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2007 Forester
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Selling my 2007 Forester and I need a smog test but my check engine light was on, so I brought it in for a diagnosis.

My CEL has been on and off for years with a P0456 evap system leak, and each time I've been told that that the leak is just a gas cap issue but I’ve gotten a couple new gas caps and the light always comes back on a few months later. When I took my car in for a diagnostic yesterday they said the same code came on and they couldn't find the problem, so they wanted to run a smoke test.

They ran the test and just called back to say they still haven’t been able to find the leak and need to do another 3 hours ($540) of diagnostic work to find it. They told me I won’t pass a smog test unless I find/fix the leak, and I need a valid smog certificate to sell my car in California. So far this mechanic has done $380 worth of work ($90 for the initial diagnosis, $180 for the smoke test, $110 to fix my headlight, the chamber was filled with water so they had to drain it before replacing the bulb). With the +$540 I’d be at $900+ if I were to have them move forward with finding the problem, and then there’s the actual repair cost on top of that. I've been told my car is only worth about $4000 at the moment so that's a pretty significant loss to take, but I guess the question is: would I be able to sell it at all if I don’t get this fixed and pass the smog test? Also, is it possible to pass a smog test if I just get the code to go away? I have been able to get it to go away for a few months at a time in the past, but I'm not sure if the smog test goes deeper than the CEL code.

They said that the price of labor was so high ($180/hr) because they had to take a bunch of stuff out to access the gas tank since it's in a weird location on the 2007 Forester. No idea if this is legit or not but I did find this video that makes it seem like a pretty involved process. They also mentioned that everything is pretty rusty and alluded to the fact that more things could start breaking if they were to keep taking things out to find the leak. That piece definitely makes me hesitant to move forward with more work as I'm just imagining them telling me everything needs to be replaced....sigh.

Further context about the car: I’ve never smelled gas in the cabin but the car doesn’t drive super smooth and I’ve noticed some sluggishness/sputtering in the past.

If anyone has any advice or similar experience with this, I'd really appreciate your insight. Thank you!
 

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2008 LL Bean (4EAT)
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5,385 Posts
... 2007 Forester... CEL... P0456 evap system leak... smoke test... still haven’t been able to find the leak and need to do another 3 hours ($540) of diagnostic work to find it... take a bunch of stuff out to access the gas tank since it's in a weird location on the 2007 Forester...
I am not sure why they need to disturb the gas tank.
The evaporative canister is outside the gas tank, next to the spare tire well, under the right rear fender.
The hose from the tank to the canister connects on top of the tank, accessed by lifting a carpeted panel in the cargo area behind the back seat.
Fixture Motor vehicle Vehicle door Gas Automotive lighting
 

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2010 X Limited, 2.5L NA, 4AT. Purchased as the second owner in 2020 with ~126K miles.
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2,729 Posts
My CEL has been on and off for years with a P0456 evap system leak, and each time I've been told that that the leak is just a gas cap issue but I’ve gotten a couple new gas caps and the light always comes back on a few months later.
Is this trend continuing?

Some cleared codes are held in memory and some are not. While I don't know specifics on that matter, it is generally major issues that are held in memory for some time.
 

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2012 Forester 4 speed auto
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1,338 Posts
Verify that the purge solenoid is closed when not energized and the vent solenoid is closed when energized. You can do this by removing the solenoids and blowing air into them.
 
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