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Fri., Jul. 25, 2014
Car acts full of gas but it's not

By BRAD BERGHOLDT McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Publication: The Day

Q: I have a 2005 Chrysler Town & Country van that has been a problem to fill the gas tank at the last two fill-ups. No matter how I hold the nozzle or how many times I reseat it in the filler tube, it just won't continue to pump, and shuts off as if the tank was full. So I can fill the tank, but takes a very long time, and I'm still not sure when it really is full.

Searching online, it looks like others have found problems with the carbon canister or the solenoid valve. Some claim it is the roll-over valve in the tank. Once resource tells me to replace the filler tube, at about $130. Many have paid "the experts" $400 to $800 and still have the same problem.

How can I diagnose and repair the problem with pressure in the tank?

A: Your refueling difficulty is likely caused by the Town and Country's onboard refueling vapor recovery system, or ORVR - a well-intended but sometimes buggy attempt to reduce escaping fuel vapor when you gas up. ORVR, required on all passenger cars built since model year 2000, utilizes clever gizmos in and near the fuel tank to retain vapor displaced by incoming liquid and direct it to your evaporative canister, rather than escape from the filler neck. The stored vapor is later consumed by the engine using a process known as purging.

I performed a technical service bulletin search and also checked Identifix, an auto-repair database, to see who has had success fixing symptoms like yours on similar vehicles. In 2009, Chrysler issued a revised service bulletin (14-001-09 REV) addressing your exact symptoms. A diagnostic procedure is listed to determine if the fault lies in the fuel tank's internal valves, various hoses and tubes, check valves and liquid separator, the vapor canister, or a few other gadgets. The bulletin suggests the fuel tank is the least likely cause of the problem.

According to Identifix, the most common post-warranty fix listed by participating repair techs for this situation is replacement of the fuel tank. This isn't a pleasant option _ the cost of the tank, if the van is equipped with stow-and-go seats, is close to $1,000. I'd want to be darned sure of the diagnosis before taking that road.

In a follow-up message, you confirmed the January 2005 build date, the California emissions certification found on the under-hood emissions label, and the odometer reading of 59,000 miles. That possibly places this issue within the California-mandated emissions warranty for 7 years, 70,000 miles on expensive parts _ and the fuel tank is listed. Other emissions parts are warranted for 3 years, 50,000 miles.

You'll need to find documentation of a placed-in-service date after March 2005 and get the van into a Chrysler dealer ASAP for diagnosis. If the fault lies with a part other than the tank, you'll be beyond the shorter warranty for those items, but fortunately their cost is fairly reasonable.

With the documented problems with this system, I wonder if Chrysler could be persuaded to step up to an out-of-warranty policy adjustment? On federally certified vehicles, the emissions warranty is 2 years, 24,000 miles, or 8 years, 80,000 miles for certain expensive parts.

Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at under-the-hood@earthlink.net; he cannot make personal replies.

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