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!

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

  1. ashley says:

    I have a 202 Nissan Quest and while driving down the highway my car started shaking like it was about out of gas, but it had a 1/2 tank. Eventually it ccompletly shut off and would not crank. Had it towed to a repair shop and they replaced fuel filter and fuel line. Sommehow the fuel filter quit working and it sucked the fuel line flat. I pick my van up and not even 20 minutes later it starts to shake again and cuts off. About and hr later it cranked bacck up but was not idling right. So the tow truck man hits the gas real hard twice and it idles fine and runs fines. Oh and i could tell it wasnt picking as good going up a hill right before that happpened. The following day it does the same thing and my husband was able to crank it right back up and hit the gas real hard and it hasnt done it again in 24the hrs. My husband ran the gas out of the car and put new in. Could this have just been bad gas or is it my fuel pump going out

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Ashley.
      Did the repair shop check the running fuel pressure? A faulty vapor recovery system could cause the fuel line to be sucked closed. When you release the fuel cap do you hear a sucking sound? If so that system may be faulty.
      You can obtain the correct running fuel pressure specification as well as the operation, testing, and removal and installation procedures for the evaporative emission control system when you subscribe to information on the 2002 Nissan Quest at http://www.ChiltonDIY.com.
      Your repair shop’s subscription to ChiltonPRO gives them the 2002 Nissan Quest fuel pressure specifications and evaporative emission control system testing, operation, and removal and installation procedures along with service and repair information for most makes and models produced in the US over the past 70+ years.

  2. tony says:

    i have a 1992 Lexus SC400 that would rev twice and then die when i turn it on. after about 3 or 4 tries then it would stay on but continue revving really bad like its about to die. when I actually drive it its fine, but once I put it in park again the revving comes back. now the car won’t start at all but i can hear it struggling to start up. what could this be? faulty fuel pump?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Tony.
      The only way to check the fuel pump properly is to install a fuel pressure gauge and monitor the fuel pressure. You can find the correct fuel pressure specification in your ChiltonDIY subscription for the 1992 Lexus SC4000 by following this navigation PATH: Engine Mechanical > Specifications > Gasoline Engine Tune-Up Specifications.
      Scan the vehicle to see if it has set a diagnostic trouble code (DTC). If a code is set it might help direct you to the problem.

  3. Cheri says:

    Our 2008 Dodge Dakota.Started running rough on the highway and loosing acceleration.Got it to the repair shop and it acted fine.They changed Oxygen Sensor,plugs ,plug coil,intake manifold gasket.Ran pretty good for 24 hrs.Then had mileage drop 4 miles per gallon.1week later same rough and no acceleration.Shop changed Crank Sensor.Worked 1 and a half weeks.Mileage started dropping yesterday and rough and no acceleration again.Shop doesn’t know what to do.Any ideas where to start?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Cheri. Start at the beginning. Check the fuel pressure, check for vacuum leaks. Check the ignition system and timing. Scan and monitor the sensors.
      Sometimes a sensor could be bad but it is still within the powertrain control module’s acceptable parameters.

  4. Eric Rago says:

    I have a 2000 Acura Integra car has been running great for me for the past year . Just yesterday I tried to push my high mpg getting Acura to far and drove on empty just to make good time, now my car has been putting out and backfiring and even stalling while in motion what could it be??

  5. Eric Rago says:

    Correction
    This has been going on for 2 days now

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Eric.
      I would change the fuel filter and check for water. If you ran the vehicle low or out of gas start there. Then check of the fuel pressure. Scan for related trouble codes. How is the ignition system, timing, plugs, cap and wires?

  6. Derek says:

    I have a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt. Lately whenever I turn the ignition it stutters for about a 5 second count before it starts up. It has never not started or stalled out, and it starts up immediately if I’ve been driving it around for a while first. Lately I have noticed a gas smell as well. Any ideas what this could be? I’ve had the battery and alternator tested and all checked out fine.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Derek, when you say it stutters, does it sound like the starter motor is rough or just prolonged cranking? Did they check the starter operation? I would scan for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) and check the fuel pressure. You can find the fuel pressure specification in your ChiltonDIY by following this path on the navigation outline: Fuel Systems > Fuel Controls (select the correct engine here) > Diagnostic Information And Procedures > Fuel System > Fuel System Diagnosis.
      Also, there is a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) with two update bulletins that may be related to your 2008 Chevy Cobalt’s problem. It is TSB #03-06-04-030F and the issue may cause any of the following symptoms:

