What is it? - A fuel pump does exactly what the name implies; it pumps fuel. More specifically, it’s an electric pump, typically installed in the gas tank, that draws fuel from the tank and pressurizes it in the line to deliver fuel to the injectors or high-pressure mechanical fuel pump. There are low-pressure mechanical fuel pumps that draw fuel, but not on anything built in the last three decades or so.
Diagnosing a Bad Fuel Pump - Fuel pumps are often blamed for any running issue a car experiences, despite being overall pretty reliable components. A failing fuel pump will produce weak pressure, causing the engine to run poorly, and a failed pump won’t run at all, meaning the engine will likely stop running or fail to start altogether. However, any number of issues can cause those conditions - a bad sensor, a clogged filter, running out of gas with a faulty fuel gauge, and so on. Since fuel pumps aren’t always easy to change, you’ll want to be sure it’s not something simple first.
What to do about it - If you think your fuel pump is acting up, you can try listening for it when you turn the key on. When you turn the key all the way over, before cranking the engine, you should hear the fuel pump run for a couple of seconds while it builds up pressure. If you don’t hear it whirring, or if it sounds weak and strained, it may have failed - but even still, a fuse or relay could be to blame.
The only real way to test for a bad pump is with the right equipment. A combination of diagnostic equipment for reading voltage, resistance, and fuel pressure, along with professional knowledge on the subject, is necessary to make sure the pump is at fault.
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