We can all agree that fuel is a fairly important element in a functioning car engine. While all the other parts might be clean and shiny, if there is no fuel, you won’t be going far. While we might think of fuel as just gas, several other parts get the fuel where it needs to go at the right time and in the right amounts. When those components aren’t at their best, even the best fuel won’t do the job.

Three key systems get the fuel where it needs to be, and understanding what can go wrong can help you keep them happy.

Got Fuel? Avoid These Fuel System Problems

(Gustavo Fring/Pexels)

Fuel Pumps

What They Do

This is the first stop in the system. You put the fuel in the tank, but it would just sit there without help from a pump. The pump sends the fuel on its way to the filter, injectors, and then the engine.

How to Spot Problems

An overheating engine could be a sign of a troubled fuel pump. The engine is working hard doing its job, but the fuel pump is failing to get enough fuel to support it. This will heat things up and make every other component do more than it is designed to do.

How to Avoid Problems

There are a few strategies to keep your fuel pump as happy as possible. The first is to keep your tank from running low. It doesn’t need to be perpetually topped off, but the easier it is for the pump to pull up the fuel, the longer the pump will last.

The pump is submerged in the tank, so it works best when surrounded by gas. Try to avoid running on fumes. . . there are better ways to live on the edge! Also, fuel quality matters. Stick to newer stations when you can. They have newer tanks, which lowers the chance of rust and debris sneaking into the gas lines.

Another tip is to avoid fueling up on fuel delivery days. If you see the fuel truck at your favorite gas station, hold off on that fill-up for at least a few hours. Refilling the underground tanks stirs up sediment, and you do not want that in your tank or fuel pump!

Fuel Filters

What They Do

The name gives a good clue as to the fuel filter’s job. Fuel doesn’t just pour into an engine straight from the pump. It has to go through a process, and that process won’t work if there are bits of dirt and dust mixed into the fuel. The filter pulls those things out so the fuel can hit the injectors, ready to be used for the engine. The filter is an important first line of defense in keeping the fuel running smoothly.

How to Spot Problems

If the filter is clogged, the fuel won’t get to the right places in the right way. That might lead to stalling, misfiring, or a rough idle. Clogged fuel pumps will also get noisy. If you notice some new noises accompanying a car that is running rough, the fuel filter might be a good place to start.

How to Avoid Problems

Like most things in a car, regular maintenance will go a long way in keeping things running smoothly. The filter doesn’t need to be changed as often as your oil, but it should be swapped every two years or 30,000 miles. Staying on top of the filter will save you more expensive trouble in the future.

Fuel Injection System

What it Does

Once the fuel passes successfully through the filter, it hits the injectors. Like a fire, an engine needs fuel, air, and a spark to get things going. The injection system provides the right balance of fuel and air, atomizing the fuel into a mist that enters the combustion engine and lights up the engine.

How to Spot Problems

A clogged filter will generally pass its troubles down the line to the fuel injection system. Dust or debris that gets through the filter will then clog up the injectors, impeding them from getting the right amount of fuel to the engine.

The symptoms of a clogged filter and a troubled fuel injection system are similar. The engine will stall, misfire, or lag. You might discover a noticeable decline in your gas mileage because the engine is having to work harder than it is supposed to.

A dancing RPM needle is another symptom. When the fuel isn’t coming in at the right rate, it might send your engine to idle all over the place, so if you see that needle doing a jig, check out the fuel injector.

How to Avoid Problems

At the risk of repetition, regular maintenance is key to avoiding these problems. You don’t need to replace an injector; just clean it out. This is a pretty simple process that, ideally, happens every 30,000 miles.

A bottle of fuel injector cleaner can run you for less than $20, while a mechanic could charge you a hundred dollars to clean out a very mucky set of fuel injectors. Set a reminder and keep those injectors running clean!

Maintaining and Shopping

These tips are great for your own car but will also help you in the process of car shopping. If you’re shopping for used, make sure to ask the used car dealer about these three parts. Ask for maintenance records and the dates of any replacements for these three key components. That will give you a better understanding of the car you are getting and the maintenance you have ahead of you!

The same applies to a type of used car known as a rebuilt title car. These branded title cars have been involved in some kind of insurance incident but later rebuilt and restored to like-new condition. As long as the rebuilder can warranty the fuel system and all other parts, you can get yourself a screaming deal. Contact us for more details.