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!

830 responses to “How To Tell If Your Fuel Pump Needs Replacing”

  1. Julie Barnfield says:

    I have a 01 chevy malibu and i had the ignition switch replaced and the bcm replaced. Well i recently had a cd player installed and the radio works but my instrument panel and the gear shaft and climate control panel would not come on. Got to checking fuses and found the interior dpor light fuse needed changing so changed it and it came on so i thought maybe there are some more fuses needed changing but i made a mistake and pulled the bcm fuse. Well now my car will crank but after a few seconds die even when pressing gas pedal. Lights on dash and other listed above still not on and radio does work. Help please i need my car.

  2. Amy Gilbert says:

    Fuel pump is the main source from engine get energy and horsepower for moving. And if there’s a problem in fuel pump then it will affect the engine as well the speed.

  3. tanya says:

    LI can’t afford the pump until Monday can I drive till then .can I blow the engine if I drive till Monday

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Join us on our Technician Talk forum on the Chilton Community website where we posted your question. It’s free to join the site and when you do you can opt to receive email notifications when someone posts about your question.

  4. Heather says:

    My car doesn’t want to start right after I fill it up with gas. It stutters and struggles starting; I have to push on the gas pedal and rev it to get it to staty started so I can be on my way. It is ONLY when I fill it completely up. I have not noticed this when I only put in a few dollars say if I just need to get somewhere fast…. Is this a fuel pump issue? thx

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      We posted your question on our Technician Talk Chilton Community forum where others can contribute.

      It’s free to join the site and when you do you can opt to receive email notifications when someone posts about your question.

  5. mark says:

    Fuel cap not venting and creating negative pressure in tank

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