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Fuel Pump Problems: Issues Refueling and How to Solve Them

POR: Alex Perrone
Woman at the gas station pumping fuel and looking at her mobile phone

As a car owner, one of the most dreaded scenarios you can be in is having your car not start. While there are many different reasons why your car might not be starting or hard to start, one of the most common reasons is the fuel pump.

Let’s take a look at what issues a fuel pump can have, what the symptoms are, and how you can fix fuel pump issues to get your car running like new again.

5 Common Fuel Pump Problems

1. Fuel Pump Failure

The most common fuel pump issue is a complete failure of the fuel pump. Over time, your fuel pump can become old, worn out, and can overheat due to various issues within your fuel tank or fuel system. A bad fuel pump will cause your vehicle to have a no-start condition, leaving you with a non-running car. The fuel pump is what supplies your fuel system with gasoline, so with a non-operating pump, your engine cannot get the fuel it needs to run. Fuel pumps can slowly go out over time, or they can simply fail without warning. The cost of replacing a fuel pump can vary depending on the type of vehicle you have.

2. Clogged Fuel Filter

From the fuel pump, fuel travels through your fuel lines to the fuel filter. A fuel filter is a small filter located in line with your fuel lines to help filter out any contaminants that may be in your fuel. Some gasoline may have dirt or debris in it when you fill up, and your fuel tank can contain sediment that can mix with your fuel. Over time, the fuel filter can become clogged due to the debris that is being filtered out. Fuel filters should be changed every two years or 30,000 miles to ensure you are keeping your fuel system free from clogs.

3. Fuel Pump Relay Failure

For your fuel pump to get power to pump fuel to your engine, it is going to need to have a power source from your battery. A relay, known as a fuel pump relay, is powered by your ignition and provides your fuel pump with power. Like any fuse or relay, once it becomes damaged or is no longer working, your fuel pump will not operate, causing a no-start condition. If you suspect that your fuel pump is not turning on or operating, checking your fuel pump relay is a cheap and easy way to troubleshoot the most affordable part.

4. Electrical Issues

The fuel system in your vehicle spans from the back of the car in the gas tank to the fuel injectors in the front of your car. This intricate system is full of mechanical and electrical components, depending on the vehicle. With many different electrical components, your fuel system is susceptible to electrical issues. This is usually in the form of burnt, damaged or cut wires that lead to one of your vital fuel components. These issues are harder to track down, so if you suspect that you have an electrical issue with your fuel system, it is best to consult with a professional mechanic for a proper diagnosis.

5. Low Fuel Pressure

The last issue on our list is low fuel pressure. Your vehicle’s engine requires a specific amount of fuel pressure to operate at peak performance. Without adequate fuel pressure, your engine will sputter and run lean, causing a rough idle and a rough driving experience. Low fuel pressure can be caused by various issues in your fuel system, such as a clogged fuel filter, a failing fuel pump, electrical issues, and clogged fuel injectors. If you are experiencing a rough idle and suspect that it is fuel-related, you can have your fuel pressure checked to help diagnose the issue.

Symptoms of Fuel Pump Issues

Engine Sputters At High Speeds

For your engine to run at its best, it needs a specific amount of air, fuel, and spark. The air comes from your air intake, the fuel from your gasoline, and the spark from your spark plugs. When one of these components is off, it can cause your engine to sputter. When your engine sputters at high speed, it is usually a sign of a fuel-related issue that can oftentimes be traced back to the fuel pump. As your engine speeds up, it will demand more fuel, and if your fuel pump is failing and can’t keep up, your engine will lack the fuel it needs to operate correctly.

Loss Of Power Under Acceleration

Much like the engine sputtering issue, a failing fuel pump will cause a loss of power under acceleration. What this means is that when you try to push the gas pedal down to pass a vehicle, your car will feel very underpowered as it does not have the fuel to perform at high RPMs. This can also be caused by other fuel-related issues, such as clogged fuel injectors, a bad fuel filter, and dirty fuel. If you are experiencing low power under acceleration, you may need to have a mechanic check out your entire fuel system to diagnose exactly what is causing the issue.

Difficulty Starting The Engine

If you are having issues starting your vehicle, there could be a laundry list of issues that are causing your vehicle not to start. From something as simple as a dead battery to a completely dead fuel pump. A faulty fuel pump might not send enough fuel to your engine, resulting in a hard start condition. One thing to remember is that if your vehicle is hard to start but still starts, the fuel pump might be failing. If your vehicle will not start at all, your fuel pump might have failed.

