suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

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suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Thu Mar 25, 2010 12:54 am

 I've had an intermittent problem with a car for the past year. Intermittent problems are the worst kind of car problem. It's not broke so you can't fix it.

 It's a 4 cyl Ford with multi-point fuel injection system and 140 K miles on her.

Symptoms:
  • first time car died going up a hill. It would start but no power. It was towed to a garage. The proprietor immediately diagnosed it as the 'module', replaced the OEM, let the engine idle for 15 minutes and gave the car back to my mother after charging her $100.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:27 am

  • car died again on the way home.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by tufty » Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:28 am

Minor air leak in a filter or fuel lines? Crud in the tank?

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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:23 pm

Nope. Read on.
  • Mom called me and I found her "up the road" about a mile from her house. She said the car "just up and died" and wouldn't restart. I was going to tow the car home with a rope and hooks, but first I decided to try the car again. It did have some time to "cool off". I placed my key in the ignition, turned it to RUN and heard the fuel pump "come on". Turning the key further to START, the engine cranked and "fired up". I called to mom and said "follow me home in my car" and down the road I went. I made it to mom's house with no further incident. Go figure.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by Viv » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:12 pm

Hi Forrest

Intermittent problems seem to love you and naturally collect around you ;-)

As it was going up a hill it reminded me of my old CX2200 Pallas that used to do the same thing to me back in the early 80s, every time it saw a hill it played up and misfired or died then would run really badly for a mile or two with out any power, turned out there was a gallon of water sloshing around in the bottom of the petrol tank, took me a month or two to work it out, drove me nuts ;-) going up hill moved the water to the fuel pickup.

Does your Mum's car have a diagnostic port?

Viv
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by hinote » Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:43 pm

Viv wrote:Hi Forrest

Intermittent problems seem to love you and naturally collect around you ;-)

Does your Mum's car have a diagnostic port?

Viv
Here's a few tips from a car guy ( I did service writing and managing in the late '90's):

1. All cars sold in the US starting in '96 are OBD II spec; among other things that means the diagnostic port is standardized in plug config, input/output data and even location.
2. You can buy a cheap reader from Harbor Freight for something like $35; it will reset too if you have a "check engine" event. Won't do advanced diagnostics, just reads the codes from the check engine light.
3. The diag port is visible just below the lower lip of the dashboard, within 6 inches of the steering column right or left.
4. IF the car has an in-tank fuel pump (common), you should put a 2 or 3 foot long piece of 2x4 in the car; then, if you can duplicate the problem you should smack the bottom of the tank with the board; many times this will unstick the pump long enough to get things running again, and pinpoint the problem as fuel pump related.
5. Does the car have a fuel filter, and has it been changed recently? A lot of times the filter will block, then unblock as the crud moves around.

I hope this helps.

Bill

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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Fri Mar 26, 2010 5:48 am

Intermittent problems seem to love you and naturally collect around you.
 Arf, arf. That's what happens when one drives high mileage cars and rides '80 and earlier bikes.

 The car's a '93 Ford and the Service Engine Light can be used to tell Trouble Codes by jumpering a "Self Test" box mounted near the driver's shock tower under the hood. I'll return to this later in the story.
4. IF the car has an in-tank fuel pump (common), you should put a 2 or 3 foot long piece of 2x4 in the car; then, if you can duplicate the problem you should smack the bottom of the tank with the board; many times this will unstick the pump long enough to get things running again, and pinpoint the problem as fuel pump related
 That's something to remember for next time.

~~~ continuing
  • I left the car sit overnight and don't you know it started right up the next day when I returned. Well, I thought "what could be the cheapest thing to replace that might cause the problem?" It has electronic ignition but still has a coil and distributor. The rotor and cap looked needing to be replaced after looking inside and I replaced the coil, too.

    I had an F150 that would break down when the coil got hot. Waiting a while, allowing it to cool, permitted me to "nurse" it home.
  • I drove this car to get the parts and returned home with no problem. I replaced the parts and the car worked fine for a month until the starter "bailed".
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Sat Mar 27, 2010 4:12 pm

  • So, I replaced the starter and the car worked fine for the rest of the spring and most of the summer. I didn't have to put a wrench to her again and until mid August when emissions and safety inspections were due.
  • I replaced the spark plugs, changed the oil and replaced the serpentine belt since it was starting to look old and worn. The car passed both inspections with flying colors. Mind you, this is a car with 140 K miles showing on the odometer.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:57 pm

  • On the friday of Labor Day weekend, 25 miles from home, the seal went on the water pump. The engine lost what was left of its coolant in a parking space (field) upon arrival at my intended destination - a BIG flea market.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Mon Mar 29, 2010 2:01 pm

  • On the plus side, whatever I needed to get the car home, I could get at this place, cheaply. All I did was let the engine cool off, fill her with a bucket of water, kept the radiator cap loose so it would NOT pressurize the system and drive no more than the speed limit home.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Mon Mar 29, 2010 10:29 pm


  • After driving 7 miles down the road with no incident, I thought my chances were pretty good I was going to make the remaining 18 home. I, indeed, made it home with no sign of overheating.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Tue Mar 30, 2010 5:55 am

  • So, this happened on a Friday and I started working on it slowly over the weekend. After all it was Labor Day weekend and I did have things to do, places to go, people to meet and a bike to ride.

    It turned out to be the "water pump replacement from hell" on this four cylinder. I had to do all of the work from underneath the car. One of the pump tubes is sealed from leaking by nothing but an O-ring. The pump itself is secured to the block by three bolts - only one of which could I get into position to actually see. The other two I had to put a socket on by "feel". All three I had to gingerly coax loose with a "breaker bar" and pray I didn't snap off their head.

    Ah, it was such a fun job ... I remember it well, just as if it happened yesterday.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:37 am

  • I believe my replacing of the serpentine belt at inspection time the month before caused an about ready to go water pump seal to finally go.

    A word to the wise: if/when you replace your serpentine, make a drawing of how it is routed around the pulleys. I didn't and it cost me half an hour's worth of trial and error until I figured out the correct route. There was neither a pic in my book nor decal in the engine compartment or hood to show me the way.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Sun Apr 04, 2010 1:22 am

  • The car ran fine ... for a month.
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Re: suspect your electric (in tank) fuel pump

Post by WebPilot » Sun Apr 04, 2010 9:33 pm

  • This time after I found mom and the car, the car "acted up" on me as I attempted to drive it home.
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