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Overfilling gas tank and non-starting van

We went to fill up the gas tank in my 2013 Honda Odyssey (70,000 mi) on Sunday. The nozzle didn’t click off, and the tank over filled. When we tried to start it, the van refused to start. It wasn’t the battery since all of the electrical accessories worked just fine, and we weren’t getting a low voltage light from the alternator. I tried to do a jump but that didn’t work. We weren’t getting the clicking sound like a bad starter. Anyway, since it was Easter Sunday, it took the tow truck about an hour to arrive. Before we put the van on the truck, we tried it, and the van started up. It’s been starting fine the day after. Could the overfilled gas tank cause the van to not start? If so, why? If not, any idea why the van didn’t start?

“refused to start” ? more details please. Did the starter turn? at the normal rate? or did the starter not move at all?

You will not get a low voltage light without the engine running. This light only tells you weather your alternator is producing the correct voltage.

The over filling one time would not prevent you from starting the engine.

This could be a poor connection at the battery or the far end of those cables. Even a poor connection will allow the current to pass to run the accessories and lights, but when you try the starter, the poor connection cannot handle the high load needed.
Many times the repeated attempts to start create enough heat from a bad connection that this eliminates the problem for the time.

I would pull both cables off the battery, clean the posts and the terminals, and re-tighten the connections.


I predict a Check Engine light in your future.

The EVAP system either allows the vehicle to be refueled while trapping hydrocarbons while venting into the atmosphere, or it forces the hydrocarbons into the engine.

And if one fails, the engine floods, or is hard to start.


The engine (or is it the starter?) turned slowly when it was trying to start. We didn’t get an alternator light on the drive to the gas station. I will see about getting the battery and alternator checked out this weekend. Never a bad idea to clean the terminals on the battery so I will clean them. I’m pretty sure that was the first time the tank overflowed so hopefully the EVAP system isn’t ruined. I was sort of wondering if the EVAP put extra gas into the engine. Those extra vapors were able to clear out while we waited for the tow truck.

I suspect this is a coincidence and the advice to get your battery and its connections checked is the best advice to follow.

The evap system charcoal canister entraps hydrocarbon molecules from the air in the tank that’s pushed out when the tank is being filled. When you restart the car, a solenoid-operated valve (called a “purge valve”) opens a line to the throttle body to allow the fumes entrapped in the charcoal canister to be drawn into the engine by the engine vacuum and burned along with the fuel being supplied by the injectors.

It’s theoretically possible for liquid fuel to be drawn into the induction system and “flood” the engine with fuel, preventing it from starting until the fuel dissipates, like our cars did many years ago if we activated the accelerator pump too many times (“flooded our engines”) but this would be the first time I’ve seen it happen on a modern car. Modern tanks have in the EVAP system a float-operated valve to close the line to the charcoal canister to prevent flooding of the canister if the tank is overfilled. That would have to malfunction. But I learned long ago that anything is possible.

Let us know how you make out. And if you begin to have new problems that seem to suggest difficulty with fuel delivery, or if you get a Check Engine Light, especially if it downloads codes in the P14XX range, this would be a good historical detail to remember.

I have a small update. I took it to the local parts store. They checked the battery, alternator, and starter. All checked out fine. The battery was at 540A. (OEM is 550A.) I haven’t had a chance to check the cables and connectors.

My guess, the evap system and engine got flooded with gasoline. The problem may a faulty gas pump rather than anything with your car. While awaiting the tow truck enough gas evaporated from wherever it was hiding that the flooding condition subsided enough it would then start. One bit of advice, when something like this happens and you suspect flooding, step on the gas pedal all the way to the floor, then try to start the engine. .

If you feel the cranking — that rrr rrr rrr sound – is weak or slow compared to what it used to be, that’s a different problem. But weak cranking could make it a little more difficult to start a flooded engine.

If you have no check engine light drive on, sure it got overfilled and sure the evap system was overwhelmed, but it is only a problem if the cel is on, and it may go away after x amount of miles