitor started beeping: all sensor were maxed out to very dangerous levels. I had to open the windows for 10 minutes to go back to normal readings.

I think the EVAP system is a fault. Somehow the vent valve must have opened and sent gas fumes into the engine compartment and therefore into the cabin. The only reason the vent valve would open would be if the charcoal canister is saturated AND the car had no chance to purge the fumes into the throttle body. I don't see how that would be the case because my commute is 12mi and the engine gets plenty warm. I am aware the Insight has a pressurized tank but I don't think it makes a difference.

What do you guys think? Why would the vent valve open during normal operation? Is there any disadvantage of burning the tank fumes? It's nothing but extra mpg right? (I am thinking of the next Volkswagen scandal here...)
 

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Do you smell actual fumes/gas in the cabin, as with your Mazda? Does your car still have 'new car smell'? Does your meter disclose levels of Formaldehyde and Total VOCs, or does it just indicate yes/no presence?

I guess I'm not convinced your car is fully off-gassed after a year on lot. Your car was "sealed" most of the time (and in steady-state/equilibrium?), assuming it wasn't test driven daily. Actively driving it (opening/closing doors and windows, running air/vents) is what would help purge things best... and that has just started for your car.

After a year of driving/ownership, my own car still has 'new car smell' - with glues, fabrics, plastics (dash, floor mats) and other surfaces still actively off-gassing. Some materials like carpeting off-gas VOCs for up to 5 years. And if the dealer cleaned/detailed the car before delivery, the after-effects of those cleaning sprays could still be on surfaces after use. If the meter only shows yes/no presence vs measured levels, it could detect trace amounts for years.

Worst case, if the EVAP system is at fault, there should be an electronic code of some sort that the dealer can find/diagnose. And the malfunction indicator lamp should come on if there's an issue with the emissions control system, which is checked as on board diagnostics at each start-up.

If you're concerned of issue, it's worth reporting and having the dealership check. Your car is still under standard 3 yr/36k warranty, and that warranty is extended to 15 yr/150k for the "Evaporative and Refueling Emissions Controls System" if you're in one of the 13 states aligned with California Emissions Laws (CA, CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA).
 

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Definitely concerning and you should bring it to the dealership asap.

  • Do you continue topping off the tank after the first click?
  • Didn't you mention in another thread filling up with the car still running? Maybe something went wrong when this happened?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Do you smell actual fumes/gas in the cabin, as with your Mazda? Does your car still have 'new car smell'? Does your meter disclose levels of Formaldehyde and Total VOCs, or does it just indicate yes/no presence?

I guess I'm not convinced your car is fully off-gassed after a year on lot. Your car was "sealed" most of the time (and in steady-state/equilibrium?), assuming it wasn't test driven daily. Actively driving it (opening/closing doors and windows, running air/vents) is what would help purge things best... and that has just started for your car.

After a year of driving/ownership, my own car still has 'new car smell' - with glues, fabrics, plastics (dash, floor mats) and other surfaces still actively off-gassing. Some materials like carpeting off-gas VOCs for up to 5 years. And if the dealer cleaned/detailed the car before delivery, the after-effects of those cleaning sprays could still be on surfaces after use. If the meter only shows yes/no presence vs measured levels, it could detect trace amounts for years.

Worst case, if the EVAP system is at fault, there should be an electronic code of some sort that the dealer can find/diagnose. And the malfunction indicator lamp should come on if there's an issue with the emissions control system, which is checked as on board diagnostics at each start-up.

If you're concerned of issue, it's worth reporting and having the dealership check. Your car is still under standard 3 yr/36k warranty, and that warranty is extended to 15 yr/150k for the "Evaporative and Refueling Emissions Controls System" if you're in one of the 13 states aligned with California Emissions Laws (CA, CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA).
Thanks for replying. I don't exactly smell it but my eyes become itchy. And every time it coincides with high readings. Yes my monitor is very accurate and gives a reading between 0 and 9.999mg/m3 for TVOC and 0-5.999mg/m3 for HCHO.

Actually my car was NOT detailed (the dealer had literally no time that day), which I'm actually happy about. It has a very faint smell of a new car, mostly the leather I would say. But most importantly, my reader shows very very low levels when I start the car, something like 0.01 for both. And then all of a sudden the readings shoot up when I was on the highway today. I've seen that behavior something like ten times with the Mazda, but today, exactly the same happened with the Insight. Now as you said, the system should test for leaks and report an error if something is wrong... unless it's intentional.......
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Definitely concerning and you should bring it to the dealership asap.

