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!

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

  1. Melissa says:

    I have a 2000 Kia Sephia and when driving yesterday my car seemed to stop getting gas, I have a full tank of gas. Now when I try to start my car and push on the gas it seems like it kills it even more. When trying to start my car it sounds normal and all lights come on but wont start. I did not hear any weird or funny sounds before this happened.
    Please help me, thank you

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Melissa, test for spark and fuel, and scan the vehicle for any related diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs).
      Have you replaced the timing belt? The service manual recommends changing the belt at 60,000 miles. This is an interference engine. I would check the belt and timing marks. If the timing belt jumped or broke, trying repeatedly to start the engine could cause additional problems, such as bent engine valves.

  2. joe kittle says:

    My 03 kia is cutting out only occassionally when it starts pulling from a low rpm. Any ideas?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Joe.
      What model and engine do you have?
      I would first scan the vehicle for related diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). When you have a intermittent problem it can be difficult to pin down. If the PCM (powertrain control module) detects the malfunction it will store a trouble code. This will help you to diagnose the problem.
      If codes are not present, start checking all the basics: the air and fuel filters, spark plugs, fuel pressure, ignition performance, and timing. With a professional scan tool you can watch the readings and check for history codes.
      FYI sometimes you must wait for the problem to worsen, or you could start chasing a ghost.

  3. Cheyenne Rowles says:

    hi i have a 1995 mitsubishi eclipse we just put new spark plugs in and a new aic valve nd now when we start the car it either doesnt start at all or starts and dies after a few minutes. also if we get it started, when we take it out of park it dies. could it be fuel pump???help please…

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Cheyenne.
      Did the vehicle run okay before you installed the spark plugs and idle air control motor (IAC valve)? Are there any trouble codes stored in the vehicle? Try unhooking the battery for a few minutes, the IAC motor needs to adjust itself with help from the electronic control module (ECM). Does it have the 2.0L turbo engine?

  4. Kuulei says:

    I have a 97 civic and when the fuel is running low, it makes a weird noise (sounds like its coming from the gas tank) but goes away when I re-fuel. Any ideas on what that could be?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Kuulei.
      The fuel pump is straining to pick up the fuel and debris inside the tank. I would keep the gas at half a tank or more if possible. Running it out of gas and on E is not good. Change the fuel filter as sometimes this can help with the noise.

  5. trina says:

    Hello i have an 03 chevy malibu ls and it wont start now. A week ago i had to spray carb cleaner in the carburetor but now it wont start at all. When i turn the key on you can hear the fuel pump turn on. It was replaced 2 years ago…can you help??

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Trina.
      First you need to find out if it is a fuel problem or an ignition malfunction. I would first scan the vehicle for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that will help pin down the problem.
      Check the fuel pressure, has the fuel filter been serviced lately? The fact that you sprayed carb cleaner into the intake system does suggest a fuel problem.
      General Motors issued a technical service bulletin (TSB) that may apply to your situation; it is regarding clogged fuel injectors. You can obtain the TSBs and Recalls for your 2003 Chevy Malibu in your ChiltonDIY subscription.

  6. Amber says:

    We have a 1999 ford Taurus se v6 and it won’t start sometimes. We just got a new battery and they said it wasn’t the alternator, battery, or starter. It doesn’t quit while driving but won’t start sometimes and other times it will. They said it will be over 400 to fix it if it’s a fuel pump and we can’t afford that so I’m praying it’s not the fuel pump! Please help!

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Amber.
      It could be a host of things. Does the vehicle crank but not start or does it have trouble cranking over? I would scan the engine for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), and check the actual fuel pressure and the voltage at the fuel pump electrical connector. You can find the fuel pump testing procedure and specifications for the fuel pressure and the fuel pump connector voltage in your ChiltonDIY subscription.
      The vehicle’s antitheft system could cause an intermittent starting condition; Ford issued a technical service bulletin (TSB) about it. Check your ChiltonDIY subscription for the TSB to see if it explains the intermittent no-start your 1999 Ford Taurus is exhibiting.

