Does the 2018-2020 Atlas Have Leaky Fuel Injectors?

Posted on
Scott McCracken
#fuel-system #investigation
An Atlas SUV with an illustrated fuel pump inside a red flame behind it.

There's growing concern that the Atlas SUV has a problem with leaking fuel injectors. Owners say they can smell gas when driving their vehicles, see gas leaking from the engine compartment, and often have check engine warning lights pop up indicating a problem.

Federal Investigation

In April 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced they'd investigate reports of leaky fuel injectors in the 2018-2020 Atlas with 3.6L engines.

Authorities aim to track down the source of the leak which is believed to be coming from the injectors, but could also be coming from the general area around the injectors.

Anytime highly flammable fuel is leaking onto hot engine parts, there's a threat of fire. Although no fires have been reported by Atlas owners (yet).

2018 models have higher warranty claim rates for fuel system problems, but it could only be a matter of time before the other model years catch up.

What is a Fuel Injector?

Fuel injectors are electronically controlled devices that spray a fine mist of highly-pressurized fuel directly into the combustion chamber. Think of them like the spray nozzle on the end of a hose. The sprayed fuel is mixed with air passing through the inlet manifold to maintain the proper air-to-fuel ratio in the combustion chamber.

Symptoms of a leaking fuel injector

Because the systems are highly pressurized, it doesn't take much to cause fuel to leak out of the injector system. Leaking fuel injectors are a fire hazard and should not be ignored.

Here are a few signs that your vehicle's injectors might be leaking:

  • Fuel odors inside and around the car
  • Increased fuel consumption
  • Rough idling
  • Rough or difficult to start when the engine is hot

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

This problem has popped up in the following Volkswagen generations.

Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.

Further Reading

A timeline of stories related to this problem. We try to boil these stories down to the most important bits so you can quickly see where things stand. Interested in getting these stories in an email? Signup for free email alerts for your vehicle over at

What Owners Say About This Problem

We got our Atlas 12 months ago in December 2018. The check engine light came on a few weeks ago, so we took the car in. The dealer claims that we got a batch of bad gas that ruined the fuel injectors which they now recommend replacing for $2500. I'm very skeptical of the bad gas claim, since the dealer doesn't offer any evidence to support the claim and Shell denies it. Seems like an obvious ploy by VW to get us to pay for an expensive repair on a 1 year old vehicle.

Atlas Owner

Fuel injector cracked at 21k miles while on the highway. Fuel was spewing all over the engine and ground. There was a burning smell and loud winding noise as well. Also loss of power and acceleration. Had just enough power to get off of the highway. Was very worried. Possible fire risk

2019 Atlas Owner

Started the car to come home from the park 2 miles away from home and halfway home the car started cutting out, had very limited power, epc light came on followed shortly by the engine light and a fuel smell. Shut the vehicle off and restarted it while someone was looking in the engine compartment. It was immediately seen that a massive amount of fuel was dumping from the fuel rail/injector area at the front of the engine.

2019 Atlas Owner

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA