pump is the heart of the fuel system. Most late model vehicles have an
electric pump mounted inside the fuel tank. If the fuel pump stops
working for any reason, the flow of fuel to the engine stops and the
engine dies. Fuel pump failures tend to be sudden and unpredictable,
with few symptoms to warn the motorist that trouble is brewing. And the
higher the mileage on the vehicle, the greater the risk of a fuel pump
If an engine cranks normally, has spark and compression but
won’t start because it is not getting any fuel or it lacks adequate
fuel pressure to start the tendency is to blame the fuel pump for the
no-start problem. Unfortunately, replacing the fuel pump doesn’t always
fix the problem. Why? Because many times, the problem is not the fuel
pump but something else.
Nearly 10 percent of all the fuel pumps
sold by auto parts stores are returned because the pump did not work
when it was installed or it failed to start the vehicle.
Pump Manufacturer’s Council (FPMC) says that up to 80 percent or more
of the fuel pumps that are returned for being “defective” work normally
when tested by the manufacturer. The problem was not the fuel pump, but
not diagnosing the no-start condition accurately.
Any number of things can prevent the engine from getting enough fuel to start and run:
The fuel strainer or inlet sock inside the fuel tank could be gummed up with dirt or rust.
The fuel filter could be plugged.
The fuel line could be pinched or blocked.
The fuel pressure regulator could be leaking.
The wiring connector or ground connection at the fuel pump could be loose or corroded.
The fuel pump relay could be bad.
The fuel pump fuse could be blown.
The fuel tank might be empty, or contain water, diesel fuel or other contaminants.
DIAGNOSING THE PROBLEM
diagnosis is important because it eliminates the replacement of good
pumps, and the unnecessary return of new pumps. Warranty returns waste
everybody’s time, especially the technician’s time because a
tank-mounted pump often takes a couple of hours to replace. Warranty
returns also mean extra paperwork for the parts store, warehouse
distributor and pump manufacturer, not to mention the shipping costs.
the only way to test a fuel pump is on the vehicle. This requires a
certain level of know-how and some special tools. If an engine does not
seem to be getting any fuel (cranks and has spark, but won’t start),
one of the easiest checks to make is to listen for the pump to run for
a couple of seconds when the ignition is first turned on. No buzz from
the pump means the fuel pump is not running. It may be a bad pump or it
may be an electrical problem (no voltage to the pump).
Not enough pressure?
an engine starts, but runs poorly (no power), it may not have enough
fuel pressure. This can be checked by attaching a fuel pressure gauge
to the service fitting on the engine fuel rail, or teeing the gauge
into the fuel supply line. If fuel pressure is less than
specifications, the next step would be to check the fuel pressure
regulator, fuel lines and fuel filter for possible problems.
pump check should also include testing how much fuel the pump flows. A
weak pump may develop adequate pressure at idle, but cannot keep up
with the engine’s fuel demands at higher speeds, causing a loss of
Fuel volume can be checked with a flow meter teed into the
fuel supply line or return line, or the fuel supply line can be
disconnected from the fuel rail and placed in a container to see how
much fuel the pump delivers in 30 seconds. A good pump will usually
deliver about a quart of fuel.