  • Do you continue topping off the tank after the first click?
  • Didn't you mention in another thread filling up with the car still running? Maybe something went wrong when this happened?
Somebody is paying attention! So short answer... I have not refueled the car yet :angel: The dealer did the day of delivery though. Also I don't want to talk to them, they delivered me a scratched car and are being quite rude about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7

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But most importantly, my reader shows very very low levels when I start the car, something like 0.01 for both.
Sounds about right. I remember reading this report a couple of years ago where the 2012 Civic was awarded least toxic car. https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/the-most-toxic-cars-on-the-road/


Honda's Enviromental Report for 2019 https://csr.honda.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/NAER_2019_092519.pdf
Honda eliminated PVC interior content on the 2019 Honda Insight.
 

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My car has almost 17k and I’m still encountering out gassing. It shows up as a film on the inside of the windshield. Leather tends to outgas more then cloth. I think your just experiencing that “new car” smell.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
My car has almost 17k and I’m still encountering out gassing. It shows up as a film on the inside of the windshield. Leather tends to outgas more then cloth. I think your just experiencing that “new car” smell.
No, because levels are fine for a while and then they shoot up all of a sudden in the middle of a drive. It goes from 0.1 to 9.999 in a split second.
 

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That's good to know! But there is definitely something going on with the gas itself.
Not saying that your meter is wrong, maybe you drove through dirty air, or if it was the first time your exhaust gasses got to a certain temperature, the anti-corrosion coatings on the exhaust system may have been heated up enough to give off some chemicals. (speculation). Depending on temperature/humidity, fuel from another vehicle can take a while to dissipate.

Although our cars are equipped with a cabin air filter, it's only going to stop physical contaminants, it will reduce odors, but not eliminate them.

If you had an evap system issue, there would more than likely be a MIL, from what I understand most manufacturers don't require a redundant trip to activate emissions control warning lights.

I'm not saying to disregard your issue, quite the contrary, try to replicate it and record as many conditions as you can to make your case stronger. Things like speed change (25-55mph) for example. Temperature, traffic levels, state of charge, if you were behind a vehicle or not.
 

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That's good to know! But there is definitely something going on with the gas itself.
"Reducing cabin VOCs" and "Low in-cabin VOCs" on Honda's part doesn't fully translate to full elimination of cabin VOCs. I still contend that as long as one can detect a new car smell, the car is off-gassing... with carpet/floor mats being one of the longest lasting ones.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Not saying that your meter is wrong, maybe you drove through dirty air, or if it was the first time your exhaust gasses got to a certain temperature, the anti-corrosion coatings on the exhaust system may have been heated up enough to give off some chemicals. (speculation). Depending on temperature/humidity, fuel from another vehicle can take a while to dissipate.

Although our cars are equipped with a cabin air filter, it's only going to stop physical contaminants, it will reduce odors, but not eliminate them.

If you had an evap system issue, there would more than likely be a MIL, from what I understand most manufacturers don't require a redundant trip to activate emissions control warning lights.

I'm not saying to disregard your issue, quite the contrary, try to replicate it and record as many conditions as you can to make your case stronger. Things like speed change (25-55mph) for example. Temperature, traffic levels, state of charge, if you were behind a vehicle or not.
I see what you're saying but all of that (anto-corrosion, etc) would give a progressive increase of the HCHO/TVOC.

This just happened again tonight. I was on the highway, something like 60mph, not many cars around, and all of a sudden my eyes started hurting, I look down at my detector and it's maxed out.

Also, it cannot be from dirty air or another car. When I drive all windows down, the detector is actually pretty much at zero, even on a busy highway. It has to come from inside the car to be at these levels. The only thing it could come from would be gas (when I put the detector near the gas cap it's maxed out as well). To my best knowledge, and I'm not a mechanic so I could be wrong but I've done lots of research, besides a leak, the only system in the car that would allow gas to come in contact with the atmosphere would be the EVAP. And it's valve controlled, either close or open, so that would explain the instant raise of pollutants.

And also, the same exact thing was happening with my 12 year old Mazda, so we can rule out the off-gasing for sure.

I think for some reason the ECU opens the vent valve with the purge valve closed and the gas fumes are vented from the tank and canister to the atmosphere, which is the engine compartment. And it goes right into the cabin. And I think this is not a problem with my car, I think this is by design. Now what would be the reason? Why would the fumes be vented out instead of sent to the engine? This is where I need your help. Maybe because it would mean less emissions at the tailpipe?
 

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And I think this is not a problem with my car, I think this is by design.



