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Bob, Auto Tech
Category: Chevy
Satisfied Customers: 4087
Experience:  Plus 40 years GM, over 30 certified with Chevrolet, ASE certified Master Tech. (Expired, Retired)
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88 Chevy: wouldnt start..fuel tank..the fuel filter, it ran..ran fine

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Have 88 Chevy Vista 20 Van, generally running well & starts well @ 2 mo. ago, wouldn't start - banged fuel tank - it started; changed the fuel filter, it ran fine til last week, same thing - after hit fuel tank it started -- Mechanic showed me bottle w/brownish colored fuel & little sludge in bottom - dirt in fuel tank. So, dirt is impacting filter & pump or sending unit...but, to clean the tank and change the fuel pump is @$360 & only happens once in a while. Is it likely to go downhill? Should I be pro-active & change it first, even though it's hard for me to afford? or should I let it go since it only happens randomly & now I know the cause (& can hit it!). I also need a tuneup in @2 months, which costs @ $350. Should the fuel pump be done first, or at the same time as the tuneup? If I just do the tuneup, & keep going without doing the fuel pump & tank, will the dirty fuel impact the general running of the engine? can I wait till it's essential- or will that lead to more of a problem? For now, just changed filter again. Any other suggestions for improving fuel efficiency? /Also have Plymouth Grand Voyager 89, with white smoke & likely oil leak..seems not worth investing anymore in it? Do you have an opinion or favorites re better fuel efficiency cars when I can afford to upgrade, probably to a 2nd, small car? For now, will be staying with the Chevy Van, despite lower gas mileage, as it has been very solid for me, so I'd like to keep it up & in good shape..

The problem with the van is that it is already warning you that the fuel pump is going to go south on you at any moment. There is going to come a day, not far off, when you are going to bang on the fuel tank and it still won't run. Fix the problem in the tank before you do anything else. If you don't get fuel to the motor, it won't matter what condition the spark plugs and other things are in. And the longer you try to drive it with the dirt etc in the system, the bigger the chance you are going to damage the rest of the fuel system, injectors, etc. Once you have the fuel pump replaced and the tank cleaned, then you can worry about doing the tune up and improving the fuel economy. But, no matter what you do to a 3/4 ton van with a V8 motor, it is never going to be economical to drive. If you want to do this work yourself at home, I would be happy to guide you through the job. The hardest part is getting the fuel tank out so you can work on it. The less fuel in it at the time, the better. It is also a real good idea to have a helper for lifting the tank in and out of the truck.


As for the Voyager, without having a chance to see the smoke, I would tend to worry. White smoke is normally a sign that the motor is burning radiator coolant, because of a leaking head gasket or a cracked head or something of that nature. As to the oil leaks, it depends on what is leaking and what repairs need to be made. If it is only valve cover gaskets or an oil pressure sending unit, etc. they are pretty cheap and easy. But if it is a rear main seal or an intake manifold etc; then your looking at a lot of work and pretty much a good deal of money. Really depends on how much of it you can do yourself and how much you have to have a good shop do for you.


Drop me a note and let me know what you decide to do, regarding either of these vehicles and I will be happy to help you with what ever you decide. But, your really pushing your luck and defying the odds by driving the Chevy when you know it is developing a problem that may get worse with each mile it goes. Thanks

