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Dodge 3.3 liter V6 hasn't run in 3+ years. Ruined by degraded fuel?

How does one deal with starting a fuel injected engine which has not run in three years? I’m assuming any residual fuel is bad but don’t know a) if injectors and rest of system is completely ruined, or b) how to supply fresh fuel short of pumping the residual from the tank and refilling. Even then, can fuel lines be cleared?

I can imagine a solution for a carbureted engine, but clueless on fuel injection. Is this worth any effort? Any further advice on resuscitating a stagnant engine? Is internal rust or electronic deterioration an equally terminal problem?

Engine ran when parked 4+ years ago, was started occasionally, but has not been started in at least 3 years. Why do people let this happen to otherwise good vehicles??? (It wasn’t me). 96 Dodge Caravan.


The gasoline will be garbage at that age. You can remove the Schrader valve from the fuel rail pressure testing port, jump the fuel pump relay, and pump the tank and lines dry via a hose from the test port to a gasoline container; assuming the pump still works.
Add fresh gas, new fuel filter, an additive such as Berryman B-12, and you should expect some ragged running at first. It should clear itself up.

Do not be surprised if you have to replace the fuel pump. Many times stale gas can shorten the life of the pump and it may not work from the get-go or it may fail at some point after the vehicle is up and running.
The pump would not be trustworthy in my opinion and I’d probably change it rather than risk it dying on me at an inopportune time and could be a good time to empty the fuel tank.

A new battery will be needed and depending on the environment and so on it’s possible that new tires could be needed. This would be especially true if the vehicle is in an area with extreme temperature, direct sunlight on the tires, and so on. This can lead to dry rot which makes them unsafe.

@ ok4450: thanks for the excellent suggestion, I’m grateful for your expertise. Not sure yet if the car is worth the effort…to be determined. If it will start and run, and if it proves to have reasonable compression, it may be worth the cost of tires, battery, hoses and other rubber parts, etc. Next unknown is the transmission. It had been rebuilt shortly before its long rest, but I’ve assumed that deterioration was possible but hard to evaluate; that supported by two local transmission shops, but neither said the lack of use was a certain death sentence. If all else seems good, the cost of a trans rebuild might be justifiable…maybe. Thank you very much for the fuel system advice.

How much gas is in the tank? If it’s mostly full, the gas might not be that bad, and if it’s nearly empty, it’s probably terrible, but filling it full will dilute the remaining crud to a point where the engine may tolerate it. Either way, filling the tank will dilute the weakened remaining gas. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, and are considering writing off the car if it’s going to take a lot of effort, this might be the way to go. If the vehicle was parked indoors, your chances are better.

I had a Ford van that sat for two years with about 1/4 tank in it. I was forced to move it when they had to resurface the parking lot of the apartments where I lived at the time. I threw a battery in it and it started right up. One of my favorite cars, a 1980 Chrysler New Yorker that I got for a couple hundred back in 1995, had been sitting for well over a year with very little gas in it when I bought it. A jump start (and later a new battery) and it too started right up. A few weeks later I had to change the fuel filter. Both of these vehicles were carbureted, not fuel injected, and in theory, with the touchiness of carburetors, should have given me a lot more grief. The internal transmission seals on the New Yorker had dried out to the point that the car wouldn’t go into reverse until it warmed up. After a year or so of living with this, the seals apparently revitalized themselves enough that there was only a very slight lag when cold.

I got luckier than I would have expected with both vehicles. You might also.

One way or another, remove a sample of the suspect gasoline, put it in a glass jar, (a pint is enough) and LOOK at it… Fresh unleaded regular is usually almost clear or maybe a very light green or blue color…Degraded gasoline will be orange to darker orange to orange-brown in color. Also, it will have a nasty “old paint thinner” kind of smell, not like gasoline at all…

If that’s what you find, drain as much of it out as you can, replace with 5 gallons of FRESH fuel, change the fuel filter, purge the fuel lines if you can, and THEN attempt to start it…

Many will say it’s impossible to siphon fuel from modern gas tanks…I have found that not to be true…If you use a small enough hose (1/4" clear vinyl tubing works well) you can usually work the tubing into the gas tank with a little effort. The siphoning process will be slow, but it sure beats the alternatives…

@ Caddyman - I definitely will recognize that smell you described…and can check the color. Good advice. I have not yet determined how full the tank is. I know for sure that the fuel is more than 4 years old, probably closer to six, so I’m sure it’s worthless. I need to find some proper way to dispose of old fuel before I even begin this.

The question is more about how much damage the bad fuel has done - (to the pump as ok4450 mentioned) and other fuel system parts. That plus the amount of effort necessary, plus other obvious needs, plus any electronic issues which might be devilish to track down, could easily make this an impractical project. I won’t make that decision for a few days. At the very least, I need to round up a spare battery so that I don’t kill the one in my own vehicle in the process. Or would the old battery take a slow charge and hold it long enough to at least allow the investigation to proceed? I’ve got a little trickle charger…

Thanks everyone for the good advice.

A battery that’s been sitting stone dead in a car for 3 or more years is going to be utterly worthless. Not even worth trying to charge it.

Old dog here, enough starting fluid can get almost anything going.