Parked for 15 years

I will soon be the proud owner of a 1983 Ford E-150 conversion van with only 46’111 original miles and a much less rusted body than my current 1983 E-150 conversion van. It has a 351 Windsor engine & C-6 transmission. My current van has a 302 engine with an '84 AOD transmission. My concern is the " new " van has not been started in 15 years. I need to know what to do before attempting to start it so I don’t destroy a potentially good engine, or am I better off just doing a body swap and forget about the unstarted engine.

Pull the spark plugs and hand crank the engine, make sure it is not locked up. It you can crank it over, put plugs back it, new battery and try it.

You may need some starter fluid to get it going.

A vehicle sitting for 15 years is going to have fuel system issues. Gasoline sitting for 15 years is no longer gasoline. But instead a varnished up sludge.


Also drain any fuel out of the tank. Gas that is 15 years old will not be any good. Be sure all fluids are full and the hoses/belts are not dry rotted. It would be a good idea to go ahead and change the coolant and oil now as soon as you get it running.

I agree that you’ll need to purge the fuel system.

I’d also want to squirt a bit of thin oil in the cylinders before trying to turn in over…with the plugs still out and by hand.

You also have a bigger concern than startingit…stopping it. By now it’s prettty much guaranteed that the discs and drums are rusted, along with perhaps some line corrosion and drum brake hardware rust. It’s also likely that the seals in the brake cylinders and calipers are probably dried up and leaking. I’d suggest that you pull the brakes apart and do some rebuilding before going anywhere.

Remember, failure to be able to start your car can ruin your day, but failure to be able to stop your car can ruin the rest of your life.

Yes indeed, the fuel system will be a mess…No shortcuts here…Carb will probably need rebuilding. ALL the rubber parts, belts and hoses, tires, brake parts, all should be replaced. All the fluids too…Good Luck…

“I’d also want to squirt a bit of thin oil in the cylinders before trying to turn in over…with the plugs still out and by hand.” Would fogging oil be good for that? It comes in a aerosol can with the plastic straw, I use it for winterizing my boat, what caddyman said with emphasis on tires.

And before you’re done rebuilding the ENTIRE hydraulic side of the brakes, don’t forget to flush ALL the brake fluid out of the system, from the master cylinder to all the wheel cylinders. While you’re at it, drain and refill the differential, the transmission fluid and flush and refill the cooling system, too!

Maybe because I’m a cheapskate or lazy, but before I did anything to the brakes or the tires or the fuel system, I’d do as everyone suggested and see it it can even turn over. Remove the plugs, a little oil in there, try and turn it with your hands on the belt and pulleys or a wrench on the nut on the crankshaft pulley if it fits. If that seems OK, then replace the plugs with new ones, get a rebuild kit and some cleaner and deal with the carburetor. If you take it apart slowly and carefully, do it on a bench and on an old towel so if parts fall off they don’t roll away. Take lots of photos as you go, you can do it. There are probably step by step instructions on the internet somewhere. Clean everything with carb cleaner, wear “exam” gloves (nitrile), and blow out passages with canned air that you can buy at Costco or office supply places. This is a stinky job, some fumes, better done in the garage. Put it together, put the carb back on but don’t hook up the fuel lines, throw away the old battery and disconnect the coil wire. Hook up jumpers from a good battery and try it. If it turns over with the starter, that’s great. Then put back the coil wire, squirt a little starting fluid (ether) in the carb throat and try it. If it coughs once with the starter fluid, you’ve got spark and you can go on to the next steps. If it doesn’t even burp or cough once, try it a few times with starter fluid. After that, it gets complicated.

I think the carb rebuild might be a little overkill. I would definitely dump the gas, and try and pump out the lines, but try new gas some sea foam or carb cleaner before tearing apart the carb. Once the gas dries out there is no more build up and I have started many an old machine without rebuilding the carb.

Sometimes it IS possible to get an unused vehicle started…But after a few minutes, varnish starts building up on the intake valve stems and they will jam in their guides and bent valves, bent push-rods and broken rockers are the result. I have seen this with my own eyes, an old Dodge 440 motor home that was unused for two years…As for rebuilding the carb, you could TRY it (on fresh fuel) and see what happens, but it doesn’t take much to plug up the tiny passages in the feed-back carburetor this vehicle probably has…

I guess I was thinking that rebuilding a carb is not too expensive, just lots of tedious labor. Perfect for a winter garage project. Unless the engine is totally rusted he’s going to have to rebuild the carb anyway (or get a new one), so might as well get started.