fuel pump 3

4 Common Symptoms of Fuel Pump Failure

Without a fuel pump, a car will not start or run. When the fuel pump is working right, you will not even know that you have one. However, if it fails, you could be left stuck on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck… And an expensive repair bill!.

Years ago, a mechanical fuel pump would cost you about $20 for the part and another $15 or $20 in labor to have it installed. Today, electric fuel pumps that reside inside the gas tank could cost you $200 or more for the pump alone, and about the same in labor to drop the fuel tank to have it installed.

You can increase your odds of preventing a total breakdown while traveling by learning the signs and signals of a fuel pump that is on the fritz.

Weak fuel pumps are not always easy to diagnose. When they are first starting to fail, fuel pumps can often falter intermittently. They also tend to manifest the problem at highway speeds more often than at an idle. The problem is that a failing fuel pump will often mimic other symptoms of mechanical failure while in the early stages. It is common for people to make several lesser repairs before identifying the real problem, as being a bad fuel pump. When diagnosed properly, before a complete failure, sometimes the large expense of this big ticket repair will scare people away until they have other choice.

Some Common Symptoms Include:

1. Your engine seeming to miss at highway speeds. An engine that misfires will cause the car to jerk occasionally while going along the highway. Frequently, the fuel pump will stutter for a mile or so and then run fine for the next 50 or more miles. A misfire can also make your car lose power as you pull away from a standing stop.  These type symptoms can commonly be misdiagnosed as a bad spark plug or plug wire.

2. You push down on the accelerator, and the car starts to go and suddenly seems like it is going to die. Immediately, it seems to “catch” and off you go. This type of symptom is commonly misdiagnosed as a failing emissions sensor, a bad smog control device, a faulty distributor or ignition coil. A high percentage of the time, this will turn out to be a bad fuel pump.

3. You lose power at highway speeds especially when the car is climbing a hill or under a strain. This problem is almost 100% of the time caused by a fuel system failure. The fuel filter is the first suspect. Once this is ruled out, you likely have a failing fuel pump on your hands. The difficulty here is that this type of failure can be intermittent also. It may even improve for a short time if you change out an in-line filter.

4. Your car cranks when trying to start it, but it does not start. A few issues could cause this, but there are two strong possibilities. The first is the timing belt or chain has broken. Without a timing belt, your car will turn over, but will not start. The second is a failed fuel pump. Any qualified mechanic will not have a problem figuring out which one it is.

When several of these symptoms occur over a short period of time, you should seriously consider scheduling a diagnosis of your cars fuel delivery system. Being proactive can save you some frustration and a whole lot of cash in the long run.[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]Concerned about your fuel pump? Click here for a FREE diagnosis [/pullquote]


4 replies
  1. peter lewis
    peter lewis says:

    car vibrates at stop light. car stuggles when moving off. once I am on the hwy it is not too bad unless I slow down and try to accelerate again . car misfires as temp increases. on very cold winter morning start less evident. misfiring goes away if I turn car off and start again. struggling reduces when in neutral as soon as in drive car struggles again. need answer soon

    • Dallas Council
      Dallas Council says:


      It is really hard to say based on the symptoms that you have described. It sounds like you are experiencing an engine misfire, have you had your car scanned for any trouble codes?


  2. Jon K
    Jon K says:

    I just replaced all my fuel injectors(several broken tips causing trouble with flooding engine), air manifold(upper and lower)gaskets, egr valve and solenoid, throttle body position sensor, camshaft sensor, and fuel filter. Most of which definitely needed to be replaced(185,000) all OEM equipment before and replaced with Motorcraft parts. I turned her over today and she ran sitting idle for about 20 minutes, then she began to sputter and eventually die. Now she will turn over but not even hold an idle. I had previous symptoms of power struggle going up a hill, harder to start and maintain in cold weather, and I would push down on the accelerator only for the engine to scream but not gain momentum quick. I’m assuming I now need to move on to the fuel pump…thoughts on this? Anything else that would cause these symptoms?

    • Dallas Council
      Dallas Council says:


      This is going to be challenging to diagnosis/answer from here. What is the year, make, and model? Did you scan for trouble codes? The crank, but no start condition is consistent with a failed fuel pump, but it could also be several other things. Do you have the ability to do a fuel pressure test?


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