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. Ivi says:

    Hi there, I have a 2001 Landrover Freelander. Everytime I start it turns off immediately and engine light comes on. I have to rev to ‘warm’ it up and find the car runs ok but sometimes will shut off when I’m at a red light. Also car is making a ticking noise as it starts and doesn’t seem to go away. Please help! Just bought this car.. Aslo I noticed when I first drove it, the fuel was basically empty and started perfectly fine?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi there.
      I would scan the Land Rover for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). There is a technical service bulletin (TSB) that might apply. The description is: “VIS MOTOR DTC, MANIFOLD RATTLE NOISE AND ENGINE PERFORMANCE DIAGNOSIS” it is dated June 26, 2006. This TSB is in the ChiltonDIY subscription for the 2001 Land Rover Freelander, there are also additional TSBs related to the fuel filter and pump that state they are for US vehicles only.

  2. George says:

    1989 chev, P30 stepvan, 454, Food truck
    Problems started a few weeks ago when after running fine for 10-15 mile on the highway the carb would be starved for gas, slowed down to a max of 35 MPH. Changed the mech fuel pump and in carb filter, no change. Added an inline 72 GPH fuel pump with realy before the existing new mech fuel pump. Today truck ran fine on highway for 1/2 day only to start same problem when stuck in traffic,(tank now 1/2 full) yet still fine when it gets to highway speed.I am thinking I should eliminate mech pump from circuit. Also need to add I changed out old quadrajet for new Elelbrook 600 cfm with external fuel filter, beause quad was just worn out.
    Could problem be mech pump drive lobe worn out and not doing anything until unitl high RPM’s?
    Culd problem be filter sock in tank? I checked lines with compressed air, seemed clear.
    If I eleminate mech pumpmdomI need a pressure regulator?
    Tanks for the help.

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi George. Check all the fuel lines for crimping; make sure the vapor recovery system is working. Do you have the correct fuel cap? It sounds like you might have contamination in the fuel tank. Inspect the sock in the fuel tank.
      As far as the cam lobe wearing down for the fuel pump, it is possible. You would need to remove the fuel pump and inspect the cam lobe. The fuel pressure should read 4.0-6.5 psi.

  3. Robert says:

    I have a 1999 jeep Cherokee sport 4×4 automatic.
    It seems every time I drive it, within the first 5 min, it has to have this little episode where the acceleration gets real jerky and even when I push the gas it wont go for a couple of seconds. Then it will finally catch and launch me into the next gear. Happens for about 30 seconds then it rides fine for the rest of the time. I ran the codes and it has something to do with the fuel pump. Does this seem right? And if it is the fuel pump, is this a do it yourself job or do I need to take it to someone?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Robert.
      What code number did you get when you scanned the Jeep? If you suspect the fuel pump I would test the fuel pressure. If your fuel pump is bad you will have to drop the fuel tank to replace it. Are all the vacuum and breather lines in good shape?

      • Robert says:

        The code number I got was a 0455. I know this usally means a leak but where is there to check?

        • ChiltonDIY says:

          Hi Robert.
          I don’t think the EVAP code you pulled from the PCM is causing the problem, test the fuel pressure.
          Regarding DTC P0455, the PCM detected a leak greater than 0.080 existed somewhere in the EVAP system.
          Possible causes:
          – EVAP fuel tank or canister vapor hoses leaking or damaged.
          – EVAP system component leaking, fuel cap loose or missing
          – Leak detection pump damaged or leaking

  4. Pam says:

    My son just replaced the fuel pump on his 1999 Chrysler Sebring JXI Convertible. Started right up, ran great, then this morning he was going to work and it stalled. It will crank but runs rough, almost smells like burning diesel. Any idea what this could be?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Pam.
      There are two technical service bulletins (TSBs) for the 1999 Sebring for a sticking exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve. Your son may have replaced the fuel pump for an EGR malfunction. The EGR valve issue will cause starting, running and stalling conditions.
      The TSBs are in the ChiltonDIY subscription for the 1999 Chrysler Sebring. Search using the symptom filter and the symptom: “Engine Stalls.”

  5. sheldon says:

    I have a dodge stratus and it was sputtering and shaking so i took it to a mechanic who had been working on it for sometime he saw that the issue with the car were misfire and it ended up being a jammed spark plug. So we replaced them then later that week i was at walmart headed to the gas station when the car would not start I thought maybe it was because it was no gas in it. So I filled it up and it still didnt start. So I left my car came back to it later that night and it started then as I was driving it it shut off again then started minutes later and drove it home. Since then I have gotten new wires and a new box thing the wires connect to still no change. Im told its the fuel pump but the pump turns on and i hear it when it does come on. So what could it be?

    • ChiltonDIY says:

      Hi Sheldon.
      What year is the Stratus? Which engine does it have? Has the fuel pressure been checked? Have you had it scanned for related diagnostic trouble codes?
      From your description, it sounds like you replaced the coil pack, did the vehicle lose spark output?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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:

              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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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?
      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.

Leave a Reply