Wednesday, April 30, 2008

1999 Chevy Venture: Fuel Leak

Our minivan was leaving a small puddle of fuel in the driveway, so I took it into the local dealership for advice. After a few cups of coffee mixed with hot chocolate, the advisor took me to the garage where he and the mechanic pointed out the difficulty. Up on the rack, it was easy to see that one of the fuel lines was leaking under the driver's seat. They wanted to replace all three lines (feed, return, and vapor) to the tune of $652 plus tax. I countered with, "Are there any alternatives such as patching the line?" Not surprisingly, they were not interested in a patch job. So, I drove home with the line still leaking.

Why so expensive? The three lines can only be ordered together and from the dealership. The parts (which would cost $287) wind through the frame and engine compartment at odd angles. Bending my own would have been a nightmare as would the installation. For instance, one online article said that the repair involved disconnecting one side of the engine cradle and (are you ready for this?) the steering box! That was more than I was interesting in doing in my driveway.

So, last week, I attempted several patches of my own. Patch #1 consisted of a rubber fuel injection hose split length wise, placed over the leaky spot, smothered with silicone, and clamped on either end. As you can imagine (and please stop laughing) this didn't work. Patch #2 consisted of a cardboard box (to lie on during lunch break) and a tube of something similar to J-B Weld. That's the putty that hardens three minutes after you mix it up. It has been used to fix leaking gas tanks, so using it for this seemed like a good possibility. But even after cleaning most of the silicone off the rusty line, this also failed to stem the leak. It only forced the leak to move closer to the engine. Not good.

Patch #3 was what I should have begun with. The idea was to cut the rusty line on either end of the leak and replace the section with high pressure fuel injector line and high pressure clamps. The high pressure parts were necessary as the fuel is pushed to the engine at 50-60 psi. Happily the parts cost under $20. But could I do it? I wasn't sure. I was a bit nervous about using a hacksaw on a steel fuel line with fuel vapor surrounding the event. One little spark could make things interesting really fast.

But, after praying about the situation, I resolved to tackle the problem Saturday morning. As I crawled under the van, I noticed a slight breeze blowing. This was providential for cutting through the line as was the placement of the J-B Weld substance. The hacksaw cut through both without any sparks. The only problem was that the metal line only stuck out 1/2 inch from where it entered the frame. (If I had to do it again, I would have allowed for more length.) The rubber fuel injection hose didn't go on easy, but with the help of some grease, I was able to get the hose on and clamped. The second cut was made approximately 10 inches in front of the fuel filter. This allowed me to replace a good 18 inches of line (including the coupler) with rubber hose.

After the fact, this repair was quite simple. With the Lord's help, it only required a few tools: a hacksaw, screw driver, knife, car ramps, and a towel to catch dripping fuel. After a week, I'm happy to report that the hose is holding up well. We no longer smell or drip fuel. And best of all, the whole family doesn't have to ride together in the XJS.

10 comments:

Mik said...

I'm having the exact same problem now. Just found the leak last night and have been trying to guess if I can do the repairs myself. After reading your blog I think there's hope! Thanks for posting your experience!

Mik

Anonymous said...

hopefully you pull the fuel pump fuse and turn the key on the car for a few seconds so there is no fuel pressure...

Andy Rupert said...

Since the line was rusted through, there wasn't a lot of fuel pressure to fight with. But thanks for the idea. I'll remember that for the next time.

Anonymous said...

Glad you were able to fix it. I would suggest a small tubing cutter next time.They work slick and give a good clean edge to the cut.

Anonymous said...

It is not worth setting yourself or your car on fire to save a few bucks. You will eventually need to replace the rest so it is better to do it right the first time.

Anonymous said...

I would be surpised if you could get your van inspected after a repair like that. Especially on a high pressure feed line. The lines should have been replaced with factory lines for safety reasons. a

Santos Garcia said...

I have a code po442 I replace the PVC line and gas cap remove code it came back a week later what else could it be I checked the line no cracks I replace an intake line still the same week later

Andy Rupert said...

Here are some ideas about the P0442 code for Chevy Ventures:

http://www.my-chevy-venture.com/P0442-dtc-details.html

My Chrysler Town & Country had a rust hole through the fuel filler tube neck that caused codes.

Josh McCloud said...

What size was the line and what size hose did u replace it with. Having the exact same problem on my 98 montana my leaking line is 5/16" but don't know what size of hose to buy to slide over the line

Andy Rupert said...

It has been a while since I did the repair. As I recall, I cut out the bad piece and took it to the parts shop. After comparing it to what they had, I bought the closest size of fuel injector hose.