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Old 05-05-2003, 06:37 PM   #1
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1968 17' Caravel
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Unhappy I think my tow vehicle's a lemon!

Last week I took my new '95 E150 over to a friends house to pick up the hitch he was selling me, and the next day I was supposed to bring tow over the trailer to have the friction sway control ball attached to the tounge, but I had to postpone because the ASB light came on on the van during the drive home. So away it went to the ford dealer, and they replaced the ABS computer for $1100 - ugh. But that's ok, you always expect some repairs when you get a used vehicle.

So everything seems ok, and my husband uses it to take our packages to the post office at the end of the day today, and comes back and parks it on the gravel next to the driveway. Then he goes out to leave for a meeting about a half hour later, and I walked out to the car with him, and when he backed up I noticed a two foot dark puddle on the gravel where he had been parked. So I signalled him to stop while I checked it out - GAS! So he pulled the van back up onto the paved part of the driveway and took my Bronco instead.

Well, I can see where there's marks on the gas tank where something stained it, must be the gas, but how could they have missed this at Ford just a few days ago? And now it's not dripping anything on the driveway, even though it left a substantial puddle on the gravel. I even started it and let it run (once the gas fumes had dissipated). Nothing. How aggrivating. We were going to take the trailer over to our friend's tomorrow, but now it looks like we'll be putting that off again while we find the gas leak. Two rather serious problems in a week is bad news only a week after bringing it home! And to think I bought it so we'd all have a safe reliable tow vehicle for the new trailer. If this keeps up I won't trust it to tow the AS!


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Old 05-05-2003, 06:42 PM   #2
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Sorry to hear that Steph. Hopefully they are isolated happenings and you'll get back on track soon.


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Old 05-05-2003, 07:13 PM   #3
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Gas leak?

Steph, I too have had a "mysterous" gas leak ... in my Astro van! I've noticed the smell has a pattern. I've just filled up, and it's a hot day. It only happened occasionally during the summer before, then never again this winter - spring. I was able to figure out that somehow the gas either came out the filler hose and stuck in the drain hose by the fillerneck - only to come out after I moved OR it vented out on a hot day (both times only when it was sunny). I work nights, so I'm trying to figure out if this happened on one of our WA sunny days recently, or am I barking up the wrong tree. One thing on mine though, it did not leave a puddle, just enough for the smell to drive me crazy.

You may want to look to see if somehow when the dealer was diagnosing the brakes if they disrupted the fuel lines at all? Did the prevous seller have any problems reported?

I know your feelings about an unreliable truck, I don't trust the Astro as is (possibly leaking head gasket now - it's been a bucket of bolts!). I'll be looking for a new something soon!
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Old 05-05-2003, 07:38 PM   #4
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I think my tow vehicle's a lemon!

Greetings Stephanie!

There is nothing more discouraging than difficulties with a recently acquired vehicle. What you are experiencing may not be a serious problem, but is one that needs attention. Some of the culprits that I have encountered included:

1. Defective filler neck connector hose, or loose clamps on either end of the hose. On at least two of my vehicles this has caused a problem when the tank was completely filled and then sat out in the sun on a warm day - - fuel would begin seeping or leaking out the areas where the hose was clamped onto the fixed part of the filler or the tank itself. In either case clamps or a new hose the fix was neither costly or difficult.

2. Pin holes, or rust out on top of the tank. This was a big problem with my mid-1970s GM vehicles in the humid areas of Southern Illinois. At something between 5 and 8 year intervals, all of a sudden a puddle would appear under the car with no visible damage to the visible portions of the tank - - when the tank was dropped, the top side would be riddled with pin holes or would be nearly entirely rusted. This may not be the case with your 1990s Ford as it may have been equipped with something other than a steel gas tank.

3. Vapor or fuel return lines may be leaking, loose, or disconnected. (It is also remotely possible that a malfunctioning vapor cannister could cause some fuel to percolate through the system. I only had this problem with one vehicle, and it was a '71 Buick.) With fuel injection, the fuel return line to the tank has caused problems on each of my fuel injected vehicles after approximately 50,000 miles - - replacing the non-metalic fuel return lines cured the problem in each case.

