How to Know for Sure You Have a Fuel Pump Problem

A fuel pump is one of those critical parts that can stop a car dead in its tracks when it fails. Fortunately a fuel pump rarely fails without warning and if you know what symptoms to look for you may be able to avoid a stalled vehicle in the middle of traffic and lower the cost of repair as well. The only job of a fuel pump is to supply the engine with a stream of fuel at a consistent volume and velocity. Any change in this flow of fuel can be caused by the fuel pump and will dramatically affect the way the vehicle operates. Knowing what to watch for can help you avoid bigger problems with your vehicle by having them repaired early.

What Type of Problems Can a Failing Fuel Pump Cause?

Because the fuel pump delivers the most critical element needed for the operation of your vehicle, it can cause several problems when it starts to fail. Depending on how the unit fails, it can cause a range of issues from sluggish behavior to not being able to start the car. As the condition deteriorates with the pump, the car may stall at low idle occasionally as well. This type of failure is a big concern since it typically happens while driving the car and can create a massive traffic hazard. One way to know if the fuel pump is completely dead is to turn your ignition key to the second position while listening to your engine. The fuel pump should make a slight noise if it’s operating at all.

Where is the Fuel Pump Located?

There are several different types of fuel pump configurations currently being used by car companies and the location of the fuel pump is very dependent on the age and model of the vehicle. Many cars have the unit located near or actually attached to the fuel tank in the rear of the car. It should be an inch or two in diameter and approximately 6 inches long. Some newer vehicles with fuel injection engines actually use two pumps and have a smaller one near the fuel tank and another near the engine to deliver the higher-pressure fuel required by these cars.

Are All Fuel Pumps the same?

No, even though they all have basically the same function, their design and location will vary between vehicles. There are basically three types of fuel pumps in use today. The simplest one is found on older cars and is purely mechanical. A shaft attached to the engine and pumps gas to the carburetor as the engine turns drives it. A more modern version of this employs an electric fuel pump located in the fuel line, commonly located near the fuel tank. The third type of system uses two fuel pumps with one located near the fuel tank and one located in the engine compartment. The first pump is a low-pressure one that is used to move the fuel up to the second pump, which delivers the fuel to the engine at a much higher pressure.

Will a Faulty Fuel Pump Give Me a Dashboard Indicator?

Because most modern vehicles are computer controlled, every component is constantly monitored for failure. The amount of fuel delivered to the engine is one of these critical measurements that is constantly being watched. If the rate of fuel delivery changes, it will typically cause an indicator light on your dashboard to alert you to the need for service. The challenge is that there are a number of conditions that will illuminate this same light and it’s hard to tell what caused it by simply noticing the light. When the car is taken in for service the technician will read the more detailed OBD codes to verify the fuel pump is faulty.

Is the Fuel Pump Easy to Change?

While the fuel pump is an easy part to change, anything dealing with the fuel line should always be left to a professional. This type of auto repair seems simple to complete but if a fitting is not tightened correctly it may cause a fuel leak later that could damage the engine and lead to even bigger repairs. The fuel pump is also typically located in a part of the car with limited access and would require some type of jack or ramp to access. When you consider the reasonable cost of the diagnostics and repair compared to purchasing the parts, tools and ramps need to change it, having a professional complete this type of auto repair usually makes more sense for most drivers.

The fuel pump in your car is a very important component that keeps your vehicle running. It’s important to know the warning signs of a failing pump so you can have the car serviced quickly to avoid larger issues. While the repair of a defective fuel pump is a simple one, it should be referred to a qualified auto repair center for service. The cost for this type of repair is reasonable and can be completed quickly for most vehicles.