Some car parts last so long that they lull owners into a false sense of security. These parts only go bad after 100,000 miles or so, making it all too easy to forget they even exist until it’s much too late. Case in point: the fuel pump, which can cost hundreds or even thousands to replace!
How Important is the Fuel Pump?
Your car will not run unless its fuel pump is working, given that — as its name implies — it is responsible for moving fuel from the gas tank into the engine. Typically, you won’t have to worry about your fuel pump for at least 100,000 miles, with failures being incredibly rare before then. Be that as it may, you need to know how to spot an issue with your fuel pump to stop it from becoming a much larger problem.
How to Tell Your Fuel Pump is Failing
Each symptom below, on its own, won’t necessarily point to a failing fuel pump, but all of them occurring together most likely means the pump is at fault.
1. Loss of Power
A bad or failing fuel pump will struggle to supply the engine with enough energy (gas, diesel, etc.) to keep it running. You’ll experience misfires, stuttering, jerking, and eventually, stalling, which are common if you’ve ever driven the tank dry, but with a failing fuel pump, your tank can be full, and these issues will still occur.
2. Poor Mileage
Suddenly needing to get to a gas station more often could mean the fuel pump is acting up. Ironically, that’s because the pump is allowing more fuel to flow than normal. You might believe you could remedy the issue by adjusting your use of the accelerator pedal, but that extra gas is getting into your fuel system whether you want it to or not.
3. A Whining Sound
Your fuel pump should be dead silent, so if you can hear your car’s tank, there’s a problem. A failing fuel pump will produce a droning sound that only gets louder as it gets closer to tapping out. Listen for it when you’re stopped at a traffic light or in a parking lot.
4. Your Car Won’t Start
There are an unfortunate number of reasons your car might not start, from a dead battery or a bad starter to a clogged fuel filter, electrical system issues, or faulty anti-theft systems. If you’ve worked your way through all of these potential problems and still haven’t found the root of your particular problem, take a look at your fuel pump.
What to Do When Your Fuel Pump Dies
If you’re handy, you can save yourself a lot of money and replace your fuel pump yourself, though, of course, if you’re that handy, you probably already diagnosed and repaired it anyway.
If you suspect your fuel pump is on its way out, don’t assume that you have weeks or months to spare. Take your car to your local shop (or the dealer if it’s under warranty) and have a mechanic diagnose and replace the pump. Doing so can prevent a stall-out or further damage caused by fuel starvation.
Summary: Fuel pumps are necessary for providing fuel for your car’s engine. When it fails, replacements can be expensive, so watch out for the warning signs before it’s too late.