Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Test fuel pump

How to test fuel pump

Replacing a fuel pump without testing it is an expensive mistake. Here’s how to test a fuel pump.

The fuel pump in a fuel injected vehicle is mounted inside the gas tank. It’s a major job to replace it and these pumps are expensive. So before you replace one, you better do your homework. I’ve seen too many DIYers make the assumption that their engine running problems are due to a bad pump. Several hundred dollars later, they still have the same problem.

If your diagnostics lead you to believe you have a fuel pump problem, here’s the proper way to check out the pump.

Rent or purchase a fuel pressure test kit

Not all vehicles have a schraeder valve to connect a gauge to. So it’s best to rent or buy a complete kit that will have the fittings you need to connect to the fuel line.

fuel pump pressure tester

How to test fuel pressure

Perform the fuel pressure check first thing in the morning, with the engine cool. A cool engine provides two things: better working conditions with less chance of a fuel-spill related fire, and a more accurate reading of residual fuel pressure after sitting for a long time. Fuel pumps have a check valve that prevent the fuel from draining back into the tank when the engine is shut off. If the valve isn’t working properly, you’ll have fuel drainback and that causes hard starting first thing in the morning. Shop manuals have a specific procedure for performing this “leakdown” test if the vehicle is brought in warm with high fuel pressure. Usually, the tech looks for pressure to stay within 5 lbs of the running pressure.

Check fuel pump volume

If your fuel pressure and leakdown readings are within spec, you’ll need to check fuel delivery volume. Yup, that’s an important test especially if your performance problems occur at high speeds or heavy throttle. Some manufacturers list a volume of fuel for a specified period of time. If you can’t find a spec, use this rule of thumb—a fuel pump should deliver 1 quart of fuel in 30 seconds. If yours passes that test, move on to the electrical tests.

Fuel pump current draw test

The electrical test can spot a fuel pump problem that evades all other diagnostics. Remember, the pump is always pumping against resistance (the pressure regulator and he fuel injectors). Just like any other electric motor that meets resistance, it uses more power. So like an EKG at your doctor’s office, measuring current draw at different throttle openings tells you how the pump is performing. A properly operating fuel pump should draw from 3 to 6.5 amps.

If you own a scope, you can get even better readings. A scope will tell you if you have a bad winding in the pump since it detects every lobe on the armature.

© 2012 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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