Old van that refuses to start

I have an old 1985 Dodge caravan that will not start without spraying carburetor cleaner or starter fluid in the carb. Its the 2.2 liter, 3 speed automatic. It acts like its not getting gas or its flooded. It doesn’t even try to start and it will crank until it kills the battery. Once it starts after spraying in the carb. it runs like nothing is wrong with it.

It only has 56,000 original miles and is well taken care of. I inherited it from my gram and i know it has always gotten everything it needed.

I installed a new head, head gasket, timing belt, water pump, plugs wires, cap and rotor, and air filter in the past year. It also has a new exhaust including a catalytic converter. After those items were replaced it started fine for a couple months. This leads me to think its actually a carburetor problem. Does anyone have any ideas ?

PS… Sometimes this van will sit for a month at a time because i just use it as a spare vehicle. But weather it sits for a month or overnight. It still has to be started with spray.



Any ideas? :frowning:

Assuming that it does in fact have a carburetor, the accelerator pump inside the carburetor needs to be replaced. Rebuild the carburetor.

Verify this by getting it to run using your “spray in the carburetor” method. Then shut the engine off and look into the throat of the carburetor while operating the throttle. You should see a squirt of fuel the entire time the throttle is being moved. No squirt means failed accelerator pump. If the squirt is there you’ve probably got a marginal / failing fuel pump.

I had the same problem with my carbureted 1978 Oldmobile Cutlass. I was getting no gasoline at the carburetor until I would prime it by dribbling gasoline down the throat of the carburetor. It would start and I noticed that the accelerator pump was working. I reasoned that the problem was the fuel pump which couldn’t pump enough fuel when the engine was cranking with the starter motor. I changed the pump but that made no difference. Several people told me that the problem had to be the carburetor. Well, I grew up believing that “carburetor” is a French word that means “leave it alone”, so. I finally had an old time mechanic look at the car and he discovered that the a neoprene section of the fuel line had deteriorated down by the gasoline tank. He replaced that 6" section of fuel line hose and the car runs just fine. I told my brother about this repair, because he was having the same problem with his 1954 Buick (we both like old cars). He found the same problem, replaced the line and the old Buick now starts like a champ.

At any rate, check the fuel line from the gas tank forward before you tear into the carburetor. My geuss is that the ethanol in a lot of gasoline today may cause the line to deteriorate.

Another possibility is a float bowl draining out.

Before you try Jay’s idea, try first thing in the morning looking down the throat of the carburator and manually operating the linkage. If you have no spray then, but you have apray after you’ve gotten it running using Jay’s idea, that’s a sure sign that the float bowl is draining out while it sits. The way to compensate for this is to simply put the key in the “on” position for a few seconds before trying to start the vehicle. You have an electric fuel pump, and that would allow the bowl to refill so that the accelerator pump has some fuel available to spray.

Thanks everyone for the advice.
Here are some things to add now that I have a few suggestions.
I dont think it has an electric fuel pump. I have never heard it pump when I turn the key. I have always had to pump it in order for it to start. I think it has an electric choke and fast idle though. It is an electronic carb. It says it on the air cleaner. Well at least as electronic as 1984 could be…
I will check into the fuel line too.
It seems to hesitate a little when first started when accelerating. So maybe that is leading to the accelerator pump or fuel filter theory too.

If you do have a mechanical fuel pump do tests on it for pressure and flow. Sometimes the valving in a pump will become leaky where it will not fill the fuel bowl until the engine is turning fast enough.

Just an idea.

Ok, I will check into that.

It’s an electric fuel pump. I looked it up.

Wow, ok. I will find it and check it.
Thanks !

You may want to reread my suggestion for this condition. The pump is in the gas tank, and if you can compensate by simply turning the key to “on” before “start” you may not want to go through all the trouble of changing it on a vehicle that age.

If my suggestion does not work, then the float bowl draining probably isn’t the problem. Also, if you have spray first thing in the morning (which, based on the symptoms I doubt), then this isn;t the problem.

i looked it up on partsamerica.com and it says its a mechanical pump. There is a mention of an electric pump also though…
i also took off the air cleaner and looked down the carb when someone turned the key on and the was no sound or movement or spray.
I think i may replace the fuel pump and the accelerator pump.
they are pretty cheap and easy to get too.
Does that sound like a good idea?
What else could i just replace that could be worn out at 24 years old that is fuel related except the whole carb?