Without fuel, your car won’t operate. That’s easy to understand.
Yet understanding how fuel helps cars operate is a bit more complicated. A fuel pump’s primary task is to move fuel from the gas tank to other parts of the fuel system. If any part of that system starts to fuel, it stops your car in its tracks.
But how do you diagnose it as a bad fuel pump and not some other problem within the car?
What is a fuel pump?
How does the fuel delivery system work inside your car? With a fuel tank, metal piping, and a variety of other components, gasoline moves from the tank to the engine, providing a source of energy.
A fuel pump is either a mechanical or electrical mechanism that moves fuel from the gas tank through a fuel filter to a fuel rail. From there, fuel is distributed to fuel injectors and sprayed into each engine cylinder’s combustion chamber. If you have an older car with a carburetor, the fuel is pumped there.
An electric fuel pump is located inside the fuel tank, which clicks into action when you start the car. By turning the key, you instruct the pump to pressurize the fuel and push it through the piping. A second electrical or engine-driven pump is designed to boost fuel pressure. This high pressure releases fuel to the fuel injectors.
This system is very reliable. When it works well, your car will start easily every time. Fuel pumps aren’t part of a regular routine maintenance schedule like changing out motor oil or air filters. Most fuel pumps should last 100,000 miles or more.
Bad fuel pump symptoms
Like most parts built into modern cars, it rarely dies without warning signs. If you pay attention to sounds, noises, and actions, you’ll pick up on the fact that a part is wearing down. Bad fuel pump symptoms include:
Your car won’t stay running
You start your car up like normal, but it dies shortly after. You try it again, and it operates properly. While you might forget about it if it happens once, if it is a bad fuel pump, this will start occurring with more frequency.
Your car sputters as you step on the gas
If you’ve ever felt your car hesitate when you step on the gas pedal, you know the feeling I’m referring to. You expect your car to move forward like it always does. But it hesitates, sputters, as if the gas isn’t making its way into the system. It may only be a few seconds before it returns to normal. If you start feeling this with frequency, it might be a bad fuel pump.
Your car dies for no reason at all
This often occurs at inopportune times. Maybe you’re pulling a heavy load up the mountains. Or cruising up a hill on your way home from work. Suddenly, your car goes from on to off, without energy keeping your car operational. If the fuel pump can’t keep an appropriate level of fuel running through the engine, it won’t have the energy necessary to stay operational. You’ve probably got a bad fuel pump.
Your car simply won’t start
Depending on what happens to the fuel pump as it’s failing, it may stop working altogether. When this happens, you’re stuck.
You notice decreased fuel efficiency
If you notice you’re filling up more at the gas station, it can be one of many issues. If your car suddenly requires more fuel to operate effectively, it may be a sign of a bad fuel pump. It’s best to get your car checked out by a mechanic to find the problem before it grows into a bigger issue.
Your check engine light comes on
This is a fail-safe for many parts within the engine compartment. If the sensor senses something isn’t working right, it illuminates on the dashboard to alert you to a potential problem. It’s time to bring your car in for a diagnostics test to pinpoint where the problem is.
Why fuel pumps fail
Your car has over 10,000 parts that make it run efficiently as you drive it down the road. When even one part is off its game, it can impact dozens more down the line. Because fuel pumps are designed to last 100,000 miles or more, a problem is usually reactionary to something else failing. It can be:
Pump issues – the pump itself contains multiple parts that allow it to pressurize as it operates. It has a series of pressure and relief valves to ensure fuel is moved efficiently throughout the system. If any one of these parts fails, it can reduce output pressure, stopping or recirculating fuel back into the tank, leaving the engine without proper levels.
Fuel problems – your car requires a certain quality level of fuel to make it operate well. Paying attention to the octane level is the first step. Also pay attention to where you fuel up. Poor quality service stations can give you less than stellar fuel sources that allow sludge to build up in your tank.
Clogged fuel filter
When was the last time you changed the fuel filter? If not replaced at regular intervals, it can restrict fuel flow and cause the fuel pump to fail. Reduced fuel flow can put pressure on other areas of the system, which can result in a variety of deficiencies, including overheating.
Damaged fuel line
How many rough roads are on your way to and from work? That pothole may have done more damage than you thought. If a fuel line has a dent or pinches the fuel source, it can lead to reduced fuel supply circulating throughout the system. If the fuel pump doesn’t receive a steady stream of fuel, it can cause fuel pump failure.
As you move closer to the 100,000 mark, it’s a cumulative effect for every part of your car. While you may not be able to pinpoint any one potential problem, at some point, your fuel pump may just wear out.
Your fuel pump is sending you a warning sign. Are you listening?
A bad fuel pump can wreak havoc in many ways. Get your fuel pump fixed today.