What happens when a fuel pump goes out while driving

All gasoline-powered engines need a fuel pump to push fuel from the tank into the combustion area. If this rather small component is absent, the car might not even start.

Modern engineering has improved fuel pumps to be more durable and less faulty. Nevertheless, a few faults have proved tough and continue to plague fuel pumps in this age.

So, can a fuel pump stop working while driving?

Unfortunately, yes. All mechanically applied devices fail at one point in their lifetime. Fuel pumps do fail while in the fast lane but there are a few early warnings that if taken seriously could save you the embarrassment. If you notice slow fuel delivery or trouble when starting, think about the fuel pump.

The fuel pump is connected to some very delicate components which when faulty affect the pump as well. These components include injectors and pressure regulators.

If any of these goes out, there’s a high chance your pump will follow suit. The worst part is that very few see it coming- the signs are pretty subtle.

What Does Happens If A Fuel Pump Goes Out While Driving?

Scenarios take different turns at this stage but in most cases, your car will go off and you will call your car towing service.

If you are driving behind a fuel-injected gasoline engine, you might spend your night on the highway. These engines cannot function without adequate pressure fuel running through.

Older diesel engines are safer; you could get a few miles off the faulty system but you’ll have to bear with the constant fuel starvations. If you avoid high-speed cruising and steep hills, it just might get you to the next town.

Bikers are even safer. If your two-wheeler came with a gravity-fed carburetor then you can ride without the pump. This can be very convenient although you must know that it only works if the fuel is in the top half of the tank.

What causes fuel pump failure?

Bad Fuel

Ever heard drivers complain about engine trouble after they refilled at a retailer they have no history with? Well, you should know that not all fuel is worthy. Some retailers offer contaminated fuel which can easily drain debris and corrosive material into your tank.

Make sure to spend your money at a worthy refill station or be ready to deal with a corroded or clogged fuel pump.

Clogged Filters

If your filter is not working and lets foreign material through, don’t be surprised when the same finds its way to the fuel pump and suddenly your new pump is clogged.

Electric Related Problems

Electrical issues are known troublemakers for the fuel pump. They mainly arise from loose and rusted wires and components. Have your repair guy look at the wiring around your car from time to time.


The pump is normally submerged in the fuel but if the levels go down, it is exposed to heat and other harmful environments. It could corrode or get heated. It might not fail immediately but its lifespan will surely be shortened.

Can A Fuel Pump Go Out Without Warning?

There are no warning systems in place to notify you when your pump is about to fail you. If the injectors and pressure regulators fail they could trigger the check engine light which could be of use if you take it seriously.

There are also a few symptoms you could look out for like misfires and slow acceleration. These are the surest warnings you are getting from your car about possible fuel pump failure.

Can A Bad Fuel Pump That Goes Out While Driving Ruin Your Engine?

Every malfunction in the engine poses a risk to the whole thing; it’s just that some faults are more harmful than others.

A faulty fuel pump alters the fuel-air ratio in the combustion chamber- this will affect performance. You will experience hard starts accompanied by misfires and stalling- you would never wish that for your engine.

How Do You Know If The Fuel Pump Went Out?

If the pump affects the injectors or pressure regulator, you might get a warning on the dashboard. If not, there are a few pretty sure symptoms you can put together to figure out when you need a new fuel pump.

Whining Noise From The Tank

Normally, the component will have a non-attention-seeking hum sound while old fuel pumps are known to have whining sounds when put to the task.

This symptom is pretty common for failed pumps although it also indicates other things like low fuel levels or contaminants in the tanks.

Engine Sputters

This is another pretty sure symptom of bad pumps. If you are speeding and suddenly experience an engine sputter followed by a quick return to normal, that’s an indication of inconsistent fuel delivery by the pump.

Trouble Starting

The fuel pump might be small but it can easily delay your trip. If the pump cannot match the required pressure, the engine will not turn over.

Stalling With The Temperature Gauge High

Stalling is so normal today, that some drivers never even take a second to worry about it. Things get hot, however, if the stalling is accompanied by high temperatures on the dashboards.

Stalling with the temperature gauge high shows a fault in the pump motor. Continued stalling indicates a need to replace the pump.

What Does A Failing Fuel Pump Sound Like?

Well, that depends on your interpretation of rough whining. A bad fuel pump will most of the time be characterized by a whining sound in the tank. This is very different from the quiet hum expected from fully functional fuel pumps.

Is Replacing A Fuel Pump Expensive?

The part’s price ranges from $100 to $1100 depending on the car’s age among other factors. The labor costs can go as high as $250-go to a modest but affordable repair shop.

Bottom Line

A fuel pump is a small not-so-talked about component in the tank that will very easily lender your car motionless if not taken care of.

Its role is to pump fuel from the tank into the combustion area- without it, you are going nowhere. It is ailed by issues like corrosion and clogging unless someone physically takes it out.

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