You shouldn't be smelling gas inside the cabin. Something is defective with your Insight and it needs to be brought into the dealership. If you don't like the dealership where you bought the car... Do you have any other Honda dealerships nearby?



I've found another owner reporting the smell of gas to the NHTSA. Have you pop the hood and see if you smell gas on the oil dipstick?
 

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Also, it cannot be from dirty air or another car. When I drive all windows down, the detector is actually pretty much at zero, even on a busy highway. It has to come from inside the car to be at these levels. The only thing it could come from would be gas (when I put the detector near the gas cap it's maxed out as well). To my best knowledge, and I'm not a mechanic so I could be wrong but I've done lots of research, besides a leak, the only system in the car that would allow gas to come in contact with the atmosphere would be the EVAP. And it's valve controlled, either close or open, so that would explain the instant raise of pollutants.

And also, the same exact thing was happening with my 12 year old Mazda, so we can rule out the off-gasing for sure.

I think for some reason the ECU opens the vent valve with the purge valve closed and the gas fumes are vented from the tank and canister to the atmosphere, which is the engine compartment. And it goes right into the cabin. And I think this is not a problem with my car, I think this is by design. Now what would be the reason? Why would the fumes be vented out instead of sent to the engine? This is where I need your help. Maybe because it would mean less emissions at the tailpipe?
Not trying to be difficult... and not denying something is there, as you are personally/physically experiencing something causing an issue… but not yet convinced from the data so far that the EVAP system/design is at cause, and that off-gassing can be ruled out.

Total VOCs include hundreds (thousands) of chemical combinations... basically anything with a carbon ring and evaporation potential. Since this is a high concern for you, maybe more exact air quality tools that measure cumulative types/accumulations and disclose the specific VOC fingerprint that would help narrow down the source(s)? This would be similar approach to indoor air quality measurements, where time-lapsed collection is made instead of a snapshot to diagnose what's present.

Per mention of sudden onset while driving at highway speeds, it reminds me a bit of the "warmed electrics" smell I've experienced that comes up intermittently and all at once (vs gradually). I don't have a VOC meter, but it's definitely something I smell... and anything that smells (good/bad) is volatile by definition a subset type of VOC. It could be an incremental source of VOCs that's only occasionally present.

In your older Mazda, gas fumes (not exhaust) were identified as the root cause. The meter picked up formaldehyde and VOCs, but presumably the smell of gas was also directly present. Are you smelling the same in the Insight?

Also, is the design description similar to what you found for Mazda’s design (i.e. ECU opens the vent valve while purge valve is closed, gas fumes vented from the tank/canister to engine compartment/cabin)? I haven’t heard of a design that favors venting fumes anywhere other than the engine, and would hope that 12 years later from the Mazda design, engineering has become more sealed/improved.

Is there another dealer (or trusted mechanic) nearby that you could discuss this with, since you're wanting to avoid the dealer who sold you the car? There are parts diagrams of the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and Valve/Canister/Purge assemblies, but technicians could describe and/or have access to how they interact together.
 

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It sounds like you really know what you are doing with the reader and all. My observations, though, are that the car can easily suck in contaminated air from the outside. Whether it's from other cars or trucks around you or even passing by a gas station, we've notice the car sucks up the smelly fumes into the cabin - even with recirculate on. In my other car (Acura TSX) I have been able to smell the cigarette from the guy smoking in the car in front of me, even with my windows closed. We frequently smell gas while passing gas stations. And those monstrous diesel pick-ups are the worst. Like I said, it sounds like you've eliminated those possible causes. But you may want to drive out in the country where the cleaner air is and see if you still have the issue.
 

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I'm just approaching this from an elimination standpoint, if you can replicate the issue, it becomes easier to rule out variables.

Like the car that wouldn't start after getting an ice cream cone (Pontiac vapor lock iirc)
Or the car that would shut off on the way to work (Chrysler, after passing under high voltage power lines)

There are countless environmental factors. As questioned before, do you smell gasoline, or is it just the itching eyes thing that stands out? Are there any smells present at all? Anything stand out.

Was climate control on? As mentioned, there are 1000's of VOC contributors. Does it happen at the same location, or under the same conditions. What's around the area that it happens (farms, gas stations, factories, fields, waste management or water management facilities), are you passing over a bridge over water, are you near an airport. Does it happen more-so on days of high or low humidity, temperature etc...