Bob and 4 other Chevy Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thanks a lot! for answering, and your answer does clarify that it's important to go ahead and do the fuel tank now, so I will do that. I just went to a new mechanic, whom I think is trustworthy. When I brought the Chevy in to find out what to do about the fuel tank, I had asked him to check the brakes, and, he had found that the rear brakes were in bad shape - (I know I won't describe this correctly, but anyway, here goes) one wasn't on the right way, pad was still 100%, and both were already grinding (?) into the drum - I've had the Chevy since 2001, and don't have a record or remember who might have done that - anyway, it clearly seemed that getting the brakes done was essential, so that was $500 off the bat, which is why I was less prepared to deal with the fuel tank right away, and trying to figure out if I could wait. But I guess I'll have to 'bite the bullet' and do it right away, just so I don't run into trouble unexpectedly. Would it be much better to do the tuneup at the same time as the fuel tank & pump get changed? so the whole system is cleaned at the same time, even though the mechanic said it seemed I could wait a while on the tuneup? He said it was @ 50-60 % necessary, which probably means at least 2-3 months before I Have to do it. Thanks for offering to help me do it, but no way could I do that...(female, not auto/mechanically inclined). Re the Voyager, there's an exhaust leak near the manifold, & this new mechanic is the 2nd one to say it's not worth investing in any more. I really like it, and put a lot into it over the years..can't tell you specifically right now where the oil leak is, as that was new info on Friday when he had checked it, and his report was to 'give it up'.. I had been thinking of trying to just put in a new used/reconditioned engine instead of messing with this engine, as the body is still okay, though it has some dings. I thought that would be easier than to sell it(when I might not get much for it anyway) and then try to find a used small car in good shape, since I don't have help to look for one, and who knows what I'd get into, that might need work too - I'm pretty concerned about how I would find something else decent and trustworthy. So, for now, that's why it's still worth investing in the Chevy, as in many respects it still serves me well, and I would keep it no matter what. I would rather have a small car with better mileage for around town,and short trips, but until I can trust the process of how to find another small car, that's been my dilemma - how to get by, and not 'over-invest' in the Voyager, and meanwhile, now that the Chevy is becoming my main vehicle even around town, knowing that I have to put up with higher gas costs until I can get to the point of finding a smaller one for my regular use. At this point (not being flush with money anyway), it certainly doesn't seem like a new engine in the Voyager is worth it - seems better to finally accept selling it and work with the Chevy meanwhile. With your skills, you might be able to make it worth saving the Voyager, but I don't think I have the kind of help here that would keep the costs of saving the Voyager down enough to be in balance with what it ends up being worth..Does that seem right to you? Thanks VERY much - I really appreciate having found this site, and getting some backup info, as it is hard to know who's Really trustworthy when looking for a new mechanic to work with...
Yes, it would be nice if you could have all of the work done on the Chevy at the same time. But, from what you are saying, it is not critical to do so. So, the choice is yours. If it would help to save some of the money by not doing the tune up right away, that may be money you could invest in the Voyager. The Voyager is a much harder call. If the motor is so bad that it needs to be replaced, you need to be careful that you do not invest more in it than you will be able to get back out of it, should you decide to sell it later. Your best bet would be to drive the dollars out of it by saving the money on gas etc. that you would have put into the tank of the Chevy. It is a call that only you can make. If the rest of the Voyager is still in good shape and you don't need to worry about any other major things with it, like the transmission or brakes, etc. Then I figure if you could find a good used motor for 5 or 6 hundred and someone who would install it for another 5 or 6 hundred, what can you buy in the way of a used car for 1000 to 1200 that you could depend on? Not much from what I see. So, if investing even 1500 in the car will get it running good enough that you can drive it for a couple of years, then you have gotten a good return on your money. But, again, a call that only you can make. At least then you know what you have and if you spent 1500 on another used car, you could end up with someone else's headaches and even need to put a motor in it, in which case you really did lose out in the long run. You get to decide. Shame you can't do the work yourself, we could save you thousands, together. I really do appreciate the accept and feedback. Thanks a lot and also for using JA. Always here is you need us. If you need me later, just put my name in the subject line of any new post and the system will notify me. Thanks
Bob and 4 other Chevy Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
