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Old 09-24-2017, 09:28 PM   #1
Dan_G
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Default 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

My 2.4L Ion is hard to start. I already know it’s a fuel pressure issue. I’m trying to figure out what I can test before I just replace the fuel line again or any other parts. I just don’t know enough about the fuel system or what test would help me narrow things down from this point.

The engine runs great, no problems there. The fuel cap is new. I smell fuel as soon as I start the car (it has to crank for a while). I can’t tell where the fuel smell is coming from … the car just smells like fuel after it is started. The car does not seem to smell like fuel after it is sitting. If the car is started right away – 5-10 mins, it will start normally. If you leave it sit for a while it will crank for a while and just barely start or sometimes it will fail to start and you have to turn the key a second time. These are classic symptoms of a fuel system that does not hold pressure/leaking … but from where? I see no puddles or drips under the car.

I connected a fuel pressure gauge. As expected, the fuel pressure is fine ~60 psi when the engine is running, but as soon as the engine is turned off, the pressure bleeds off pretty quickly. It’s supposed to drop no more than 5 psi in 5 mins. My system drops 5 psi in like 15 seconds. So when you come back to the car in a few hours, the fuel line is empty and the car cranks for a while before the fuel pressure comes up.

I have already done some testing. I know that the fuel injectors are not leaking. I was able to install a pressure gauge and T fitting right at the fuel rail. I pressurize the fuel line and turn the car off and then immediately block off the supply line … and the injectors and fuel rail hold pressure very well. So the injectors and the injector seals hold pressure just fine (I installed 4 new AC Delco injectors about 2 years ago – I’m not surprised they are still OK).

1.5 years ago, I also replaced the fuel lines (supply and return) with the Fineline FL255A supply and return line set since the original lines rusted out. The new fuel lines worked fine for the last 1.5 years (20K miles). I’m inclined to think something has gone wrong with the new lines … but I don’t see where because they still look good. Everything is dry.

I climbed under the car today. Front and back, with the car running. I inspected the fuel lines and all the connections to the fuel filter and vapor canister and also the engine. I see no leaks at all. I see no evidence of leaking.

I would try testing something if I knew what to do. I know there are a few parts in the fuel system. As far as I know the fuel pump module contains the pump, the pressure regulator and a check valve. I can also see there is a vapor canister vent valve under the hood that couples to the return line. I know the vapor canister has a purge valve in the canister in the back. I don’t get any codes so I know these parts are functioning electrically (no DTC codes).

If the fuel pump check valve was bad, fuel pressure would indeed bleed back into the tank and the car would be hard to start … but I’m assuming that I would not smell fuel. I know the pump is fine. Whatever is leaking appears to be a small leak. I’m guessing it’s one of the hoses from the fuel pump assembly, the supply line or the return line.

If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know. I’m not using the car until I sort this out. If I have to replace the fuel lines again, I can of course do this. I could also replace the fuel pump as well as the canister vent valve and purge valve. I just hate to change parts if I can narrow things down.

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Old 09-24-2017, 09:52 PM   #2
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

Year?

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Old 09-24-2017, 10:26 PM   #3
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

it's a 2007 Ion 3 - 2.4L

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Old 09-25-2017, 03:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

This is just a guess but based on your smell test of fuel when the engine's running, there may be a damaged fuel line on the tank if you cannot smell or see fuel anywhere in the engine bay. Even a poor fuel line connection may leak when under pressure. Since pressure drops and lines are small diameter, little fuel is spilled and dries up. Unless you can have the car on a lift with the engine idling to inspect visible fuel lines from engine to tank and rule out leaks, the only place left would be on the fuel tank. This means dropping the tank to examine it for fuel line damage. Eliminating the charcoal vapor canister and other evap lines are needed too but they're not likely to allow fuel vapors since the evap system is geared to operate with a vacuum to draw vapors into the engine. Fuel pressure and a leak is more likely the issue.

While this may be only one example and not seen as common, my fuel test valve on the fuel rail leaked with a strong smell of fuel coming into the interior. Sure enough, fuel seeped out from under the tightened cap. A replacement valve stem fixed the problem. When examined up close, the seal became damaged over the years from periodic testing and manually pulling the valve stem to stop leaks - in hindsight I should have seen this as a sign that I needed to replace it when it leaked the first time but I ignored it as the cap provided a good seal until it too failed to contain pressure.

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Old 09-25-2017, 08:56 AM   #5
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

Thanks, I had the car up on ramps/jack stands and inspected the fuel tank/canister area and all hoses and fittings with the car running. I did not see anything. It's leaking but it's a small leak, hard to find.

In my case, the schrader valve on the fuel rail is not leaking. I was able to put together a test rig with a gauge and pressurize the fuel rail and it's holding pressure OK. It's probably a good idea to change that valve core though, just to be safe.

Looks like I'll just have to change a few parts and see if I can get this solved.

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Old 09-25-2017, 01:04 PM   #6
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

you should be able to add a UV due to your gasolinera and trace it that way

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Peter in Lansing MI

current cars:
94 SW2 (White, automatic)
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99 SL2 (Dark Blue, manual)
04 Ion 3 (Berry Red, 2.0L automatic)
07 Ion 3 (Cypress Green, 2.4L, manual)

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Old 09-26-2017, 11:40 AM   #7
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

Great, I don't know why I did not think of that. I have used UV dye before ... with mixed results on AC systems. Sometimes it takes 2 seconds to spot the leak, sometimes not so much. But it's worth a shot. I ordered the dye. I have a decent UV light. The fuel level is low so 1oz of dye should do it. Let's see if the UV dye will find the leak for me this time.

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Old 09-27-2017, 10:17 PM   #8
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

I think i'm on the right track now. I tried to UV dye in the fuel tank tonight. Nothing at all under the hood. No evidence of any leaking at all.

I drove the car for a bit. The fuel lines are clean front to back and so is the Evap canister and its hoses. There is some evidence of leaking from the top of the fuel tank - coming from the fuel pump or the hoses. Even though I have a very bright UV light, it's not that easy to tell since this is a small leak. No drips on the ground. I'm 90% sure it's coming from the tank. So I'll put a new pump in and see how that works out.

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Old 09-28-2017, 03:52 PM   #9
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

keep us in the loop on what you find.

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Old 09-30-2017, 09:46 PM   #10
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

The car is fixed. It was indeed the fuel pump. The UV dye was ticket for figuring this out. I could see that fuel was kinda seeping down from the top of the fuel tank where the supply and return lines come out. It's a plastic tank formed with two grooves that basically hold the supply and return lines to the top of the tank.

I'm not sure what exactly was leaking but the new pump comes with a new seal and new supply and return lines so it all got changed. I crawled under there and dragged the fuel tank out yesterday. It was not too bad. A couple of hours and it was done. So the car does not reek like fuel anymore and it starts normally after sitting overnight.

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Old 10-02-2017, 10:52 AM   #11
hudypete1
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Default Re: 2.4L Ion – Hard Starting – won’t hold fuel pressure – I smell fuel

awesome!
that is good news.
thanks for telling us the solution too.

...
Peter in Lansing MI

current cars:
94 SW2 (White, automatic)
99 SL2 (Silver Plum, manual)
99 SL2 (Dark Blue, manual)
04 Ion 3 (Berry Red, 2.0L automatic)
07 Ion 3 (Cypress Green, 2.4L, manual)

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