How To Tell If Your Fuel Pump Needs Replacing

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Fuel Pump Assembly 1986 Bronco II CC Image courtesy of Marion Doss on Flickr

Fuel Pump Assembly 1986 Bronco II CC Image courtesy of Marion Doss on Flickr

Your fuel pump is obviously important for your car, and it would seem as if your vehicle couldn’t move without one. That’s not always true, though. Some vehicles can limp along with a malfunctioning fuel pump for a few blocks or even miles.

But driving with a poorly performing fuel pump is not good for your vehicle, so it’s important to look out for some signs of trouble before you end up stranded or stalled out in traffic.

The fuel pump pumps fuel from your vehicle’s tank to the engine. If the fuel pump malfunctions, your engine will receive less fuel than it needs. There are some common symptoms for such a situation.

The first and most obvious symptom is that your car may not start at all, or it might start poorly. This poor start will take the form of a sputtering, stuttering, stammering sort of start, as if your car’s engine is only getting a trickle of fuel instead of the amount it needs. Your car may also stall during operation because the fuel pump is bad.

Vehicles can sputter and stall for a variety of reasons, so here’s a follow-up test. Pull your vehicle in the garage or other silent environment. When it’s not running, put the key in the ignition and turn it to the “ON” or “accessory” position. (Don’t try to start the engine.) If you have fuel injection and an electric fuel pump, the pump should start up, making a clicking or buzzing sound.

After performing the above test, if you can’t hear the fuel pump turn on, try this test. Using a fuel pressure gauge, test to make sure there’s enough fuel reaching the engine. You can take your vehicle to a technician for this test, or purchase a fuel pressure gauge at an auto parts store and do it yourself. Near the engine there should be a fuel pressure valve where you can attach the gauge. Find the recommended fuel pressure in ChiltonDIY. Compare your measurement of the fuel pressure with what it should be. If there is less pressure than there should be, that’s a sign that your fuel pump may be faltering.

Of course, there could be a few other problems causing incorrect fuel pressure, such as an obstruction in the fuel line or a bad fuel pressure regulator. If your fuel pressure is too high, suspect the fuel pressure regulator. For more information on diagnosing a fuel pump problem, check out Chilton’s online database for detailed instructions, images, and tips from our certified expert technicians to help you determine whether you need to replace your fuel pump or fuel pressure regulator, clean out the fuel lines, or something else.  Learn more about how to keep your car in tip top shape!

784 Responses to “How To Tell If Your Fuel Pump Needs Replacing”

  1. chandra jones says:

    i have a 2006 chevy colorado 3.5 liter engine and my check engine light keeps coming on i have replaced the actuator and both intake and excaust selenoids i also the spark plugs it didnt come on for a long time now it is showing the cylinder 5 is missing again i think my fuel pump is bad cause sometimes it wont start but if u jump start it it fires right up i guess what im asking is can the fuel pump cause my check engine light to come on

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hello Chandra.
      Yes, a faulty fuel pump, screen/filter, or injector can turn on your check engine light.
      I would first switch ignition coils 5 and 1, switch the plugs too, just in case. If the misfire moves to cylinder 1 you know you have a fault in the ignition system. From the navigation outline, follow this path for more information on the ignition coils in your ChiltonDIY subscription: PATH: Engine Electrical > Ignition > Ignition Controls – 3.5L (L52) > Repair Instructions > Ignition System > Ignition Coil Replacement
      A misfire can also be caused by a vacuum leak around the intake gasket.
      Recharge and test your battery, is it low, or just weak from excessive cranking? If you have a good battery it should hold its charge enough to start the vehicle. If you have to crank the motor to the point of killing the battery, I would test the fuel pump pressure!
      Check your ChiltonDIY for the correct specification for your 2006 Colorado. From the navigation outline, follow this PATH: Engine Performance & Emission Controls > Engine Controls – 3.5L (L52) > Diagnostic Information And Procedures > Symptom Diagnostics > Engine Cranks But Does Not Run, and then look at Step 8.

  2. Pablo Sandoval says:

    I have a 2008 chrysler 300 3.5L, the check engine light and the traction control light went on. Then when driving in the freeway when the rpm reached 3 it started to lag and the car stooped. The towing guy told me that it sounded like a messed up fuel tank. Please help me resolve this problem it’s the first time this car has gave me issues.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hello Pablo.
      Well it hard to say, have you changed the timing belt? If it slips or breaks the same thing will happen.
      Chrysler recommends changing the timing belt at 105,000 miles. The 3.5L is an interference engine, which means if the belt breaks it can cause engine damage.
      I’m not sure what he meant by the “messed up fuel tank” comment. Maybe he was talking about the fuel pump, which could have stopped pumping.
      You should start by checking for compression, timing, ignition spark, and fuel. Checking for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) may help pinpoint the problem.

    • Pablo Sandoval says:

      I took it to the shop and it was the computer control module. They said I need to replace it and reprogram it.

  3. Michael Pair says:

    My 1984 Honda accord 1.8L fuel pump keeps making a fast almost non stop clicking at idle. Could my pump not be delivering enough fuel? I also know my relay to my pump is straight wired and could this be causing the problem? Thanks

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hello Michael.
      Yes, you should only straight wire for testing only, then repair the problem!
      Have you changed the fuel filter lately? Check the fuel filter and the fuel system pressure. If the fuel pump makes clicking noises, it may be a sign the fuel pump is starting to fail.

  4. Celia Prince says:

    I’m looking for where the crank shaft position sensor is located on my 2005 Pontiac grand am. I have a 2.2 ecotec.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Celia. :)

      Your 2005 Pontiac Grand Am’s crankshaft position sensor is located in the engine block. To find the exact location, use the navigation tree to follow this path in your ChiltonDIY subscription: Engine Performance & Emission Controls > Engine Controls – 2.2L (L61) > Repair Instructions > Engine Controls > Crankshaft Position Sensor Replacement. There are additional views in the Engine Controls section under the Component Locator and Diagnostic Information and Procedures subsections.

      Perform the crankshaft position system variation learn procedure, as described in your ChiltonDIY, whenever you replace the crankshaft position sensor or make any engine repairs which disturb the crankshaft to CKP sensor relationship.

  5. Cindy K says:

    I have a 94 Chevy S10 Blazer. Problem started with stalling when trying to restart it when it was warm. Then it started stuttering up hills and finally died going up the last incline. Fuel pump runs for a good 15 seconds after turning engine off and removing key. Spider injector and fuel filter have recently been replaced. What should my next step be?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Cindy,

      Try scanning the S10 for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). This could help you figure out the problem. Do you have the correct fuel pressure? Just because the pump runs, does not mean the pressure is correct.

      Perform a fuel pressure test as described in your ChiltonDIY, you should have the 4.3L W engine, with central multiport fuel injection (CMFI), and the high voltage switch (HVS) ignition system. Follow this PATH: Fuel Systems > Gasoline Fuel Injection System > Fuel Pump > Testing for the CMFI system.

      Have you checked for ignition spark? Perform the secondary spark test as described in your ChiltonDIY by following this PATH: Engine Electrical > Distributor Ignition System > Diagnosis & Testing > Secondary Spark Test.

  6. Carla says:

    I’ve recently noticed a clicking sound in the area of the gas tank. I can only hear it inside not outside. I have a 2007 Jeep Liberty Limited. I had my fuel pump replaced not even a year ago. Any idea what the clicking sound could be. I do have a check engine light that had come on about a month ago but then went off. And my traction control went off once and it said my tpms wasn’t reading in the tire on the side of the gas tank.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Carla, the clicking noise could be the leak detection pump for the evaporative control (EVAP) system. This can cause a clicking sound at the fuel tank when the powertrain control module commands the pump on.

      You can read about the leak detection pump in the Fuel section of your ChiltonDIY, such as:

      • PATH: Fuel Systems > Gasoline Fuel Injection System > Fuel Pump > Removal & Installation
      • PATH: Fuel Systems > Fuel Level Sending Unit > Testing

      Since you mentioned the TPMS light was on, there is a technical service bulletin that might apply. Technical service bulletins, or TSBs are issued by carmakers when there is an issue with a component or system that the carmaker wants to inform its dealers about.
      To filter through the list of bulletins that apply to the 2007 Jeep Liberty, select the “Symptom” filter and then select “Tire Pressure Monitoring System Light On” for a link to the TSB.

      When a warning light appears there is usually a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) stored in your Jeep’s computer. A diagnostic scan tool will read DTC codes. You can look up the codes in your ChiltonDIY.

  7. Braxton says:

    Hey so I have a 92 toyota 4×4. About 180k miles. It’s been running solid for the 5 months I had it, then one day I ran in the grocery store, came back and it didn’t start. It cranked and sounded like it wanted to turn over but it didn’t. After about 8 attempts and a lot of fingers crossing, it started. No rough idle, it just started normal and I was able to drive it home. I tried to start it later that night and it just wouldn’t. The next day it did on the first try and this off/on pattern went on for a few days until recently it won’t start at all. My radiator fan had been making noise since I got this truck and I have no knowledge of prepping a vehicle for winter, so I thought there was a problem with my thermostat or radiator since it seemed to only start on a cold engine (even though we had a mild winter[Eugene, Or]). I discovered that my pump isn’t making any noise when I turn the key to the on position, so that seems like the problem right there. My question is why did my truck only seem to want to start in the cold? Is a bad pump really inconsistent and were those lucky times it started in the cold just by coincidence? I feel like there may be an electrical/ecu issue causing the pump to crap out sometimes but I have no clue on where to start with electronics. Im ordering a new pump regardless, but any other help/ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    • Braxton says:

      I might add that it still cranks so I know it’s not a battery or starter issue. And someone told me that if it’s cranking(not just clicking) then the plugs should be good

      • ChiltonDIY says:

        Braxton, we are going to need the model of your truck (4Runner or Pickup) and the engine size (22RE- 4 cylinder) or the (3VZE- V6).

