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Dodge 250 Van Quits On Inclines

Q. Vince, Great to see a site where somebody smarter than me knows the answers. This is about a vehicle:

  • 1981 Dodge 250 Ram Van
  • 318 V8
  • Automatic
  • 82,000 miles
  • 2 barrel Holley
Dodge 250 Van Quits On Inclines

I recently bought this van because although it had lots of minor problems, mostly electrical on a system that had not been cut up, it had a sound engine and transmission. Electrics is my forte.

When I bought it I was told that the gas tank would be empty when the gas gauge read one quarter. Grounding the line to the dash gauge told me the gauge was O.K. At first I thought the problem was a faulty tank float.

After driving around a while I concluded the float was not the problem, instead it was water in the tank which sloshing around when the tank was low would get into the line and cause the engine to quit. It would do this when the car was on an incline pointing up. It always started back up and then after running a distance do the same thing if still on the incline. Filling it would end the problem until it got low again.

My intention was to keep running it and filling it, and adding alcohol to pick up the water and thus hope to eventually run the water through. Getting that tank out is a you know what.

Intentions aside I soon noticed that the level at which the engine would quit as shown by the gauge kept getting higher and higher. Ah ha said I. The problem is not the gauge or water in the tank it is a progressively weaker fuel pump and promptly changed out the pump.

Now the symptoms have changed. The engine will start and run fine for a short while but when I take my foot off the gas it will just shut down.

I have checked for open vacuum lines and can find none. Can't afford a vacuum gauge until I get my S.S. check. I am curious about the third connection, on the side, to the fuel filter. Where does that run and could it be part of the problem? I have not yet changed that filter but can't imagine, since the van will run at speed and load, that is the problem. The books, at least the one I have, don't show all the vacuum lines nor fuel line connections for this vehicle. They skip 1981.

There is one possibility, I think remote, I ought to tell you about. Apparently the van sat for a while, it was donated to a church and I got a really good deal on it, and the interior baffles on the dual mufflers rotted out. You can hear the racket they make. Is there any possibility they are backing up the exhaust at idle and causing it to quit. Could that have been the problem from the git go, progressively more rotten baffles blocking the exhaust system? Engine runs fine except at idle.

Sure would like to hear your prognosis and would much appreciate your help.


A. That engine is alcohol intolerant. So adding more alcohol to the fuel may be making the problem worse. Chrysler issued a bulletin on this problem. Here it is in it's entirety.

Models: All Gasoline Fueled Engines
Subject: Alcohol Blend Fuels (Gasohol)
Date: July 28, 1983
No.: 14-36-83

Fuel blends containing excessive amounts of alcohol (Ethanol and/or Methanol) can affect drivability and/or possibly result in damage to fuel system components.

Described in this bulletin is the effect on an automotive fuel system when a mis-blended fuel containing alcohol is used.

The following statement will be included in all 1984 domestic model owners' manuals and may be used as a guide in resolving drivability or fuel system component failure complaints related to mis-blended fuels:

Gasolines Containing Alcohol: Some gasolines sold at service stations contain alcohol, although they may not be so identified. Use of fuels containing alcohol is not recommended, unless the nature of the blend can be determined as being satisfactory.

Gasohol: A mixture of 10% Ethanol (grain alcohol) and 90% unleaded gasoline may be used in your vehicle. If drivability problems are experienced as a result of using gasohol, it is recommended that the vehicle be operated on gasoline.

Methanol: Do not use gasolines containing ethanol (wood alcohol). Use of this type of alcohol can result in vehicle performance deterioration and damage critical parts in the fuel pump, carburetor, and other fuel system components. Fuel system damage and vehicle performance problems, resulting from the use of gasolines containing Methanol, may not be covered by the new vehicle warranty.

NOTE: Mis-blended Fuels Can Cause A Number Of Serious Problems. In General, Drivability Is Poorer, Fuel Economy Is Lower, Vehicle Evaporative Emissions Are Significantly Higher, And Fuel System Materials Deteriorate Prematurely.

Outlined below is a brief list of fuel system problems when mis-blended alcohol fuels are used:

  1. Corrosion of fuel system components such as the inside of the fuel tank, inside of steel fuel lines, and carburetors (and/or metering systems).
  2. Deterioration or failure of synthetic rubber or plastic materials such as O-ring seals, accelerator pump cups or diaphragms, and gaskets.
  3. Fuel separation into two layers caused by presence of water in Methanol-gasoline blend. The alcohol-water layer is heavier than gasoline and would sink to the bottom of the tank submerging the fuel inlet with the water-alcohol mix. The engine will not run on the water-alcohol mix.
  4. Among the metallic parts which are susceptible to corrosion by alcohol are zinc alloys (Holley carburetors), aluminum alloys (Carter carburetors and fuel pumps), and Terne plate (coating on inside of fuel tanks).
  5. Methanol alcohol can cause paint damage. Do not spill during refueling. The new car warranty will not cover this damage.

If you suspect mis-blended alcohol fuel or Methanol is being used in a vehicle, advise the customer to use another brand of gasoline.

So based on what you described and what this TSB says, I would suggest checking with your fuel supplier to see how much, if any, alcohol is blended with their fuel. If there is alcohol blended with the fuel you are probably looking at dropping the tank and getting it refurbished. There is a new technique that is done that lines the inside of the tank with a coating that prevents rusting.

Let's keep our fingers crossed that the carburetor has not been damaged as a result.

That is the vapor separator. It allows fuel as a vapor to return to the tank and only allows liquid fuel to flow through.

© 2003 Vincent T. Ciulla

Additional Information provided courtesy of ALLDATA

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