      • Extended Crank Time
      • Hard to Start
      • MIL/SES Illuminated with DTCs
      • Hesitation
      • Lack of Power
      • Surge or Chuggle
      • Rough Idle
      • Light or Intermittent Misfire

      Derek, you can obtain the TSB at ChiltonDIY.com when you subscribe for your 2008 Chevy Cobalt.
      Tip: Because there are currently about 600 bulletins for this vehicle, makes your search easier using the filters, for example, you could search for the symptom, “Engine Extended Cranking or Hard Starting Condition.”

  7. Cesar Gil says:

    I have a problem with my 2005 ford mustang v6…. I have been driving it for the past two weeks and it’s kind of been stalling… This past weekend,it was tturning off all the time, unless I put fuel injector cleaner it wouldn’t run good. What I did, is took the injectors out and cleaned them and let them soak in fuel injector cleaner and carburetor cleaner… Hooked it back up and the car started but should I leave it on for a while because it still turns off .. I think it’s letting the gas go thru but I’m not sure… I think if it doesn’t work, it could be the gas pump.

    • Cesar Gil says:

      Sorry for all the bad grammar, I’m on my cell phone…

      • ChiltonDIY says:

        Hi there. Did you scan the vehicle for any related trouble codes? I would check the fuel pressure and filter. Does the vehicle run okay on the highway?
        The problem could be caused by sludge buildup in the throttle body leading to the airflow being less than desired; that would cause stalling. Does the 4.0L have an Electronic Throttle Body (ETB) ?
        There are Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) for the ETB on the 2005 Ford Mustang. In your ChiltonDIY subscription for your 2005 Ford Mustang TSB section, search for TSB# 12-7-4.

  8. Eric Rago says:

    So today my Acura Integra quit on me completely. I couldn’t get it to start . I changed the fuel filter because the pumps turning on I changed spark plugs and the wires. Still it didn’t start but when my buddy’s father got home we explained to him the problem and he begins looking at the distributor , he takes off the cap takes off and some other piece cleans it up , puts it back on and wah lah the car starts , I didn’t even make it a block before it turns off on me again and then won’t start again , this makes me believe its a distributor problem he said the wires had no current. Is this the problem ? If so what are my options I’m already $140 in and a new distributor is over $200 ? What are my options can I buy pieces of the distributor and how do I narrow it down?
    Thank you

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Eric. Acura ignition systems are basically comprised of a distributor, an ignition control module, a control box, a high energy coil and related ignition wires. The distributor contains a reluctor mounted on a rotor shaft and a magnet mounted on a base plate. The pick-up coil is located around the rotor shaft but does not rotate with the shaft. Located in the distributor, in addition to the rotor, is a spoked reluctor which is pressed onto the distributor shaft. The reluctor revolves with the rotor; as it passes a pickup coil inside the distributor body, it breaks a high flux field, which occurs in the space between the reluctor and the pickup coil. The breaking of the field allows current to flow to the pickup coil. Primary ignition current is then cut off by the Powertrain Control Module (PCM), allowing the magnetic field in the ignition coil to collapse, creating the spark which the distributor passes on to the spark plugs.

      The only parts in the distributor that can be changed are the ignition coil and module. If the magnetic pick-up is bad you will need to replace the distributor. Are the distributor cap and rotor okay? Inspect the cap and rotor for cracks or a burned electrode. There is no test for the ignition module so you need to check the coil and the magnetic pick-up to see if they are operating properly.

  9. Cassie says:

    We have a 2000 Chevy Venture that we bought last Thanksgiving. It has always been rough starting up, but usually if we give it some gas it’ll start up. Only problem with that is it doesn’t always stay running and it will very rarely stay running for longer than a minute or two if it is put into park after driving. It has also shut off a few times when I come to stop for a stop sign, usually if I’m going downhill. It’s very nerve wracking, especially with a baby coming next month – I need to be able to let it warm up some during the cold Minnesota winter and know it will stay running.
    My husband has tried coding it, but it does not throw out any codes. The ABS light comes on at random times but usually does not stay on. My husband just replaced the battery last week after one of the kids hit the light and we didn’t see it for a few days and the battery was done for. We don’t have a lot of extra money so I’d rather not guess as to what is wrong and replace things that don’t need replacing. Please help :(

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Cassie.
      The first thing I would check is the fuel pressure. You will need a gauge to check the fuel system. If the fuel pressure is okay, try cleaning the throttle body. Check for vacuum leaks. Your vehicle has an Idle Air Control valve (IAC) that could cause a problem with starting and idling. Remove the IAC valve and clean out the passage, check the IAC operation with the use of a professional scan tool.
      There are four technical service bulletins that could cause the symptoms you describe. Check your ChiltonDIY subscription for the bulletins.

