1997 Dodge Neon • 150,000 miles

Car stops running at 3/4 of a tank of gas. Started 2 years ago with stopping at 1/8 of a tank and has just gotten worse over the last few years. Do I need to replace the gas tank? I will pull out in traffic and car doesn't want to go when I'm getting close to 3/4 of a tank. I have run out of gas many times. I am ready to get it fixed, just need to know what is going on.
January 4, 2012.

When this problem occurs, does it happen right away or only after you've driven a few miles?

If you have to drive it a little ways before it acts up, suspect a plugged pickup screen in the gas tank. That's not related to how full the tank is, but having more fuel to wash around can delay when that screen collapses. Often it will relax and let fuel through again after sitting for a few minutes with the engine off. The problem is aggravated when the largest volume of fuel must be pumped, ... Which is during coasting. Once you're up to speed, the engine will run well at highway speed until you start to coast again.

If your engine has the fuel pressure regulator on the engine like my '88 Grand Caravan does, disconnect the vacuum hose from it and plug it. You might see black smoke from the tail pipe, but if the engine runs better, that's a clue to check the screen.

Jan 4, 2012.
Thank You for the reply. It always starts to sputter when getting close to 3/4 of a tank. Once I reach it, the car just stops. Yes, there have been a few times after stopping that I was able to start and go again, but that usually doesn't happen, I have to get gas in a gas can(and put in car) just to get to a gas station. Is there a way for a mechanic to find out if it's the pick-up screen? Or do I have to get my whole gas tank replaced? Does the year have anything to do with it?
I am a single ****** with no family in town and haven't received child support ever. So I truly appreciate your help as I Don't want to be taken advantage of and this is our only means of transportation.

Also, it happens at all times, when I first start to drive or have been driving. It always happens at 3/4 of tank though.

Logic would dictate something has come apart in the fuel pump assembly in the tank. My best guess is the pump does not need to be replaced but it will have to be removed from the tank to be inspected.

Ford had a similar problem years ago. I don't remember the years or models affected, but a rubber hose in the tank would dry-rot and crack. That would allow it to suck up air instead of fuel. The fix was to replace that hose.

I can also visualize that pickup screen being deformed and sticking up into the air at the top of the tank. There is a large air pocket in the tank when it is "full" to form a crush zone in case of a crash. That means that when your tank is three quarters full, it's actually about half full. Those tanks aren't real tall to begin with so that screen wouldn't have to stick up very far to draw in air. The screen is a lot bigger than on Fords. Yours will be about six inches long and two inches wide.

What I would do is have the tank close to three quarters full when you take it to the mechanic. They will have a tank with a pump to remove the gas so the gas tank is light enough to remove. After the repairs are completed, they pump the gas back in. Ask them to start by only refilling it to one quarter tank, then test driving it. Once the repairs are confirmed, they can pump the rest of the gas back in.

Here's an entirely different thought. Once the problem occurs, how much gas can you put in at the gas station to fill it? From what I can remember from working at the dealership, those tanks only hold around ten gallons. If that's about how much you can put in, you're actually running out of gas and the gas gauge is reading incorrectly. The float arm for the fuel level sending unit could be hanging up causing the incorrect reading.

Jan 5, 2012.
When I go to the gas station, I am only able to put $10 at a time give or take a dollar. Here are a few other things I have come to notice. When I turn to the left, especially a deep corner, I will stall out. Pedal to the floor and it sputters. Then start going again, as long as there is over 3/4 tank. Also, on the highway, when going fast, the car will start to shake and feel like its having a hard time keeping going(this is when I know I am getting too close to the car needing more gas to keep going. Even though it says 3/4 tank.
I have been reading forums today on neons and it seems to be a real problem these cars have as well as overheating which my car is also doing. I changed the thermostat in August and it was ok for a few months then started overheating again for a month now.I have to drive with the heater on. I would get a newer car if I could afford one so until then I must try to keep this one going.

Newer cars just have more expensive problems, definitely not fewer problems. It's why I refuse to give up my '88 Grand Caravan.

Overheating is not that common. You might look at the cooling fins on the radiator. If they are corroded and crumble like a rotten chocolate chip cookie, they aren't passing the heat to the air. That happened on my van many years ago. At first the engine ran a little warmer than normal if it was over 60 degrees outside AND I drove over 60 mph. Eventually it even ran warm when it was 30 degrees outside. Running the rear heater brought the engine temperature down right away. That was the clue the radiator wasn't dissipating the heat.

Jan 5, 2012.
I went to the mechanic today and had to stop and put a dollar in to make it there, I was trying to make it right when it does what it does. Of course, it drove fine when he drove it to the end of the street and back. He said it is the cadallidic converter that is messed up. Funny, I haven't heard this mentioned even once in all the forums I have read. I suggested I leave the car overnight tomorrow so he can look further as I will only be able to utilize the help the workforce is giving me to get it fixed once. If he fixes it to where it doesn't bog down, stutter or die as well as stop overheating.I will keep it. I live in South TX and the Summers are very HOT! There is no way I will go through it with the heater on as I did at the end of the Summer last year. Was unbearable. If he can't fix it, I will have to buy a newer used car. LOL Thank You So Much for your help : )

I can guarantee the cause is not the catalytic converter. If it is plugged, the engine will be very low on power all the time, it might idle uncommonly smoothly, and the sound from the tail pipe will be more of a hiss than the normal "putt putt". Problems with the converter have absolutely nothing to do with the level of gas in the tank. Tell him to drive the car home for the night, then back the next morning. If he has to walk to the gas station half way to work, he'll change his diagnosis real fast.

Jan 6, 2012.
I just had to reply.I am still laughing. LOL So True. So True! The 2 men at this place kinda smirked at me yesterday as if I was crazy. I said."I have been dealing with this for 2 years. Believe me when I say there is a problem". That is when he said I could leave it overnight. I will most definitely suggest he take it home because it Will happen and I need a Correct diagnosis. I hope I can get my son from school and get over to shop with the dollar I put in this morning or I will have to add another 50 cents. LOL Have a Wonderful weekend hun.