      • Kat says:

        I have a similar problem with my 2001 Mercury Sable LS Premium with V6 DOHC engine with about 168,000 miles. Sometimes when I go to start it, it turns over fairly strong but immediately drops down to around 500 rpm and shakes, then dies about ten seconds later. Pushing on the accelerator does nothing. It has a new battery, starter, and alternator. I bought it used from a mechanic in Palm Springs Veterans Day Weekend and it began to randomly stall out at the start about a week after I got it. I took it back to the mechanic right before Thanksgiving and he ran all sorts of tests including the pressure test. Not even the computer showed trouble codes. He also got the engine hot and it still started perfectly. He did not want to immediately replace the fuel pump because he is unable to pinpoint the problem. He did not want me to spend all that money and still have that problem.
        Usually when it does stall, it is after I have driven it to where the engine has been hot for about 10+ miles and then stop and try to start again about 15-20 mins later. I believe each time it has stalled was when I was below a half tank of gas. I am not sure what could be the problem because once I get going, the engine runs strong and has quite a bit of power.

        • ChiltonDIY says:

          Hi Kat.
          I would first check for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) and then check the fuel pressure. If there are no DTCs present in the Sable’s computer, and the fuel pressure reading is within specifications, check the idle air control valve (IAC). The IAC valve adjusts the engine idle speed. The valve is located on the side of the throttle body. The valve is controlled by a duty cycle signal from the powetrain control module or PCM, and allows air to bypass the throttle plate in order to maintain the proper idle speed. A faulty IAC can cause hard stating and stalling conditions.
          Ford released a technical service bulletin (TSB) for the IAC issue. You can read the TSB to see if it might apply to your 2004 Ford Sable; TSBs are in your ChiltonDIY subscription in the section labeled: TSBs and Recalls.

          • Kat says:

            So far it has never stalled while driving (stopped at a stoplight or in traffic) or when I put it in gear. If it was the IAC would that cause stalling in any other situations besides just starting?

          • ChiltonDIY says:

            Kat,
            Yes it could under heavy engine loads, such as when you use the air conditioner. As engine loads and ambient temperatures change, engine rpm changes. The idle air control valve (IAC) controls air flow through the passage to raise or lower the engine idle. I have seen an IAC stick in just the right position for base idle, but that causes problems on start-up.

  7. Ken says:

    I have a 202 ford focus. A few days ago, the car stalled
    and would not start. I had to get it towed. I discovered that the fuel pump fuse was blown. I replaced the fuse and started the car using starter fluid. I drove it for about 5 miles, parked in my driveway, then it started to idle rough, stalled and wouldn’t restart.

    Decided to replace the filter. The old filter had something loose inside and was probably blocking fuel flow. I could blow through it, however, when I shook it to move the loose object inside, no air could pass through

    So once again, I managed to start it with starting fluid, drove it around for approx. 10 min, pulled in my driveway soon after it stalled and would not restart.

    Do you think the fuel pump is going bad? Perhaps that bad fuel filter was putting a lot of stress on the pump

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Ken, I would definitely check the fuel pressure. And yes, it does sound like the fuel filter may have damaged the fuel pump. Your vehicle has a fuel pressure sensor mounted on the fuel rail, did you check the Focus for any diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs)?
      The correct fuel pressure specification is in your ChiltonDIY subscription for the 2002 Ford Focus, follow this PATH: Engine Mechanical > Specifications > Gasoline Engine Tune-Up Specifications.

