Most of us try to keep our cars in the best possible condition, but over time, things inevitably go wrong. One issue that many people face at one time or another is a fuel pump that stops working, and when it does, you need to get it looked at before it fails completely.
If your fuel pump does die, maybe you just need to get your car running one more time to take it to a mechanic, and sometimes it’s possible. If this is a situation you’re facing, and you’d rather drive to the garage than be towed, here’s how to start a car with a bad fuel pump.
If you want a preview of some of the stuff we’re going to be talking about, check out this video on how to diagnose a faulty fuel pump before you read on.
What is the fuel pump?
Let’s start at the beginning what is a fuel pump?
In the simplest terms, the fuel pump is what pumps the fuel from the gas tank into the engine. When it reaches the engine, it is mixed with air to create combustion, and this is what makes the engine run.
What happens if your fuel pump stops working?
If your fuel pump stops working, the result is clear. The fuel won’t travel from your fuel tank to the engine, and with no fuel reaching the engine, you won’t be able to drive anywhere!
How can you tell if you have a bad fuel pump?
Compared to some other problems you may have with your car, diagnosing a faulty fuel pump is relatively easy. Here are the tell-tale signs to look out for.
- Engine doesn’t start properly
If you have fuel in the tank but the engine won’t start when you turn the ignition, this could indicate a bad fuel pump – especially if the problem wasn’t too serious at the beginning but got worse with time.
Check that the fuel pump fuse isn’t blown and that power is reaching the fuel pump and ground – if these are ok, the problem is most likely with the fuel pump itself.
- Car doesn’t accelerate properly
Even if you can start your car and drive it, you may still notice that it doesn’t accelerate smoothly when you put your foot on the gas.
Again, this is a clear indication that the fuel problem is to blame since the fuel is not reaching the engine properly when you step on the accelerator.
- Car surges while you drive
If you are driving along at a steady speed without changing the pressure on the accelerator but your car surges or jumps forward, this also indicates a bad fuel pump. This is because the fuel is only reaching the engine in squirts instead of smoothly and consistently.
- Jerkiness of the steering wheel
If you feel a jerkiness in the steering wheel, this indicates a bad fuel pump.
- Noise under the seat
Another clear sign that your fuel pump is in the process of giving up is a noise coming from under the seat when the fuel pump is located.
- Poor fuel economy
If your car is not giving you as many miles per gallon as she once did, this could point to a bad fuel pump – although, of course, this could also be due to a range of other issues.
How to get your car started if your fuel pump fails
Starting a car with a bad fuel pump is tricky, so rather than explain it in words, we went online to try to find you some videos that will show you how to do it.
Here are some of the best and most creative examples we found, and hopefully they will give you some ideas about what you can try.
1. Starting a car using carburetor cleaner
This video shows how these guys managed to start their vehicle by having one person spraying carburetor cleaner into the engine as someone else drove it.
This is not a practical solution if you need to drive your car on public roads, but it is one technique you can try if you just need to move your car.
2. The MacGyver method of fixing a bad fuel pump
Here’s another technique you can try. It takes a little ingenuity – plus you shouldn’t be afraid to give the fuel pump a little whack. But if it gets your car running long enough to drive it to a garage, then that’s good enough for us.
3. Starting a car with an air mattress pump
We enjoyed watching this one. If the fuel pump doesn’t pump gas into the engine anymore, you can just do it yourself. Here, this YouTuber shows you how to use an air mattress pump to send the gas to the engine, hopefully allowing you to get your vehicle started.
4. DIY solution
Here’s a DIY solution you can try. You need a few bits and pieces to do this – and you probably won’t want to use this method if you’re going to be driving on a public road. But it might help you move the vehicle a short distance – and for that reason, it’s worth checking out.
How can you avoid this problem?
To finish with, here are a couple of tips for extending the life of your fuel pump and maybe avoiding this problem altogether.
- Keep your fuel tank at least a quarter full
- Keep the fuel system and filters properly maintained
- Do regular maintenance on your vehicle and take it for regular check-ups
Get it fixed ASAP
If your vehicle starts displaying the symptoms of a faulty fuel pump, the best thing to do is have it checked out at the first opportunity. This way, it won’t get to the point where you can’t start it at all.
However, if the worst does happen and you can’t fire up the engine, perhaps trying some of the techniques in the videos we found will at least allow you to drive it to the nearest garage to have it looked at by a professional.