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Fuel Pump Problems

fuel pump

by Aaron Turpen

When the fuel pump goes out on your car, then your car stops working. A car that won't start, is sluggish, or that underperforms is a car with a bad fuel pump. Here are some common symptoms that indicate a bad pump, but first, let's talk about the number one reason a fuel pump goes bad.


Replace the Fuel Filter or Get Stranded

The most common reason a fuel pump goes bad is because the vehicle's owner hasn't kept up with routine maintenance on the fuel filter. Consult your vehicle's manual, but expect to change your fuel filter every other oil change or once a year. On most vehicles, a fuel filter is less than $20 and can be replaced with a simple pair of pliars or a wrench. Most shops can do it as part of an oil change service for an additional $30 or so.

Car stalls as if out of gas

This common symptom means that one or both (if you have two) fuel pumps have stopped working. This rarely happens all at once and will usually be preceded by sluggishness or hard starting as a symptom first. If it happens all at once, then check the relays and fuses for the pump(s) as they are the more likely culprit.

Car is hard to start, but doesn't "flood" (smell like gas)

This means your fuel pump is having a rough time either pulling fuel from the tank or pushing it to the engine. It could also be "missing" with the motor or pump parts not gaining suction. It will need to be replaced. This commonly happens in in-tank fuel pumps that have been routinely run on near-empty tanks, so they are likely pulling out sediment.

Car is sluggish, doesn't respond to accelerator being pushed down

A car that has little "get up and go" and that hesitates rather than hurrying forward is probably suffering from a fuel delivery problem. This could be a clogged filter, a bad fuel pump, or a loss of vacuum due to a leaking line or fitting. It needs to be fixed quickly as this quickly leads to a broken pump or worse.

Car won't start, but then starts fine after sitting for a while

This probably means your fuel pump overheated. This happens when the vehicle is run on a near-empty or mostly-empty tank a lot. The full tank helps to cool the pump. If your pump is overheating, it will require replacement. Before replacing the pump, however, check relays and wiring for shorts. This can sometimes happen.

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