  8. Sawyer says:

    I have a 2002 pt cruiser. I have had several problem with the car from the day i bought it. This time the code read that the camshaft sensor needed to be replaced so we replaced that but the car continues to cut off after only a few miles. We also replaced the crank shaft, timing belt, oil change, and plugs and wires. At first it would only move a few meters and cut off, now you can drive maybe a mile and then it cuts off. What do you think the problem is

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Sawyer did you perform the Crankshaft Relearn procedure?
      Select Crank Relearn on the scan tool to allow the PCM (powertrain control module) to enable a fast CMP (camshaft position sensor) and CKP (crankshaft position sensor) relearn procedure. The PCM relearns the crank target window spacing during the Decel Fuel Shutoff mode. The PCM reset step requires 3 closed throttle decelerations from 55 mph in order to relearn the Crank Target Spacing. Did any codes return after you reset the PCM?

  9. Jeremiah says:

    Hi thank you for this guide and the feedback it has been very informative. I just purchased an f-150 fx4. When i bought it it had half a tank of gas and was running great.

    It still runs really good when it has gas but when it gets down to around a 1/8 of a tank it stalls out when accelerating. It just feels like the fuel flow stops for a second or two and then kicks back on. Sometimes this causes the truck to stall out in the middle of the road but most of the time it just causes the truck the lose acceleration ability temporarily.

    The real problem is that even when i have above a half tank of gas it will sometimes not start at all. It turns over and acts like its going to start but doesn’t- like it can’t get fuel. This has happened about 7-8 times now and i have had the truck for 2.5 months. It usually takes 5-10 minutes to start when this happens. The other day it took about 20 minutes.

    We thought this was the fuel pump and have been meaning to replace it but just have been trying to find the time. I went to buy the pump and saw that it is $280 plus.. I am going to start with the air filter, fuel filter, fuel injectors before i buy the pump. Is it possible this is not the fuel pump or should i just bite the bullet and buy the part?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Jeremiah.
      What year and which engine does the truck have?
      Scan the vehicle to see if any diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) are present, and by all means check the fuel pressure. See if the pressure holds after you shut down the vehicle. A faulty regulator could cause this problem. It sounds fuel related but don’t jump to conclusions, test the fuel pressure.

  10. Luzma Garcia says:

    Hello I have a 2001 Lincoln ls . My engine light is on , my car cranks and cranks and will turn on only if I push some gas then Smells like gasoline, and shakes when I’m on parking or stop sign. I just had my coils change and valve cover gasket? Plz help thank you.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Luzma.
      Was the problem present before the repair work was performed? It sounds like you need to recheck the ignition coils and plugs and scan the vehicle for DTCs (diagnostic trouble codes). I bet you have misfire codes P0300-308. Which engine do you have, a V6 or V8?
      Notes:
      Be sure the spark plugs do not drop into the wells, damage to the electrodes can occur. Always tighten spark plugs to the specified torque. Overtightening can cause distortion resulting in a change in the spark plug gap. Overtightening can also damage the cylinder head. Verify the ignition coils are seated and the boots are not damaged.

  11. Joseph Edwards says:

    Hi Chilton DIY
    I have a 1998 mercedes benz c230 that dies when I turn it on. It wll stay alive for a couple secondes then start dying out. I replaced the fuel filter, but I didn’t put premuim fuel in the tank. Could that be the issue why the car dies out, because if it starts that mean that either the engine gets spark so the problem would be either air or fuel related. right? This is Joseph needing alot of help.lol

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Joseph I don’t think that not using premium gas is your problem. Was the problem present before you changed your filter? Make sure you have good spark and check the fuel pressure. Check the fuel pressure under three different conditions:

      • without vacuum applied
      • with vacuum applied
      • retention after 30 minutes

      Mercedes specifies a different range for each of the three fuel pump pressure checks. You will find the correct specifications for your 1998 Mercedes Benz C230 in your ChiltonDIY subscription.
      You would also want to scan the vehicle for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs).

      • Joseph Edwards says:

        Hey ChiltonDIY
        Do you think it could be the fuel pump. Also, if the fuel pressure is messed up could it be because of a short. I did attempt drain the fuel but the fuel pump would make the buzz sound and no fuel would come out.

