oil smell

I have a 30 year old Texaco boiler with a summer winter hookup. Whenever the heater comes on, there's an oilsmell strongest near the basement steps, over the oiltank- heater is at other end of basement. It's a fairly small basement though. We were going to replace the heater, but someone suggested that this is a repairable problem. Something about not all the burners firing, or something like that. We have a contract for maintenance/cleanout, but no one has identified the problem. Is there something particular we should look for? We have no gas service in the house, so that's too expensive an option to convert. TIA for any suggestions.
mm
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Michael Muderick wrote:

It's possible for oil vapors to be given off by the tank via a tiny leakage path as the burner pump starts. And it doesn't take much vapor to be noticeable and irritating.
As one example, if the tank has a gauge on it, the gauge housing could be leaking vapor but never show oil dripping.
It could also be a puff of oil vapor (unburned) at the start of firing which escapes thru the draft regulator or loose flue sections.
A combustible gas sensor/meter can locate small vapor sources like this fairly easily.
im
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