        In the meantime!

        I would first check for the presence of ignition spark, just to be sure. Simply remove one of the ignition wires at the spark plug. Carefully insert a spark tester or insulated screw driver. If you are using a screw driver, hold the point of the screw driver about a 1/4 inch from a good solid engine ground. Have a helper crank the engine over. Use caution and rubber gloves, this test can jolt you a bit if the ignition spark jumps through you.

        • Braxton says:

          Thank you for the reply. It’s a 3vze pickup 4×4

          • ChiltonDIY says:

            Braxton, check the electronic fuel injection (EFI) fuses and relay.
            Have you ever changed the fuel filter? I would check it along with the fuel pressure. (The fuel pump pressure specification is in your ChiltonDIY, using the navigation tree follow this PATH: Engine Mechanical > Specifications > Gasoline Engine Tune-Up Specifications.)
            Carefully spray a little carburetor cleaner or starting fluid in the throttle body for a quick test. If your vehicle tries to start, you know it is a fuel problem, but not necessarily the fuel pump.
            FYI, you mentioned the fan and cooling system, the 3VZE engine has a history of head gasket problems!

  8. ChiltonDIY says:

    Using a spark plug boot puller

  9. ChiltonDIY says:

    Ignition spark tester set up

  10. Alex says:

    1998 Suzuki sidekick 1.8L Severe loss of power, like 35mph on the highway with just a slight incline. tried revving it in neutral only goes up to 5500 rpms I have a fuel pressure gauge installed right before the injectors and it reads 40ish psi during idle or reving, cant really see it under load. I replaced the fuel filter but to no avail, I revved with an open intake(without filter) still nothing. I thought it might be the fuel pump but the pressure makes me skeptical….although is it possible that the pump is just going out and lacks the power to provide the required pressure at higher speeds?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Alex, check the running fuel pump pressure and also check it with the key on and engine off and compare with the specifications in your ChiltonDIY subscription for the 1998 Suzuki Sidekick.
      Have you scanned your Sidekick for possible diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs)? It might help with your diagnostics.
      Have you checked your exhaust backpressure? Accelerate the engine to 2000 rpm, the backpressure on most engines should read 3 psi or less. You will need to remove the front oxygen sensor or drill a hole before the catalyst in the exhaust pipe. Then install an adapter for the pressure gauge.
      Sometimes you can loosen the front pipe just enough to relieve the pressure. Run the vehicle and see if the acceleration returns.
      Use extreme caution when performing this operation.
      Don’t forget to check your vacuum lines and the fuel pressure regulator operation.

  11. Heather says:

    I have a 08 nissan sentra was recently in the shop got a starter, battery and crank and cam sensor. It is broke down again will not start. I turned it half way on and u can not hear the fuel pump cut on anymore it was having problems before not wanting to start and stall out. Do u think this could be the pump?? Also will it make ur car idol bad and not want to get up in speed

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Heather, wow that’s quite a bit of money! The cam and crank sensors have been known to have problems on the Nissan Sentras. I have replaced a few myself. In my research on your starting problem I see that some Sentras have experienced fuel system problems. If a technician performs all the proper tests on your fuel system, he or she should see a malfunction. Make sure the technician has it documented.
      The fuel pump is accessed from inside the vehicle, and the fuel tank should not need to be removed. If the fuel pump checks out okay, take a look at the throttle control system.
      Let us know how it turns out.

  12. beth says:

    I have an 02 Chevy Silverado it randomly started sputtering I was able to limp it home an now it will turn over and studded for about 3 seconds before stalling out, do you think it could be the fuel pump?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Beth, your Silverado has an external fuel filter on the frame, has it been replaced within the last 30,000 miles?
      Have you checked to make sure you do have gasoline in the fuel tank?
      General Motors (GM) has some issues with improper fuel gauge readings that will show fuel on the gauge even when the tank is empty. GM issued technical service bulletins (TSBs) to its dealers about fuel gauge problems, along with other possible faults in the fuel system. Check these bulletins out in your ChiltonDIY subscription by selecting the “TSBs” section. With more than 600 TSBs for the Silverado so far, save time by filtering. Using the “Symptom” filter, select “Engine Stalls.”
      Do you know what engine size your Silverado is equipped with?

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