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Joe’s Garage: The fuel pump fix


Fuel pumps are the unsung heroes for your vehicles. They are safe, require little maintenance and are rarely thought about unless they fail. But when they do, it’s usually in epic fashion, and can potentially leave you stranded. It’s a relatively easy fix though.

While there are few signs of impending failure, you want to make sure you don’t hurt your fuel pump at the gas station. Always make sure you are putting the right octane fuel in your car, according to your owner’s manual. Some people make the mistake of putting in a higher or lower octane because they don’t read the owner’s manual. You also want to make sure that you’re going to a reputable gas station because if you don’t, they may actually sell a lower quality fuel than advertised. In other words, it may be a name brand gas station, but what they are selling, in reality, is an off-brand.

Cars have come a long way over the years when it comes to fuel pump technology. Basically, there are two different types of pumps, electric or manual. Electric fuel pumps are the latest technology, have the gas line connected and are fairly straightforward. Then you have the older ones, which are manual and actually have a lever connected to the pump – sort of like a well, pushing up and down, pumping the fuel. You also had carburetors back then, a totally different situation from what you see today. Many of these pumps are as old as 25 years. But one thing is for sure, safety has always been an important component.

Manufacturers do a lot to insure that there are no issues with pumps exploding, creating fires or anything like that. Many of these pumps have toggle (cut-off) switches, so if you get into an accident, it cuts the fuel off to prevent a fire. If these switches weren’t there, the line could break during an accident, and gasoline would pump out. It’s basically like spraying fuel everywhere through a hose… really dangerous stuff.

When purchasing a fuel pump, you want to make sure you stick with name brands such as Carter or Airtex. I also recommend the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) fuel pumps as well, like AC Delco or Bosch, but it really depends on your car. Another issue is whether or not you have to replace just the fuel pump itself, or do you also have to replace the sending unit.

You may need to replace both in certain situations. It’s also important to note that misdiagnosing fuel pump issues is a common problem, as an inexperienced shop, for instance, may mistake a faulty relay switch.

If you know your mechanic, they’re certified and trustworthy, always look their direction for this fix.