Hi Bill Gillen. Welcome to the forum. First of all, try holding the gas pedal down 1/8" and see if it starts and runs as long as you hold the pedal. If it does, and it stalls as soon as you release the pedal, it just needs to relearn "minimum throttle" during driving.
If that doesn't help, listen carefully when you first turn on the ignition switch for the hum of the fuel pump. It should only run for one second, then turn off. If you don't hear it, listen next to the tank while a helper turns the ignition switch on. If you still don't hear it, banging on the bottom of the tank during cranking will often get it started. If that works, the brushes in the pump motor are worn and causing an intermittent connection. The motor will rarely stop once it is running due to worn brushes. Intermittent no-start is the common symptom. Gas being pumped into a mini tank cools the motor. Running out of gas will not CAUSE the motor to fail but it will speed up the process of a motor that is about to fail on its own due to high mileage.
After adding fuel to the tank, it is necessary to build up pressure before the engine will start. The easiest way to do that is to turn the ignition switch on, wait for the pump to run for that one second, turn the switch back off and wait for a few seconds, then do that a second or third time. There are some cases where cranking the engine multiple times in quick succession puts the Engine Computer into anti-theft mode. If your van has the factory anti-theft system, try unlocking one of the front doors with the key to turn the system off. This is something I've read about, but never experienced myself.
Monday, June 21st, 2010 AT 4:04 PM