Fuel system problems post-ethanol use?


I have a '97 Chrysler Town & Country with around 120K on it. Just drove from Georgia to Wisconsin and back. A couple of times filling up on the trip, I noticed that the pumps said “contains no more than 10% ethanol” or something similar on them, but I figured it had to be okay to use…

On the way back (fortunately, within about 60 miles from home and NOT in the Tennessee mountains), while doing about 70mph, the car suddenly lost acceleration. I pulled over, and shut it off. When I restarted, it was very rough, but it ran. My husband suggested opening the gas cap, in case I had a vapor lock. Did that, and no immediate results, but, eventually, it smoothed out. The “service engine soon” light was now on. I was able to drive cautiously to the next exit. I could shut it and start it right back up. I topped off the 1/2 full tank with BP GOLD gas (93 octane), and proceeded another 35+ miles to MY exit. Then, coming up back roads to my house, it died once (quietly, just stopped running and the oil light came on) at a traffic light, but started right back up. Then, pulling into the driveway, it stopped again. Each time, it started right back up, and is now smooth.

Do I have a blockage in my fuel system? Will this work itself out, or do I need a service visit?

Opinions, please!


Try changing your fuel filter.


This car has a returnless fuel system. No need to change the filter.


We also have a 97 Town & Country with 3.3l engine, and my wife fills it up all the time with 10% ethanol fuel from NH, always the cheapest 87 octane she can find. We have not noticed any difference and we have 160k on it.

We did get a bad tank of fuel once, and it ran like crap until we refilled it. Don’t bother with the high octane stuff though, it won’t help. If you check the codes I bet you will find the engine was just misfiring badly, that is what happened to ours.


10% ethanol will cut your power and make you get worse gas mileage, but it shouldn’t make your car run rough or cause any damage to the fuel system in a car that modern. I’m guessing you got a bad tank of gas - that can make your car run terribly, if at all.

Oh and depending on what OBD system you have, opening the gas cap and then running the car can trigger the check engine light.


Thanks, everyone. I’ll assume it’s a bad tank of gas (though I think I went hundreds of miles before she died - izzat normal? Filled up in Ft Campbell, KY and didn’t die until Dalton, GA), and see if I can get the codes out through the “manual” code check method. And, in the meantime, hope she doesn’t leave me stranded or rear-ended by a tailgater, in the meantime! Don’t know if it makes a diff. that my T&C has a 3.8 L V-6?


We routinely fill our '97 T&C with a 3.8L engine with low priced (and low octane) gasoline. Some pumps have said the same “contains no more than 10% ethanol” and it has never been an issue in how our van runs. I suspect you got bad gas. Go to an Autozone and have them read the codes (for free).


Didn’t know Autozone would do that – there’s one right down the street. Thanks for the suggestion! I did do the “manual” procedure for reading the codes, where you follow specific steps and then count the light flashes, and it seemed to indicate a TOO RICH air/fuel mixture – but it also indicated that the battery had been recently disconnected, which it hasn’t! I’ll ask Autozone. It didn’t stall today, at all.


This van has an ODB-II system, and can only get codes using a code reader. Depending on the problem with the gas, it could take 100 miles to soot up the plugs and cause the problem. With good gas in it, the problem appears to have cleared up. You may need to give it a tune-up and try some fuel system cleaner. That should fix it.


If it has a filter, change it.


You have to drop the tank to change the filter. The symtoms she describes are not consistant with a plugged filter.


You can retrieve the MIL codes w/o a scan tool on this vehicle:

Switch ignition on-off-on-off-on. Count the blinky lights, look up in manual.
It sounds like the OP already knows this.