The fuel pump is one of the most critical components of a car.If the fuel pump is bad the engine won't start or may start but run rough.

Let's take a look at common symptoms of a bad fuel pump and how to find out if you have a bad fuel pump. 

Symptoms 

The most common symptom of a bad fuel pump is that the car won't' start or it may start but run rough. Typically if the fuel pump is going back you will notice difficulty starting the engine, loss of power, low gas mileage, erratic idle, engine dies intermittently or engine sputtering. 

  • Engine won't start
  • Loss of power
  • Car struggles to start
  • Engine stuttering
  • Engine not starting at all due to lack of fuel
  • Check engine light comes on
  • Erratic engine idle
  • The engine sputters at high RPMs
  • Car stalls
  • Engine surges
  • Poor fuel economy / Low MPG

All these symptoms can be caused by a bad fuel pump. 

Poor Gas Mileage

Bad fuel pump symptoms

A bad fuel pump may not always have a drastic effect.  A failing fuel pump may not generate the required fuel pressure or may intermittently work, causing the engine to intermittently stall. 

Loss of Power / Slow Acceleration

Bad fuel pump can lead to lower gas mileage

If your vehicle has a failing fuel pump, you may also notice it doesn’t accelerate like it used to.  If your fuel pump is bad, the ECU will detect that the engine is not getting enough fuel, and it may change the engine timing and spark to reduce power and reduce the risk of engine damage.

Luxury vehicles such as BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz are known to go in limp mode due to a failing fuel pump. 

Difficulty Starting

Hard start

The most common symptom of a bad fuel pump is that the engine will crank but won't start.  The pump needs to build up fuel pressure before it can start the engine.  With a bad pump, it takes longer to prime the engine and subsequently a lot longer to get the engine running. 

Engine Misfires

bad fuel pump

A bad fuel pump will not deliver enough fuel, which can lead to a misfire, check engine light, and fault codes ranging from  P0300 to P0312. 

If that happens while running, the air/fuel mixture may be lean; in other words, too much air and not enough fuel, and the engine can misfire as a result. 

Poor Idle

Bad fuel pump lead to idle problem erratic

A malfunctioning fuel pump can cause the vehicle to stutter while idling and not run correctly. If your engine RPMs fluctuate at idle or the engine idles too low and almost dies, the problem can be the fuel pump. 

Troubleshooting Steps

   It is not uncommon for the fuel pump to stop working before hitting the 100,000-mile mark, but typically most fuel pumps last much longer than that.

Bad fuel pump location

The fuel pump on most cars is inside the fuel tank located behind or below the rear seat, as shown in this picture.  The good news is that you can find out if the fuel pump is not running without having to remove it. 

There are multiple ways to check if you have a bad fuel pump. 

Let’s start with the simplest tests.

Listening Test

Check fuel pump operation by listening

Turn the key to the accessory position, just before you turn the engine on. 

As you turn on the ignition, have a friend listen carefully near the rear seat. The fuel tank and fuel pump are right behind the rear seat. In most cars, you can hear the fuel pump run for a few seconds when the ignition is turned on. 

Check Fuses

Fuel pump not working, check fuses

Check the fuse for the fuel pump.  Every car has a fuse box in the engine bay, on either the left or right side. 

Check fuses, fuse chart for fuel pump

On the underside of the lid for that box is a diagram showing which fuse is for what function.  Find and remove the fuse for the fuel pump.  If the fuse is broken or burned, the pump blew a fuse and needs replacing.  That should solve the issue.

Check Fuel  Pressure

Check fuel pressure

Check the fuel pressure using a fuel pressure gauge.  They’re inexpensive at most auto parts stores.  Most cars have a connection for a fuel gauge on top of the engine, at the end of the fuel rail just before the fuel line goes to the fuel rails and injectors. 

Hook the pressure gauge to the valve, turn the ignition on, and the indicator should jump to around 50 psi to 60 psi. Turn the engine on and verify the pressure at idle.  Most cars have approximately 35 psi to 65 psi of pressure at idle.  Then, rev the engine to about 3000 rpm and look at the gauge.  If it falls sharply instead of rising, you have a problem.

Fuel Pump Location

Another thing to check the fuel filter.  This device is designed to keep contaminants out of the engine.  It occasionally gets clogged and needs to be replaced.  Some cars have the filter built into the pump, but most have the filter in the lines just after the gas tank or in the engine bay before the fuel rails. 

If you have a cartridge fuel filter, pull the filter cartridge out and check it.  If it is nearly black, that means its dirty and needs to be replaced.  

The symptoms we listed above can be due to a worn-out fuel pump, but they may also be due to: 

  • Faulty Engine Control Unit (ECU)
  • Damaged wire harness
  • Corrosion contacts
  • Damaged fuel lines

These are all problems that can lead to fuel pump failure. If you replace the fuel pump and still don't have fuel pressure or have fuel delivery problems start looking at these issues. 

Check fuel pump voltage

The next test you should do is to use a digital multimeter and check the voltage going to the fuel pump. Disconnect the electrical connector from the fuel pump and use the DC voltage setting to check for a signal. 

If your car is having any of these problems, take it to a mechanic and have it checked out.  It may not be the fuel pump, but you may find a problem that needs immediate attention.  It’s better to fix the problem now than later. 

How does a car act when the fuel pump is going out? 

If your fuel pump is starting to fail, first you may notice a decrease in fuel economy. Other symptoms that your fuel pump is starting to fail include check engine light coming on, engine shaking, lack of acceleration, and engine sputtering. 

Can a car drive with a bad fuel pump? 

As long as the engine is running the car can be driven. If you know your car has a bad fuel pump, we wouldn't recommend driving it because the fuel pump may stop working while driving. If the engine dies when you are driving you will lose the brakes and the power steering which can be dangerous and can lead to an accident. 

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Jonah
Madill
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Hila