Does My Car Need a New Fuel Pump?

By Chris Hardesty 04/12/2023 4:00pm

car needing new fuel pump

Fuel Pump Replacement Quick Facts

  • A faulty fuel pump may be the reason for struggling to maintain speed, engine overheating, sputtering, or the “check engine” light illuminating.
  • Fuel pump replacement is moderately complicated and may involve removing the fuel tank if no access panel exists in the passenger compartment.
  • Parts and labor costs for fuel pump replacement vary depending on the vehicle, age, and geographic region.

A fuel pump delivers gas or diesel to an engine’s combustion chamber and usually provides many years of trouble-free operation. Once in a while, though, you may find one that needs replacement. How would you know for sure?

In this guide, we’ll tell you the signs of a malfunctioning fuel pump, how it works, and replacement costs.

What Are Fuel Pump Warning Signs?

Look for several tell-tale signs your fuel pump needs maintenance, repair, or replacement. They can include the following:

  • Unable to maintain speed. The feeling of the engine “choking” or struggling to maintain speed. This may cause you to think you are out of gas, despite the gauge showing fuel in the tank.
  • Overheating. Another indicator of failure is engine overheating. A failing fuel pump may overheat, and due to its inefficiency, cause the engine to overheat. A vehicle in which this type of failure may be imminent might operate for about 15-30 minutes before stopping. After allowing it to cool, you may find that it runs again, only to repeat the failure as the engine heats up. It’s another warning sign the fuel pump is not long for this world.
  • All kinds of sputtering. Noises, backfires, and sputtering engines indicate a fuel pump gone bad. Typically, electronic fuel pumps won’t make a noise unless they begin to fail. An inconsistent fuel flow may cause internal engine problems, leading to hesitation when starting the vehicle or upon acceleration.
  • Engine light comes on. Any of these issues may be accompanied by the “Check Engine” light appearing on the dashboard.

How Does a Fuel Pump Work?

In the past, mechanical fuel pumps were far more common, sometimes attached outside the fuel tank. With the advent of electronic fuel injection found on modern vehicles, such devices are relics. They’ve been replaced by electric fuel pumps, which generally get mounted inside the fuel tank. The pump creates positive pressure that forces fuel through the lines to the engine. A pump in the tank locates it at a point farthest away from the engine, submersed in a cool liquid where it is less likely to start a fire.

A modern fuel pump uses a direct-current electric motor to draw fuel from the tank. It sends it through the fuel injectors to be misted into the cylinders. The fuel mixes with air, and a charge from the spark plugs creates combustion. A filter on the pump’s intake sifts any impurities to prevent them from entering the fuel lines and, ultimately, your engine.

RELATED: Does My Car Need a New Fuel Filter?

With the widespread adoption of electronic fuel pumps, there are also various benefits. These include reduced fuel consumption because its operation is metered by the vehicle’s electronic control unit (ECU). A second benefit is the pre-delivery of fuel because the engine revolutions (RPM) are no longer responsible for operating the pump. This is why more vehicles use auto start and stop systems to turn off the engine at stoplights and in stop-and-go traffic.

What’s Involved in Fuel Pump Replacement?

A mechanic will need to get to the failed pump through the top of the fuel tank via an access panel in the passenger compartment. When no access panel is available, fuel is drained from the tank, and then the tank is lowered and removed from the vehicle for pump access. All fuel supply and return hoses are removed from their fuel pump connecting points.

Once the mechanic has removed the faulty fuel pump, all mounting brackets are then attached to the new pump, and it is reinstalled in place of the old one. At this point, it’s a great time to replace the inline or internal fuel filter that sifts out debris. Finally, fill the tank and test for leaks.

This job is moderately complicated and is best performed at your dealership’s service department or repair shop.

What Is the Fuel Pump Replacement Cost? 

The typical cost for a fuel pump replacement is around $900 to $1,100, depending on the vehicle, its age, and your region. Labor costs range from about $500 to $600, and parts for fuel pump replacement are about $400 to $500. Estimates do not include taxes and fees.