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Jeep Cherokee Fuel Problem

I was driving my 90 Jeep Cherokee (automatic transmission) last night on the freeway when I suddenly lost power. The engine continued to idle (but roughly) but pressing the accelerator did not result in any increase in engine speed or vehicle speed. The car came to a stop on the off-ramp but I was able to restart it and limp along at idle speed for another few blocks until it came to a stop.

I suspected I may have run out of gas, despite the fuel indicator showing a quarter of a tank but after adding 2 gallons of gas to the tank it wouldn’t start. It sounded like it wanted to but it wouldn’t start.

What might be the problem?

The jeep is new to me but it has a storied history of getting a new engine while under warranty and being stolen twice according to the previous owner. It will sometimes stall but just restarting it always seems to work (until now)

So now it cranks but it does not start at all?

Could be fuel but it truthfully could be plethora of things and we’d just be guessing. To eliminate fuel as being the culprit, spray some starting fluid in the air intake (where the air filter goes) and see if it wants to cough to life. It won’t run long but, if there’s a decent spark, it will try to start.
If it does, your problem is fuel related.
If it doesn’t, it is something else.

You’ve got it. It will crank but not start at all.

I’ll try the starter fluid.

It will evaporate quickly so you may need a helper to start the car while you’re spritzing the intake. Don’t hose other areas down with that fluid as it is highly flammable (that’s in case you don’t like using your wife’s eyebrow pencil to make fake eyebrows until they grow back).

After waiting 24 hours the car started again and I went to the gas station. I’m pretty sure I just ran out of gas. I put a total of 20 gallons in the tank. Is it possible that I drove so far on fumes that the engine needed to cool down before it would start again, or something?

I’ve had two JGCs in my family (out of five) that had flaky fuel gauges. I think you have one too.

Fuel pumps are cooled by the fuel they are immersed in. It could be that the pump overheated as the tank was near empty. That could be an indication that the pump may be on its way out.
I wouldn’t run less than a quarter tank so you don’t get stranded. You may eventually need to replace that fuel pump, though. Since the problem may be difficult to duplicate unless you let it run out of gas, just keep your eye on it.