  10. isaiah says:

    Hello. I have a 94 z28 Camaro. I have just had a cam put into it.
    It will run for like ten minutes and shut off them won’t crank back, up for a day or two. Does it need a new fuel pump? Spark plugs? Etc. I don’t know I really need help. Any response is, greatly appreciated.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Isaiah.
      I’m guessing you have a 5.7L engine in your Camaro. Did it run okay before the cam was installed? How is the timing? Did you mark the distributor before you removed it? Did you adjust the valves? I would check the base timing. Check all the basics, and retrace your previous work installing the cam. Check all your connections, vacuum lines etc.

  11. Larry Fields says:

    I have an ’02 Dodge Dakota. It always starts first time no matter when. It runs good in the morning but after it warms up if I park it for 30 min. or more, and I return it will start fine but when put in drive it will cough, sputter and backfire until I quickly push the accelerator to the floor then it runs O.K. again. If I park it for less than 15 min. I don’t have this problem. It has no power when accelerating slowly until I quickly push the accelerator to the floor again, then it works. It also seems to be intermittent and doesn’t happen all the time. I’ve changed the plugs, cap, rotor, MAP sensor, idle air control solenoid, throttle position sensor, checked for vacuum leaks, removed, cleaned and checked the fuel injectors. The upstream oxygen sensors are fairly new: one is a couple of months old and the other is only a couple of years old. Yesterday I did a fuel pressure check and it was around 45-46 lbs. My repair manual says it should be 47.2-51.2 lbs. It holds fuel pressure above 40 lbs. when shut off and left for 10 min. I have no trouble codes and when I put my trouble code reader on it, I get no recorded codes. I’m at my wits end and don’t know what’s wrong. Can you help me figure out what to do to correct this problem?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Larry. The fuel pressure is a bit low. I would recheck the fuel pressure and leave the pressure gauge on, and key off. Give it at least 2 hours and see if the pressure bleeds off. Chrysler’s do have problems with their fuel pump modules. The filter, pump, sending unit, and regulator are all in one.

  12. Gabbi Rodriguez says:

    hey i have a 98′ chevy cavalier i got new sparkplugs and cables the essentials, but i when i would try and turn on my car it wouldnt want to start, then its been waisting lotz of gas also my uncle said its the fuel pump but its just so expensive, what can i do?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Gabbi. Scan the vehicle; it sounds like you might have a bad 02 sensor. I’m not thinking fuel pump. But I would check the fuel pressure to be safe.
      What size engine do you have?

  13. Claye says:

    I have a 2005 Ford Ranger XLT. I went out the move it last night and it would crank. I pressed the inertia switch and after 6 tries or so it started. Started it today with no problem and came to work. Now I tried to start it again and it wouldn’t start. the inertia switch was just replaced maybe a month ago. When it did start it was choking trying to get the fuel and dies. Wondering if the fuel filter or pump may need replacing?

  14. Claye says:

    I mean it wouldn’t crank up. Can you email me any answers or solutions you may have?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Claye.
      I would rule out the inertia switch first, make sure it is mounted properly and check the connectors.
      Run a fuel pressure test. Has the fuel filter been replaced lately?

  15. Mathew says:

    I have a 1992 Oldsmobile Royale. Lately when I try to star the car it wont turn over usually leaving it for 30-45 minutes and trying to start it again it will turn over. Any ideals of what it could be?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Mathew.
      I would rule out the battery, connections, and the starter.
      Does the Royale have an antitheft system? If it has the PASS-Key II system (antiheft system) you might try scanning for codes. It could be the starter enable relay. There is a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) called “Intermittent No Crank,” TSB #92-8-150, that could be the cause. TSBs for your 1992 Oldsmobile 88/Royale are in your ChiltonDIY subscription.

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