(I think you'd agree that the brakes on the van were essential, right? forgot to ask you that...) Actually, from what you are saying, I feel encouraged to still check out if I could replace the engine and keep the Voyager going, as that is what has made the most sense to me till now. If I get more good use out of it for another couple of years, I wouldn't mind getting very little for it eventually if I sell it then. But for now, it's been mostly sitting since June (and I'm paying insurance on it too, even though it's a multi-car discount!). I still have to find out how much the exhaust leak would cost to repair, as that's the most important thing if I were to continue driving it - I had the impression from my previous shop that it would be expensive and not worth it, which is why I was letting it sit all summer, but I don't have an estimate or details from them. Originally, I had asked them to check if there was an exhaust leak, and they said there wasn't, and then I kept driving it and feeling bad/woozy after driving (I should have picked up on how I felt, but I didn't, or managed to ignore it- too busy!) for several months - that's part of why I wasn't happy about continuing with them. After they found the leak, they welded part of the (muffler?) pipe -- that was $100, even though they weren't encouraging me to do it because they said they couldn't do the leak that was closest to the engine/exhaust manifold, but I thought it might be worth doing anyway- and maybe that was a poor choice on my part, since it did leave some leak still happening, and obviously it wasn't all done. The last time I drove it several miles I felt awful.. So, that HAS to be done if I am going to keep using it. It actually is running quite well. It had a decent used transmission replacement @ 1 1/2 years ago, and that seems fine. As far as the smoke, I've had people waving at me at stop lights, telling me it's smoking - it's what I call being an 'ecological sinner' which I don't like to be at all. I did change the oil recently and put an additive in, and when I drove it to this new mechanic, it seemed better.(and I actually wore a dust mask while driving!! probably didn't make much difference but I felt better!). I just found out tonight that a friend who knows about cars, and helped me when I bought the Voyager, is back in town, so tomorrow I will talk to him,and maybe he might even be able to help me with dealing with both the exhaust and the engine, I hope. This is the first time I've used this site, and when I accept your second answer, I guess it will be another $9 - don't know if I can accept 2nd or 3rd answers for less than $9 each time. I don't want to be 'cheap' with you, and I can't really afford to do more than the $18. When I accept this, I'll find out if I can do a bit less each time, so that overall, I could accept the 3rd too, and still be within what I can spend, as I hadn't known I would be having this cost (still glad I discovered it though!) --so, as I wrote, if you answer a 3rd time (which I hope you do), I am not sure that I'll be able to accept it -- very sorry about that. I was in Seattle for the first time last November, also visiting a friend in Port Townsend. It certainly is beautiful, and I think they have good emission control. I don't want to mess up the air in New Mexico either! Thanks again very much for your help
Please do not feel that you need to hit the accept button any more. I am happy to answer follow up questions for you, for what you have already contributed. As to the question on the brakes, YES! That is a given. It doesn't matter how good anything runs and drives if the brakes don't stop it, you are in a dangerous situation. So by all means, do not put that part off. I would rather the brakes work right than have it run right. It is more important to be safe than to get good mileage. I think if you were to take the Voyager by almost any MIdas muffler shop, or someplace similar, then ask for a written estimate. Just tell them you need the estimate so you can figure how much money your going to need to set aside to have it repaired and that you hope to be able to do it in the next month or so. That way, they will feel like they are going to be getting the job later and they will give you a written estimate for parts and labor on the exhaust. If it is a matter of muffler and pipes, tell them to use generic. Those are cheaper. If it is an exhaust manifold, then you shop for a good used one in a wrecking yard, or if you buy a used motor, ask them to be sure to include the manifold on the used motor and it won't cost you anything for the part. It's really going to come down to what parts it needs. If your friend is knowledgeable enough to install a used motor for you, or even do the tune up on the Chevy, you stand to be able to save quiet a bit of money on the repairs. Just as long as your sure of his abilities. And once you are done with using the Voyager and decide to get rid of it, if it still runs decent and doesn't look too bad, you should be able to get most if not all of your money back when you sell it. Like I said before for 1000 to 1500 you can't really find much in the way of a used car that is dependable, so I think if you drove it a couple of years and sold it for someplace in that price range, you have made out real well. Just depends on how much it is going to take to get it going and going right. That could also depend on your friend and what he would charge to help you with the labor on things. Yes, your correct, Seattle is a beautiful area. I like that we get the change of seasons with out getting all of the bitter cold and snow. Just enough changes to keep it interesting. If you don't have anything else in New Mexico, you have plenty of wide open spaces and room to roam. I spent some time in Tucumcari as a kid and enjoyed it a lot, except when the wind decided to blow. Off to bed, back tomorrow morning, if you need me. Thanks
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thanks Very Much! It's really great to have your feedback and guidance, and I really appreciate being able to do the followup questions too! I'll probably let you know what I find out after I talk to my friend tomorrow and to the new shop on Monday (the Voyager is sitting there now - have to pick it up and/or find out what they would charge me before picking it up from them).. and then swap in the Chevy so they can do the fuel tank. Have a good rest..I'm up doing school work for quite a while more. .
Yes, I see by the time stamp that you are also a late night person. But, I find I can get more done with less interruptions after the world has gone to bed and I can focus on what I am trying to get done. Just drop me a note later and let me know how things are going. I'll be here if you need me. If this post gets closed somehow, just ad my name to the subject line on any new post you have and the system will notify me that you need me. Thanks