The EVAP system should be venting to the engine, do you notice the issue while accelerating, or immediately after accelerating? Is the engine still running when you notice this issue, or has the car gone back into EV mode. I believe it has been mentioned but EGR can also contain VOC compounds.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Not trying to be difficult... and not denying something is there, as you are personally/physically experiencing something causing an issue… but not yet convinced from the data so far that the EVAP system/design is at cause, and that off-gassing can be ruled out.

Total VOCs include hundreds (thousands) of chemical combinations... basically anything with a carbon ring and evaporation potential. Since this is a high concern for you, maybe more exact air quality tools that measure cumulative types/accumulations and disclose the specific VOC fingerprint that would help narrow down the source(s)? This would be similar approach to indoor air quality measurements, where time-lapsed collection is made instead of a snapshot to diagnose what's present.

Per mention of sudden onset while driving at highway speeds, it reminds me a bit of the "warmed electrics" smell I've experienced that comes up intermittently and all at once (vs gradually). I don't have a VOC meter, but it's definitely something I smell... and anything that smells (good/bad) is volatile by definition a subset type of VOC. It could be an incremental source of VOCs that's only occasionally present.

In your older Mazda, gas fumes (not exhaust) were identified as the root cause. The meter picked up formaldehyde and VOCs, but presumably the smell of gas was also directly present. Are you smelling the same in the Insight?

Also, is the design description similar to what you found for Mazda’s design (i.e. ECU opens the vent valve while purge valve is closed, gas fumes vented from the tank/canister to engine compartment/cabin)? I haven’t heard of a design that favors venting fumes anywhere other than the engine, and would hope that 12 years later from the Mazda design, engineering has become more sealed/improved.

Is there another dealer (or trusted mechanic) nearby that you could discuss this with, since you're wanting to avoid the dealer who sold you the car? There are parts diagrams of the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and Valve/Canister/Purge assemblies, but technicians could describe and/or have access to how they interact together.
I do appreciate everybody's opinion and I like when people question me after all that's why I'm posting!

To be honest I am not certain to smell the difference between gas and exhaust. I actually think I got used to it. My wife went into my Mazda the other and said it was stinking when I actually did not notice it. My eyes are actually my test sensor as they immediately start to hurt when levels get high, and they hurt in the same fashion in the Mazda and in the Honda.

I've been doing a lot of searches and it looks like the Insight has a typical EVAP system, no different than the Mazda, except they let the gas tank have a greater pressure. Now the Insight is a hybrid and the ICE doesn't run as much but I don't see what difference it makes if I'm cruising on the highway with the ICE on, the fumes should get burned in the engine and not vented anywhere.

I went for a 20 mi loop today trying to record a video of the meter. Of course the problem didn't occur that time (which is good I guess).

The one thing that doesn't add up in my theory is that the vent valve is typically located right by the canister which is by the gas tank, in the rear. If somebody could confirm that it would be great? If it's true then with the relative winds when driving, nothing should get inside the cabin and I'm back at square one.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I'm just approaching this from an elimination standpoint, if you can replicate the issue, it becomes easier to rule out variables.

Like the car that wouldn't start after getting an ice cream cone (Pontiac vapor lock iirc)
Or the car that would shut off on the way to work (Chrysler, after passing under high voltage power lines)

There are countless environmental factors. As questioned before, do you smell gasoline, or is it just the itching eyes thing that stands out? Are there any smells present at all? Anything stand out.

Was climate control on? As mentioned, there are 1000's of VOC contributors. Does it happen at the same location, or under the same conditions. What's around the area that it happens (farms, gas stations, factories, fields, waste management or water management facilities), are you passing over a bridge over water, are you near an airport. Does it happen more-so on days of high or low humidity, temperature etc...

The EVAP system should be venting to the engine, do you notice the issue while accelerating, or immediately after accelerating? Is the engine still running when you notice this issue, or has the car gone back into EV mode. I believe it has been mentioned but EGR can also contain VOC compounds.
It's hard for me to imagine that such high levels could carry through the open air and then reenter my car. The levels in my car are alarming meaning that if it comes from somewhere else, it is Chernobyl-like amounts of bad stuff. Yesterday when it happened, I remember that it was getting worse when I put the vent on (with recirc off), but it was getting better with the windows down. That means the bad stuff come from under the hood. Now could bad fumes from a gigantic truck or factory be trapped under the hood? I suppose it's not impossible. I don't believe it's true because the interstate I take is between lakes and forests and very light suburbs and there are very few trucks around, but I'll pay more attention to my surroundings when it happens.

I am convinced something is happening under the hood. Could be the evap, could be something else, but there is something for sure.
 
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