Unusual Noises From Fuel Tank

Another symptom of a faulty fuel pump is unusual noises coming from your fuel tank. On most vehicles, when you turn your key to the ON position, you can hear your fuel pump turn on. This sounds like a buzzing sound coming from your fuel tank. This is normal and should only last a second or two. If you hear unusual noises, such as a whining or a constant buzzing, you may have issues with your fuel tank. If you experience weird noises coming from your fuel tank, shut the car off immediately and have it towed to a local automotive shop for diagnosis.

How To Fix Fuel Pump Issues

Replace Faulty Fuel Pump

If you are experiencing a faulty fuel pump or a fuel pump that has completely gone out, your only option is going to be to replace it. In most vehicles, the fuel pump is located in the fuel tank, which means the fuel tank will need to be lowered out of the car to access it. This is a job best left to a professional, as this can be a very complicated process. According to RepairPal, a Ford fuel pump replacement can cost anywhere between $1,244 to $1,641.

Clean or Replace the Fuel Filter

If you suspect that the fuel filter is the issue, you can either replace it or clean it out if it is still relatively new. Blockages in the fuel filter can cause the fuel pump to work harder, decreasing the life span of the fuel pump. If you want to clean out the fuel filter, you can remove the filter and use compressed air to blow out any debris from the filter gently. If it has been a while since you have replaced the filter, it is a good idea to go ahead and install a new one. Replacing a fuel filter is something that most DIY’ers can tackle at home.

Check and Replace the Fuel Pump Relay

Since the fuel pump relay is one of the cheapest and easiest components to replace, it is the best place to start when diagnosing a fuel issue. Checking a fuel pump replay will require some electrical knowledge so it may be best left to the professionals.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Fuel Pump

1. Keep Fuel Level Over ¼ Of Tank

An easy way to keep your fuel pump maintained is to keep your fuel level over a ¼ (one-fourth) of a tank at all times. The fuel in the fuel tank keeps the fuel pump from overheating, so when your fuel tank gets low, the fuel pump can start to heat up. Over the years, constant heat can cause your fuel pump to fail prematurely.

2. Replace the Fuel Filter At Regular Intervals

Similar to changing your air filter or cabin air filter, your fuel filter should be changed at the recommended intervals, as stated in your user manual. Most fuel filters will need to be changed every 30,000 miles or every two years, whichever comes first. Keeping your fuel filter maintained can ensure that your fuel pump doesn’t have to work harder than it needs to push fuel through your fuel system.

3. Use Gas From Reputable Gas Stations

The type of gas you use can have a serious effect on how long your fuel pump and fuel system components last. By using low-quality gas or gas from a run-down gas station, you run the risk of contaminants or water being in your fuel. This can cause a wide variety of issues for your fuel system and can ruin your fuel pump.

4. Use A Fuel Additive or Cleaner

Lastly, you can use a fuel additive or fuel cleaner to maintain your fuel components. These cleaners use detergents and chemicals to clean buildup out of your fuel system. They can also help to unclog fuel injectors and fuel filters. They can be purchased from your local automotive store and poured directly into your fuel tank.

Importance of Regular Maintenance

Keeping your fuel system maintained is critical in prolonging the life of your fuel system and ensuring your engine is running at its best. If your vehicle is running rough and is driven with fuel issues for a long time, you can damage other components of your engine, which may result in a larger repair bill. Maintaining your fuel system is relatively cheap and essential to ensure you don’t experience unexpected breakdowns.

How Endurance Can Help Cover Fuel-Related Issues

With fuel pump replacement costs easily reaching over $1,000, a failure of this component can easily put you in a financial bind. Having an extended warranty, such as Endurance, can ensure that you have protective coverage in the event your fuel pump goes out.

Endurance offers a wide variety of extended warranty plans that allow you to choose the best coverage for your specific budget needs. You can choose from the most affordable drivetrain coverage, which covers your most important drivetrain components, or get exclusionary coverage that mimics a factory warranty to get near bumper-to-bumper protection.

Each Endurance protection plan comes with 24/7 roadside assistance and a full year of Beneficios de élite. These benefits, available for a small activation fee, include perks such as key fob replacements, total loss protection (up to $1,000), collision discounts (up to $500 per collision with a $1,000 limit), and coverage for up to four replaced or repaired tires.

To find an Endurance protection plan that suits your needs and budget, Solicite una cotización GRATIS or call (800) 253-8203. Tú también puedes tienda en linea para obtener una cotización de precio instantánea.

Be sure to check out our blog for more articles on DIY maintenance tips, vehicle buying guides, electric vehicle reviews, and answers to common extended warranty questions.

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