How To Tell If Your Fuel Pump Needs Replacing

Posted on: by
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!

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

  1. Ed says:

    1992 Honda Accord starting problems. I had a draining battery at first, this is after my aunt had a brake battery replaced at a shop. I found the draw, it was coming from the radio. I removed radio, charged up battery, drove around, let car sit and it started up fine. Car was not started for a couple days after this and I could not even jump it after the couple day rest. The battery is holding its charge and I have spark, so I sprayed some starter fluid in the throttle body and it did sound like it wanted to start. My guess would be a bad fuel pump and I do not hear it turning on. Any other suggestions that might be cause or something I should check before I replace fuel pump.

  2. Ed says:

    I also replaced the fuel relay switch last November.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Ed.
      Have you checked for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs)? Before you “jump the gun,” check for DTCs, check the fuses, and check the main relay.
      In addition, check the distributor technical service bulletin (TSB) to see if it applies. You will find the TSB in your ChiltonDIY subscription for the 1992 Honda Accord.

  3. Jen White says:

    Ok been dealing with this issue since my post a couple days ago, a mechanic that dianostic and the codes said it was the egr valve, so I replaced it then I was told it was the distrubutor cap so I replaced that. I am tired of spending money and the problem still isn’t fixed. It’s like I can drive for a certain amount of time then the car just cuts off, I have to let it sit then it starts up but kinna making a sound like you are out of gas. I have a 2001 Honda Accord V4

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Jen, it sounds like you have a fault in your ignition system, primary or secondary. I’m guessing primary. I would be looking at the distributor. The distributor houses the igniter (ignition control module), ignition coil, and crankshaft position sensor. Check to see if all the secondary ignition components are okay: distributor cap and rotor, ignition wires and spark plugs.

  4. chris says:

    My nissan altima GXE,suddenly goes off while on motion but immediately starts up when i go neutral and restarts again. What could be the cause? It stops when ever i put fuel cleaners when ever i buy fuel. Its also stoped when i changed the fuel pump but after two weeks its started again. Please help me.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Chris, what year is your Altima?
      Also, does the Altima have an external fuel filter?

    • Tim says:

      might be the fuel pump. why not install a Bosch electric fuel pump and bypass the mechanical one altogether. I did that on a Mighty Max. I left the mechanical fuel pump on the engine and closed off the openings with some off the shelf rubber caps, avail. at Pep Boys. It worked great.

  5. Kat says:

    Can this cause your gas gauge to move up and down and not be constant?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Kat.
      No the fuel pump will not cause that particular problem. The fuel level sending unit would certainly be a culprit.
      There might be a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) for the issue for your vehicle, what year, make and model is your vehicle?

  6. justn says:

    I have a 99 oldsmobile alero 2.4l and it just started this today it turns over and starts and revs up once then shuts off I have no clue what’s wrong with it I changed the plugs and boots and I have a half tank of gas..I did pull a stupid move thou 2 days ago go the injector fluid and power steering fluids mixed up and put the wrong one in the tank someone that knows what’s wrong and how I can fix it please help…

  7. frank says:

    I am about to purchase a 1987 pontiac trans am with a carborated 350 motor. It will turn over and fire with starter fluid sprayed into the carb but wont stay running. I know its going to be the fuel pump….any idea how to get it home (only 3 miles) without calling for a tow truck

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Frank, Have you checked to see if the fuel filter in the carburetor is clogged? Try gently tapping on the carburetor. Sometimes the needle valve in the carburetor will stick. If it sticks no fuel will enter the carburetor. If you remove the fuel line at the carburetor and crank the engine over, do you get fuel?
      A tow truck is the safest way to get the Trans Am home, the other methods we know of are dangerous. If it is legal in your state you could consider renting a tow bar. If you are a good driver and use extreme caution it works. You will be driving the car with NO power steering and NO power brake!
      It’s tough.

  8. frank says:

    The car seems to be getting no fuel at all I think the fuel pump and carb are bad but sure yet. Going to start taking it apart tonight. I did end up just towing it because it is the safest way

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Frank, We are glad you made it home safely with the Trans Am. :) Chilton has all the information you need to help get your Trans Am up and running again! Let us know how your project car is going. How about some pictures as you begin to restore the old girl?

  9. Kylie says:

    I was told my car needs a new fuel pump. They told me that they needed to locate the part and that they would get back to me with an estimate. So, today (like two weeks after I brought the car in to them… lousy service) I called them and asked for an estimate. Basically, it would be $449.98 to get the sensors replaced, plus a cleaning, with all tax and labor included. But here’s the thing… I don’t know much about fuel pumps (don’t even know what they are, lol), but the sensors on my mom’s car are broken, and she had a mechanic tell her that she’d be crazy to get them fixed. That mechanic told her that they wouldn’t damage the engine or anything like that and that they didn’t pose a safety risk. She says the check engine light will come on when it’s cold out, but in the spring or summer months, it never comes on. And every so often, she has a problem with her gas gauge not reading correctly, but that’s really the extent of it.