4. A leaking fuel filter could also cause a puddle like you are seeing. This would be a long shot, but according to the mechanic that services my tow vehicle it is one of the more overlooked regular service/maintenance issues (when I had my father's recently acquired '94 Chevrolet Blazer serviced my mechanic didn't think that the filter had ever been changed and it was leaking).

5. My '75 Cadillac Eldorado had to have one of the more unusual such leaks. It only happened when I filled the tank very full on a warm day and then didn't drive it at least ten miles. A puddle would form almost dead center under the tank - - as it turned out a mechanic had left the gasket around the fuel sending unit out and the fuel was being forced out around the sending unit due to the lack of the gasket.

Good luck in locating your fuelish gremlin.

Kevin D. Allen
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Old 05-05-2003, 07:39 PM   #5
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Funny you say that, because we did just fill it up on Saturday, for the first time since we bought it. I was thinking there might be a loose connection at the junction where the filler tube goes into the tank, causing the gas to leak down or spill out. Today was a warm day, compared to recent weather. I don't know if that makes any difference.

I'm just sure this is exactly the tow vehicle for us, if we can just work the bugs out. Just wasn't expecting so many bugs so soon I guess!

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Old 05-05-2003, 08:02 PM   #6
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"Funny you say that, because we did just fill it up on Saturday, for the first time since we bought it... Today was a warm day..."

Might be a problem with the tank venting system.

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Old 05-05-2003, 10:26 PM   #7
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That's odd on the fuel. That van should be new enough that if it had a leak in the fuel system it should trip a check engine light (Part of OBDII emissions). Did you atempt to top it off and get that least drop in? Maybe some ran down the filler neck and puddled on the top of the tank?

Yep used vehicles and even new vehicles will toss you a few curves.

The Suburban I picked up was VERY well maintained. Still found a few problems I am taking care of. The PO didn't put many miles on it in the last couple years and some "age" problems are creaping up. I have spent over $500 on it since I bought it. No big deal stuff but still things I wanted to take care of. Shocks appear original and time to be replaced, replaced a couple hoses that appeared original and had age cracking, Thermostatic fan clutch has seen better day's and causing it to run a little warm at idle with the A/C on. Bad exhaust gasket that I need to replace this weekend. O2 sensor was due to be changed. Did a full blown Tune up including plugs, wires, cap, button and timming. Chasing a surge at cruising speed that I think I have about got rid of. Most of it was old plug wires. I think the last will be a dirty fuel filter.
Found a couple items that were the fault of others that had serviced the vehicle. Heck the funniest is I found a problem that I found a complaint on from the PO's PO. This truck had a problem with intermitant High on the blower and it was back at the dealer for this complaint when it was about a year old according to the paperwork that came with the truck. Whoever wired the truck for the trailer brakes left a nut loose on a terminal block 13 years ago! It has been in multiple times for this complaint including the week before I purchaced it! I found it after looking at a wiring diagram for ten minutes and testing a few points with a test light LOL.

Not at all unhappy with it and like I said the PO took great care of the vehicle. Just had not drove it much and didn't notice a few items that had crept up. He's the type that had he known there was a problem it would have been taken care of. It was by far the best one in Atlanta when I was ready to buy. I'm sure I would have spent far more on any of the other trucks to get them up to snuff. I still feel ahead with this one by a long shot.

Thankfully I'm pretty handy and can take care of these things myself. The PO was also super nice and gave me a factory service manual and it's helping a ton. I would have been well over $1k in minor repairs if I had to take it to somebody to do this work.

Once you work through a few bugs you will be happy with your new tow rig. It's just showing it's age and better you find the problems now then when your 1,000 miles from home in the middle of nowhere. Give it some TLC.
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Old 05-05-2003, 10:41 PM   #8
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1100 bucks for an ABS controller! At least you know the PO wasn't trying to cover anything up or else they would have simply pulled the ABS indicator bulb out, the easiest fix by far but not necessarily the safest. As far as the fuel leak maybe someone replaced the fuel pump and failed to reconnect all the hoses correctly. I had a fuel pump replaced on a service truck I had years back and they failed to hook up the fill spout. My first fill up was pretty exciting!

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Old 05-05-2003, 11:32 PM   #9
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The first time I filled up my Bronco I was beginning to think the filler tube wasn't hooked up - I actually looked under the truck to see if the gas was pouring back out somewhere :-) Just a really big tank.

