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Van won't start, carburetor?

I have a 1978 Dodge Champion Transvan and it’s not starting. It was stalling a few months ago and then i didn’t drive it for about a month or so and now it just won’t start. it’s turning over and sounds like it REALLY wants to start. i’d like to not have to take it in but i don’t know a ton about cars. the previous owner said he “adjusted” teh carburetor before i bought it…any suggestions of where i could start?

Maybe you should ask the former owner exactly what he “adjusted.” I’ve always believed carburetor was a French word meaning “leave it alone.”

Have you tried starting fluid? Spray a LITTLE BIT of starting fluid down the carburetor throat as you try to start the engine. If the engine fires, even briefly, you’ll know you have spark and compression, and can pretty much narrow it down to the carburetor, but I think we all know the problem is likely to be the carburetor.

Unless you have a service manual telling you how to adjust the carburetor you’re going to have to take the vehicle to a mechanic. I hope you can find one who still understands carburetors.

It’s also possible that the previous owner was fiddling with the carburetor in an attempt to solve a non-carburetor problem, such as incorrect ignition timing. Anything is possible. Good luck.

Replace the ballast resistor on the firewall. It’s that white ceramic looking thing. This can prevent the engine from starting. Besides, it’s cheap.


It could be a number of things from a nonfunctioning accelerator pump to an inoperative choke to a leak in a vacuum line. I suspect the previous owner was trying to adjust the carburator when perhaps something on the carburator needed fixing rather than adjusting. Or perhaps he was try to adjust a malfunctioning choke.

I’d find a reputable shop with an older mechanic that knows how to work with carbs. Once the problem is diagnosed and repaired this one will probably need to be readjusted.

It’s either fuel or spark related.

If no spark, then I second Tester’s recommendation. A failed ballast is easy, cheap, and a common failure on aged Chryslers.

If you have a spark then you need to make sure the choke flap is closing completely on the carburetor (engine cold). If the flap is closed, then open it by manually, operate the throttle by hand, and note if you see gas squirting from the discharge tubes in the carburetor throat. If no gas is present then either the carburetor needle is sticking closed or the fuel pump has gone out.

(One other reason for a no-start is an obscure one. The distributors use a flat offset tab as a drive. Sometimes with age the tabs will snap off and the distributor will not rotate. Remove the dist. cap, crank the engine, and note if the rotor is turning.)

A '78 WHAT??? In 1978, they were “Tradesman” or Sportsman" and there were no “Transvans” Most had V-8 engines and you had to take the dog-house off to get to the carburetor. Have you done that yet, remove the dog-house?

Check the fuel line from the gasoline tank to the carburetor. I had a problem with my 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass–it wouldn’t start without priming the carburetor. My regular shop told me that I needed a new carburetor. I found a mechanic older than I am and he found a section of rubber (actually neoprene) fuel line down by the gas tank that had deteriorated. A new 18" piece of fuel hose and the car runs like new. The ethanol in modern fuel doesn’t do rubber fuel line parts any good. This may not be your problem, but I would check this out if your problem is fuel related.

Sometimes they tell you anything but “I fixed the problem” while they are selling you the car. Nobody wants to have a mechanic fix a car but sometimes they just fix it and then you get to drive it. It’s possible to spend more money by changing every part under the hood and then still having a mechanic diagnose it. The timing chain isn’t too hard to change. The ballast resistor is a good cheap thing to change.

I’d change the ballast resistor, clean the plugs, shoot some starting fluid down into the carb, and give it a crank or two. This '78 still have points? I think that it is breakerless, but I can’t remember. My '79 Slant is breakerless, but you still have a cap and rotor, which should also be cleaned-up a bit. The “stalling before you parked it” makes me think that you needed a tune-up . . . plugs, wires, cap, rotor and ballast resistor (I keep one in the glove box). Post back . . . this sounds like an easy one. Rocketman

One more thing . . . leave the carb alone, except for checking vacuum lines and electrical connectors. You can screw this up bad if you just start turning screws. Rocketman