        • ChiltonDIY says:

          Joseph did you install the fuel filter correctly? There is “in” and “out” marked on the filter.
          If you energized the pump correctly and no fuel was pumping you may have a faulty pump.
          Did you have the problem before you changed the fuel filter? Do you think you may have shorted out the pump when trying to energize it?

  12. Felix says:

    I have a 97 civic and ive been driving with a studder,it turned off at times but eventually it turned on again.i changed the gas filter and it stoped for a few weeks and now it did it again but now it wont restart.what is the problem?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Felix, first remove a spark plug wire and with a spark tester or screwdriver check for a hot spark. Do you have spark?
      Next check the actual fuel pressure. If you scan the Honda Civic for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) it could help you pin down the problem. As a general rule you should scan for any related diagnostic trouble codes. That’s assuming you have a scan tool.
      If spark, fuel and DTCs are fine, next check out timing and compression.

  13. MelonyB says:

    I have 2004 VW Jetta. Can anyone tell me if the fuel pump goes out will it cause the coil pack to go out also?

  14. Annalee says:

    I own a 2000 dodge caravan se I drove the car to work the other day and it drove fine.when I got to work the engine began making a spluttering noise and died..restarted the vehicle and the engine splutter and died again..went to restart it a third time an it won’t start.it acts like it wants to but won’t and when I press the gas pedal nothing happens it does not rev up..fuel pump? Filter? Or something else?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Annalee,
      I would scan the Caravan to see if any codes are present which may help you diagnose the problem. By codes I mean diagnostic trouble codes or DTCs.
      Check the fuel pressure and inspect the ignition system. Do you have good hot spark? Are the ignition plugs and wires okay? What size engine do you have?

  15. Ken says:

    I have a 93 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham with a 350 chevy engine. It will start then shut off a few minutes later and can only be refired by priming the carb with gas or starting fluid only again to shut off after a few minutes. It runs smooth and there is no lack of power. It seems to just run out of gas (which it isn’t). The pump activates when the key is turned on. I’m thinking maybe a fuel regulator. If a relay overheated, would it not correct itself when it cooled down? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Ken.
      I would test the actual fuel pressure with a gauge to see what the pressure reads. If the relay went bad the fuel pump would not energize at all. Have you scanned the Fleetwood for related diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs)?

  16. Patricia G says:

    I have an 82 VW Rabbit Convertible that will not start., When I turn the key I hear a boom noise. I was having problems last week with it trying to die on me any suggestions?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Patricia, by “boom noise” do you mean exhaust backfire?
      How are the ignition components, spark plug wires, distributor cap? Has it been wet where you live? Faulty ignition parts can cause a backfire boom noise.

  17. latese s says:

    Hi I have a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am the fuel pump went out on it I replaced it with a new one it ran for that 1 day but then the next day it wouldn’t start again, I replace the fuel injectors I replace the fuel filter just started for a day or two then wouldnt start again, but if you spray starter fluid in the car it starts right up, and some days it might even start up for 4 days straight and then just go out again. My mechanic say it is a fuel related problems so do you think I should change the fuel pressure regulator now or could it be some thing else? Thanks in advance!

  18. latese s says:

    Here is more details about the day that I replace the fuel pump I was driving it I was doing like 35 miles per hour and then all of a sudden it just slowed down to like 15 miles per hour like it wasn’t getting any gas, and then seconds later it just took off and started back to drive normal and like I was saying some days it will start up 3, 4 days straight and then go back out the next day and it wont start for like 3-4 days and then all of a sudden she’ll start back up. Help me Please!

  19. Andrea says:

    Hi! I have a ’95 jetta that died on the way home from work last night. When I turn the key all the lights turn on as usual, but the engine does nothing. Also, the hazards reset themselves and blink for two minutes. This usually happens after the battery dies. I put gas in a few hours before, but when it died it felt as if it had run out of gas. Do you think it is a bad fuel pump? Thank you for your help!