    My check engine light goes on and off. Mostly, though, it’s off. My car starts up fine. I only had one day where the gas gauge wasn’t working (kept going from half full to saying it was empty, when it clearly wasn’t). But I haven’t had that issue since that day, which was actually about two weeks ago. Day after I first brought the car in, I believe. And I have never had the car stall. Plus, when I first took it in about two weeks ago, they told me that I could definitely drive on it (believe me, I asked multiple times), so it mustn’t have been that serious… Do you think that it’s even worth it?

    I’m definitely going to take it to another mechanic and get a second opinion. But I’m just asking around in case I get any information that will help. Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks!!

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Kylie, can you tell me the year, make and model of your car? It sounds like you are describing a GM vehicle with a fuel gauge problem. The vehicle uses the fuel level sensor to determine when to perform emission tests. The vehicle’s computer checks the evaporative emission control system (EVAP) components when the gas level reaches half a tank; this could cause the computer to store a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) causing the check engine light to illuminate. But the vehicle will run fine. I need more information please!

      • Kylie says:

        My car is a 2001 Subaru Forester. =)

        • ChiltonDIY says:

          Hi Kylie,
          Subaru issued a recall for your vehicle that calls for reprogramming the engine control module (ECM) and replacing the front air/fuel ratio oxygen sensor.
          As a start, it would be a good idea to check with a Subaru dealer to see if this recall has been performed on your vehicle.
          You can read the full text of the recall in your ChiltonDIY subscription. You can filter for recalls by checking the box on the right side that says, “Show Recalls Only” and then clicking “Search.” That will speed your search as there are about 100 bulletins for the 2001 Forester as of today.

          • Kylie says:

            Okay, thanks so much! I will call the Subaru dealer on Monday. Since my car is thirteen years old, will they still repair the problem for free if that is what’s causing my issues? Do recalls on cars ever expire?

            • Kylie says:

              Furthermore, if the repair was already done in the past, but it is found that that part of the car is malfunctioning again, will they still fix it for free? I’ve only had this car for two years. My aunt owned it before me and might have gotten the work done, but she doesn’t remember.

  10. Brandon says:

    Is common to mistake a bad alternator for a faulty fuel pump? My 95 4Runner stalled a couple of times while driving, but started right up after turning it off and letting it set for a few minutes. Took it in to the local autozone for battery/alternator check and they said it should be replaced. I did and now it has slight hesitation on start up and then dies when I take off the parking brake.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Brandon.
      It is not really common to misdiagnose an alternator for a fuel pump. However, drivability concerns like the one you describe can have more than one cause that needs to be addressed. Consider evaluating not only the fuel supply and fuel injection system, but also the ignition system. All these must be in good working condition for the vehicle to maintain proper operating parameters.

  11. Tiffany says:

    I have a 2003 Dodge Durango SLT.It started running hot.The thing about it is I could be driving it runs hot then works it’s way back up to where is suppose to be.Also it is shaking a little…and it also has a little ticking sound..

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Tiffany, stop and check the engine coolant it might be low. Overheating the engine can cause the ticking and vibration. Make sure the engine coolant is clean and filled to the correct level.
      Check the thermostat and coolant fan operation.
      Running the engine hot can cause extreme engine damage. After the problem is repaired, don’t forget to change the engine oil and filter. Running the engine HOT will break down the engine oil, causing additional problems, like ticking noises from the valve tappets.

  12. Tim says:

    I have a 1997 Infiniti I30. It shows signs of a bad fuel pump. It almost never starts up right away–you have to crank it, stop, crank again and it usually starts promptly on the 2nd crank. Then I let it idle for about 12 seconds or so, then I put it in reverse, and it tries to die on me. I hit the gas and it feels dead, not revving, but trying to die. It finally catches up to where it needs to be and is okay. driving on the road is usually okay. My question is , where is the Schrader valve on this vehicle? I’ve read another person’s account on the web and he fixed the exact same issue with a new fuel pump. So I have one on order.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Tim.
      As a first step, scan the Infiniti for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). It could be a fuel pump, but before replacing anything that expensive, it would be a good idea to have it scanned for any set codes.
      In addition, there is a technical service bulletin for an intermittent no start condition that could be related. You can find the complete text of the recalls and bulletins for your vehicle in your ChiltonDIY subscription. With more than 100 bulletins, search faster by filtering by the vehicle “System.” Select “Air and Fuel Delivery” from the dropdown box.

  13. Brandy says:

    I have 2002 Pontaic grand am gt.My car wouldn’t crank it was attempting to start but it wouldnt turn over I had it towed to the repair shop where they told me that I had a fuel pump problem and that’s why I wasn’t starting. got the car back 2 days later after paying almost 600.00 bucks the next day the vehicle wouldn’t crank again. almost a week later he tells me that it wasn’t a fuel pump that was faulty it was electrical problems.Is that possible?

  14. Brandy says:

    He also told me the electrical problems can cause a brand new pump to go bad? I just spent $600 to get the car fixed I’m going to have to spend the astronomical amount of money to get it fixed if its electrical. what should I do?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Brandy.
      The electrical problem could have caused the problem with starting your vehicle, BUT I don’t think it could have damaged the new fuel pump. If the vehicle had a wiring connection or short when you brought the vehicle in for repairs, it should have been addressed at the time of your fuel pump replacement.
      Did they mention any diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), and where the electrical short is located?

  15. Brandy says:

    No he didn’t

Leave a Reply