1997 Ford E-150 with 5.4L engine - will not start.


Asked by Jul 12, 2014 at 10:50 PM about the 1997 Ford E-150 STD Econoline

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Just filled the 36 gallon gas tank, and drove it home.  Now it doesn't start.  Spray starting fluid into the air filter, and it runs for a few seconds.  The fuel pump fuse and relay are good, and when disconnecting the fuel filter (engine side), a stream of gas shoots out about 18 inches when I turn the key to the on position.  I'm having trouble getting the cover off of the Schrader valve on the rail to measure fuel pressure.  I'm also having trouble getting one of the fuel lines off of the filter (gas tank side), but the filter doesn't seem to be the problem.  Could the problem be the fuel pressure regulator?  Might I try to pinch the return hose and see if it runs?  If it still doesn't run would that indicate the pump?  Any easy suggestions for changing a pump with a full tank - maybe cutting an access hole?

8 Answers


Did you fill it past the first shut of click of the handle? If so might try just for giggles loosening the gas cap and see if it starts. But if that don't work I would definitely check the fuel pressure on the fuel rail before you go to removing the pump.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

1997: you might want to look into rebuilding your carburetor, It's located underneath the air filter pan in most vehicles. That might explain why it tried to run when you sprayed starter fluid into the air filter. A carburetor has gaskets and things that could turn "gummy" over the years, cause the car to not start, over time. Highly suggest purchasing a Chilton's. or Haynes Book, for your vehicle: It will show you where the carburetor is, and how to rebuild it. Worst case scenario? Owning a book like that will make it harder for your local mechanic to take advantage of you, because you'll know things...


Oh... And as for cutting a hole to get to the fuel pump? Sparks, man, sparks. You're cutting a hole over a gas tank. That's why you leave it to the professionals; the ones that take the time to drain the tank, disconnect it, and then get to the fuel pump. Lessons learned, over time. Even I'm not that stupid!


Check the wires to the coil and the ignition control module. Don't sound like a fuel problem.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.

Can you hear the fuel pump when you turn on the ignition? If not, pump stopped working. And if that is the case, bang on the fuel tank with a rubber mallet. Then try to start.


Now for an update: I was able to connect a fuel pressure gauge to the Schrader valve on the fuel rail, the plastic cover simply took a lot of turning to get off. The pressure measured about 2 psi (should be 35 – 45 psi) when I turn the key on. Next I disconnected one side of the fuel filter and installed a “T” connection in order to attach the pressure gauge at that point. The thought here was if the fuel pressure regulator is totally returning all of the fuel to the tank at least I should measure some pressure. I measured only about 2psi at the “T” so I determined the fuel pump needed to be replaced. Cutting an access hole in the floor is possible without the “sparks” someone referenced. I have a power nibbler tool which cuts little tiny pieces of metal with each “bite” and operates from a battery operated drill (they also make them work from a pneumatic source). The top of the tank and pump hoses have one inch or more of clearance from the floor and the nibbler only takes about ½ inch of space. Moving everything out of the van took more time than cutting the hole. For those wanting to cut such a hole, the center of the hole is about 14.5 inches from the driver’s side floor seam of the van (interior) and lined up exactly with the fuel fill (or you could say about 45 inches from the base of the driver’s seat back. I used about a 9.5 inch diameter hole. I fabricated a plate to cover it from a piece of floor taken from a junk yard van ($5), or course, bigger in diameter mounted with (10) ¾” x #10 sheet metal screws and sealed with caulk. After installing the new fuel pump, the fuel pressure on the rail returned to 40 psi (key on) and 35 psi (idle). However, my problems did not end there. The engine still would not run without using starting fluid. I used up a whole can of starting fluid trying to get it to run. As I was relieving the fuel pressure through the manual pressure relief valve on the fuel gauge, I noticed the fuel seemed as if it were made up of two components. Then I drained the fuel from the fuel rail into a glass jar. It became quite clear that the fuel had separated. I didn’t know it then, but now I realize that almost all gasoline sold today is actually E-10 fuel. That means the gasoline can have up to 10% ethanol. Ethanol, like any alcohol, is hungry for water. When the fuel ages (more than 3 months) or mixes with water, something called phase separation occurs. Strata (or layers) of ethanol with water and gasoline are formed in the vessel containing the fuel (in the gas tank). A gas tank mounted fuel pump pulls fuel from the bottom of the tank. The bottom of my tank was mainly ethanol with water. Only about 10% of what was on the fuel rail was actually gasoline. It appears I bought a bad tank of gas, or in my situation 12 gallons worth. My solution was to use the new access hole and place copper tubing straight down to the bottom of the gas tank. Connecting flexible tubing to the copper, I siphoned off about 12 gallons (from a 35 gallon tank) of fuel. Then I purged the fuel line going to the engine by using the manual pressure relief valve on the pressure gauge. (I checked with a glass jar to see the composition of the fuel and it was no longer separated.) One shot of starting fluid in the air cleaner, turn the key and the engine purred. Ethanol can cause many problems. It can ruin fuel pumps, engines and cause vehicles not to start. So, in the end my problem was a bad fuel pump, fuel filter and bad gasoline…I assume the bad gasoline caused the pump to die. The problem is solved.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.

Glad you got it going. Thanks for the info. Drive safe

4 of 4 people found this helpful.
Best Answer Mark helpful

I am having the same problem. Bought a 1998 E-150 4.6 van that was sitting in a parking lot for 5 years. Bought a new battery and cranked it over for 5 minutes before it started. Run good for sitting so long. But the more I ran it to burn the bad gas out, the gas tank, the more it didn't want to run. Now no longer running. Seems like the inside of the fuel filter melted inside or something. The inside rolls around when I removed the filter. Also fuel pump is not working.

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