  20. Larry says:

    I have a 2002 Ford Explorer flex fuel V6. It’s not getting any fuel to the engine. I can here the fuel pump turn on. I have replaced the fuel filter. I have checked the fuel pump relay and the fuels. I have pushed the emergency fuel shut off button to see if that was the problem but it wasn’t. Checked for leaks in the fuel line found none. Don’t know what else it could be. Please help.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Larry.
      If you hear can hear the fuel pump run and the fuel pressure is not at specification, I would suspect a faulty fuel pump. The testing port should be found on the fuel rail. If you don’t have a gauge, remove the front connection of the fuel filter. Install a pan or bucket to catch the fuel, then cycle the ignition switch to see if fuel comes out the open end of the fuel filter.
      Check your ChiltonDIY subscription for your 2002 Ford Explorer’s fuel pump specification by following this PATH: Engine Mechanical > Specifications > Gasoline Engine Tune-Up Specifications.

  21. selene says:

    How would you know if you need a fuel pump or fuel filter after reading I think its a fuel pump but it could be a fuel filter too.

  22. selene says:

    Also when you start your car if you dont hear the buzzing sound does that mean your fuel pump is bad

  23. ashley says:

    Hi I have a 98 town and country that ran out of gas recently. We put some gas in it today and when trying to start it sounds like it isGoing to turn over but doesn’t. When turning the key to the on possition the pump kicks on some times but not everytime if you tap on the gas tank and then try to start the van it will start.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Ashley, it sounds like you have a bad fuel pump. By tapping on the fuel tank sometimes you can jar the fuel pump motor and it will start pumping fuel. This is and old trick that sometimes works. If the vehicle started after tapping on the fuel tank, I would replace the fuel pump assembly. If you install a fuel pressure gauge to your van you can actually watch what happens when you tap on the tank. A fuel pressure gauge is an important tool for a correct diagnosis of the fuel system.

  24. Chris F says:

    I am having a problem with my honda s2000 starting. It is intermittent and only occurs on the first start of the day. The engine cranks but will not turn over and start. Once this occurs I am not able to start it for the rest of the day, but when I try to start it the next day it starts up. The battery has been replaced and the starter and alternator have been tested and appear to be fine. There is a check engine light on for the secondary air pump, however this came on a little over a week after the problem started. I have taken it to a third party and they believe it is the fuel pump that is the problem but are not sure. I took out to Honda and they think it is the secondary air pump. It is $650 to put in a new fuel pump and $1500 for the air pump. Don’t think it is the air pump as others have actually taken it out and put a simulator in. Seems not vital for starting or engine function. The car is stock except I replaced the air filter with a k&n. Need some help as I fear I will drop the money and the issue won’t be fixed. It is a 2004. Let me know if I need to provide any additional information. Pretty new to this so wanted to hear what y’all think might cause this. The fact that it is intermittent is curious to me. Thanks.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Chris.
      Intermittent problems are more common than you think and can be frustrating to diagnose. Sometimes repair shops will ask you to leave the vehicle for a few days. That way they can check the vehicle hopefully when it won’t start. They will test the fuel pressure, check for spark and communicate with the vehicle’s computer.
      The PGM-FI main relay controls the fuel pump. On older Hondas the main relays would go bad and cause intermittent starting problems. The s2000 does have a problem with the manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor, but this problem usually occurs during heavy acceleration. I would still check the sensor and connector. I’ve seen faulty MAP sensors cause hard staring conditions.

  25. Trish says:

    Hi I have a 2001 Nissan primera. It runs sluggish..when slow down and put foot on gas feels as if it jerking. Then tonight was driving home and it felt like it was running out of gas..it has half tank gas. Can please help??

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Trish, I would scan the vehicle for related diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). By scanning the Primera you may be able to pinpoint the problem: Fuel or Spark.
      Check the actual fuel pressure with a fuel pressure gauge. Inspect the ignition components: spark plugs, coils, wires and/or boots.

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