I'll give the van a good going over tomorrow. My husband's got to be at a meeting all day, and I'll have nothing else to do but tinker with my trailer and tow vehicle. I really think the advice to check the vent hose, filler tube, etc sounds good. Seems like fuel pump or fuel filter problems would leak pretty constantly. This must be a full tank issue, or a warmed up issue, since it did it right after a trip into town and back. I'll try not to blow myself up troubleshooting it (and I'll keep it far away from the AS while I do it)!

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Old 05-06-2003, 07:57 AM   #10
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Fuel Filters

I have had problems with fuel filters rusting out on both Ford and GM vehicles. They put the darn things in the frame, near the rear of the vehicle. All the corrosive road crap catches in there and does a number on the filter. You may want to have it replaced as a preventitive measure.
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Old 05-06-2003, 09:11 AM   #11
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another thing you can check: I had this happen to me on my 87 dodge dakota, and it took quite a while before I (and my mechanic) figured it out. Some days, I would only smell the gas...but no puddle. on really warm days, and when the tank was nearly full, there might be a puddle. The tank was plastic; no rust there. What it turned out to be was the sending unit, which goes into the top of the tank. (tank has to be pulled to really inspect it well). it had a couple of metal tubes on it, to which attached the rubber fuel/vapor return lines that head off to the engine. the metal tubes were rusted. at medium tank levels, on moderately warm days, there would only be enough fuel leakage to make a small puddle on top of the gas tank. enough to smell, but not enough to overflow and spill onto the pavement. It would only spill over on hot days when the tank was full.
it was surprising to learn that you can have fuel leak from the top of the tank.
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Old 05-06-2003, 11:18 AM   #12
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Hi Stef,
Run the van until the tank is almost empty. It might have to be removed to properly diagnose the problem. This is very easy on your van, just a few straps and the filler neck fitting must be loosened, and then the tank can be lowered enough for inspection. The job is easier with an almost empty tank.
One thing you can do in the meantime, is take a flashlight and a mirror and follow the dark stained area up, you might just be able to see where the stain originates from. Wear clear safety goggles. Dirt will fall off the bottom of the van and find your eyeballs, trust me. And please be safe, and have someone with you while you do this, especially if the vehicle needs to be jacked up for you to fit under it. I have a 1 ton van, and it is high enough off the ground to where I can slide under it completely, without jacking it up.
Did the van have full ABS or just rear wheel ABS?
I owned a Ford cargo van for many years, and I want to assure you that it is a very good vehicle. Actually like it much better than the current Dodge. It was by far a much better build vehicle. I think that if you take good care of it and get over the first few month of ironing ut some minor bugs, then it will be a great van for you guys to own.
I do not think your van is a lemon because of what happened to you. No worries..
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Old 05-06-2003, 11:40 AM   #13
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Hang in there..

Even a brand new tow vehicle can have problems. Ours decided to intermittently play the hard to start game. Fortunately the problem did not leave us stranded and the Ford dealer found the issue as soon as we returned from our first A/S outing. Turned out the fuel pump was not developing adequate pressure at times and therefore the fuel rail for the injectors was not upto pressure. We feel fortunate that this is the only issue we have encounter.

From what you have stated, I bet you have a situation where the tank was filled at a cooler temp and to the very top. The next day, the temps rose and the gas expanded. Gas tanks have a built in expansion chamber that is designed to allow for this expansion, but if you top off, that expansion area can also fill and then there is no room for expansion, so the gas finds another place to expand. The leak may have been any number of places that have already been mentioned, sender unit, hoses, vapor reclamation system, etc. I would try not filling the tank as full for a few times and see if the problem reoccurs. If all seems well, then try a topped off situation and see what happens. Even in a topped off situation, a leak is a leak, and I would want to know where it was occurring and make sure that a more serious leak could not develop in the future.
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Old 05-06-2003, 03:28 PM   #14
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Had the sme problem 3 times.
Once on a 1959 XK150 Jag and twice on a 1979 F250 P/U.

Only happens when full.
There is a short rubber hose between the filler where the gas cap is located and the tank itself. The hose in the Jag and P/U was rotten and in the second case of the Ford after a new hose was installed the hose clamp was not tight enough.
Beware its a real pain to change out the hose but it is not a big buck item.

Good luck



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