Fuel pump problems and how to fix them

Thursday February 20 2020


By Roland D. Nasasira

Primarily, just like its name, the fuel pump picks or pumps fuel from the fuel tank and distributes it to the engine. Fuel goes through a filter in the tank from where the pump sucks it and then goes through another filter before reaching the engine. Fuel that is not used in this transit chain is returned to the tank. However, like most parts across all car brands, fuel pump problems also cut across all brands.
According to Peter Amadi, a mechanic at Dalas Auto in Bunga, Kampala, the main cause of fuel pump problems is mainly dirty fuel and poor driver maintenance.
“Normally, when you take your car for service, your fuel pump is supposed to be checked to find out if it should be replaced. However, a number of motorists do not think about the fuel pump until the car starts misfiring,” Amadi explains.
Misfiring is when, for instance, a four or six cylinder engine, has five or three or even two cylinders firing when the others are not. Some cars will not fire at all.

Cheap fuel pumps
Most, if not all motorists, want cheap and genuine spare parts, including the fuel pump. Sadly, when your original fuel pump becomes old or damaged, instead of looking for a similar genuine pump upon replacement, you go to the market and look for a cheaper one. According to Amadi, a genuine fuel pump costs Shs1.8m and above but there are those that will cost as low as Shs80,000.

Replacing the whole unit
Alex Kadoli, a mechanic, observes that in some cases, you are supposed to replace the entire fuel pump unit. This includes the pump, its housing, filters and every other part in the container. Kadoli shares similar sentiments as Amadi, stating: “Look for similar genuine parts when replacing. Do not replace the old pump and ignore the dirty housing. In the end, fuel will not go out of the housing to the engine. The pump will die because it is pumping fuel that is not going to the engine.”
Most cars with modern technology, especially those manufactured from 2007 to date have everything enclosed in the fuel pump housing, unlike those with old technology where you could easily pull out the fuel pump. This means that when you replace the fuel pump, every other part in its housing has to be replaced as well.

Majority of cars sold in Uganda are used in their countries of origin for some years and a number of buyers do not have this history but just the mileage covered. The fuel pump could be one that was fitted in the factory. When you buy a car from the bond, it is advisable to replace the fuel pump and timing kit.

Variance in fuel pump maintenance
According to Amadi, fuel pump maintenance varies from one car brand to another. There are, for instance those that cannot cover 10,000km depending on engine capacity. There are engines that need high pressure fuel pumps, especially for cars whose engine sizes are above 2000cc with multiple engine nozzles, electronic fuel injections (EFI) and multipoint fuel injections (MFI). The earlier you replace or service your fuel pump with a genuine one, the more mileage you will cover.

Identifying a genuine one
In the spare parts market, Amadi says it is not easy to identify a genuine fuel pump from a fake one. The only way, he recommends, you can get a genuine fuel pump is at dealerships such as Toyota Uganda, Spear Motors, Nissan Motorcare, Cooper Motors Corporation, among others. On average, he says, a genuine fuel pump costs Shs1.8m and above.
“It is better to spend this money and be satisfied with what you are buying instead of importing. Online spare fuel pumps will appear cheap and genuine but when they are fake. You will regret the cost of paying tax and buying online incurred only to realise that you spent money on importing something fake,” he says.


Fake vs used pumps
Kadoli adds that there are fuel pumps manufactured in China but unscrupulous dealers pack them, for example, in Japanese Subaru boxes. To avoid falling prey to such tricks, Kadoli advises you to ask your mechanic for a variety of options or quotations. “If you go to any market that sells spare parts, a new fuel pump is cheaper than a used genuine one. Used pumps will work longer as long as you use better quality fuel,” Kadoli explains.

Signs of a failing fuel pump
Signs of a failing fuel pump include car jerking. When the fuel tank is almost empty, you feel the jerking and this means the system is clogged. When the tank is full, pressure from the pump is enough and when it reduces, pressure also reduces, meaning that the pump is struggling to pump fuel to the engine. You feel as if there is no fuel in the tank yet it’s there.
As such, the pump fails to suck the little fuel and this, Peter Amadi, a mechanic at Dalas Auto in Bunga, Kampala, explains, means it is chocked and that it will fail.