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How to Start a Car With a Bad Fuel Pump

Posted by Scott Goldfarb on

The fuel pump is responsible for supplying your engine with fuel and keeps it running for long distances. But what happens if your fuel pump malfunctions? Then, you’ll have to learn how to start a car with a bad fuel pump on your own to get the vehicle started again and drive it to the mechanic for a thorough check-up

Below, we’ve delved into the details of bad fuel pumps– the causes, symptoms, and everything in between. Read on to learn how to start your car with a failing fuel pump!

How to Start a Car With a Bad Fuel Pump

Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Setta Sornnoi

How to Start a Car With a Bad Fuel Pump

Can a car start with a bad fuel pump? It can – temporarily. However, it’s best to drive it to the mechanic ASAP to prevent a serious combustion issue. 

Let’s see how you can start a car with a faulty fuel pump – it starts with identifying the problem:

Understanding the problem

So, you suspect there’s something wrong with your fuel pump, but you can’t pinpoint what it is exactly. A fuel pump will fail if there’s something wrong internally, like a clogged filter or loose connector. Sometimes, the problem is surface-level; other times, it requires professional injection pump repair.

Here are some common causes of a failing fuel pump:

  • Dry running – this happens when a pump doesn’t have enough fuel and malfunctions as a result. The lack of fuel can cause overheating and affect critical pumping components within the pump's housing.
  • Clogged or dirty fuel filter – dirt and debris you miss during cleaning can get stuck and cause fuel pump failure. Make sure to clean your fuel filters at least once every two years.
  • Electrical problem – an electrical issue can manifest in different ways. For example, your car may lose power intermittently due to melted wiring or a corroded or loose electrical connection.  
  • Wrong oil – putting the wrong oil in your car means improper lubrication and direct damage to the fuel pump and engine. This symptom may manifest as an oil leak. 
  • Improper maintenance – irregular upkeep of your car will inevitably lead to problems. Instead of waiting for the damage to occur, take your car to the mechanic ever so often for a checkup.
  • Engine misfire – can a fuel pump cause a misfire? If the fuel pump doesn’t supply enough fuel at the right pressure level, it can lead to an engine misfire. 

Precautions Before Starting a Car with a Bad Fuel Pump

Before taking precautions, confirm that the fuel pump is really the issue. Here’s how to do this:

  • Try to start the car; if it fails, it might be the fuel pump.
  • Try to hear if there’s a humming noise when turning the ignition on. If there is, that’s a good sign because it means the fuel pump is priming.
  • Do a fuel pressure test using a gauge at the fuel rail. If the pressure is below the recommended level, it might be because of a malfunctioning fuel pump.

Once you’ve confirmed that the fuel pump is the source of the issue, take the following precautions:

  • Let the engine cool off properly – before attempting to drive, let the engine cool off for a few hours. You cannot go wrong here if you leave the engine to cool off for eight hours. This will ensure the fuel pump isn’t overheated when starting the car.
  • Check the fluid levels– to prevent the problem from escalating, ensure that the fluid levels in your car are optimal to keep the vehicle properly lubricated. This will give an extra boost to the damaged fuel pump.
  • Watch the warning lights – occasionally, look at the warning lights on your dashboard for any issues. This will help you decide if it’s safe to keep driving.
  • Keep driving time at a minimum don’t drive excessively or accelerate – this will only worsen the issue. Try not to drive more than an hour or two.
  • Expect your car to break down – since you’re taking the risk of driving with a damaged fuel pump, be prepared for your car to stall or completely stop. Adjust your driving route so that you have somewhere to stop and call a mechanic without causing a traffic jam.

Steps to Start a Car with a Bad Fuel Pump

Instead of showing you how to make a car run without a fuel pump and risking your engine, we’ll teach you how to start a car with a bad fuel pump:

  • Step 1: Use our troubleshooting tips to confirm that the issue is, in fact, the fuel pump.
  • Step 2: Check how much fuel you have left on the fuel gauge and make sure it’s of good quality by checking whether it’s clean. To do this, open the fuel tank and inspect it for any discoloration or contamination.
  • Step 3: Try to start your car a couple of times. If this doesn’t work, proceed to step 4.
  • Step 4: There are two tricks to make your fuel pump work temporarily. You can use starter fluid or tap the fuel tank to dislodge a potentially stuck fuel pump. 
  • Step 5: The temporary fix may work, but you must find a long-term solution for your bad fuel pump. Take your car to the mechanic to fix the problem, and refer to our preventive measures below.

Tips for Preventing Future Fuel Pump Issues

The issue will persist without regular maintenance. Make sure to take your car to the mechanic regularly to get it checked and fix any problems right away. Early diagnosis of any issues can prevent permanent damage to your vehicle and prevent you from getting hurt.

Finally, ensure proper care of your fuel system by purchasing high-quality fuel, avoiding driving with a near-empty fuel tank, and inspecting your fuel for contamination.

Tips for Preventing Future Issues

Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Mario Guerriero


The fuel pump is a crucial car element, ensuring adequate fuel supply in your vehicle. However, fuel pump issues can prevent it from delivering fuel to the injector and causing damage.

Still, sometimes you have no choice but to drive anyway. But how to start a car with a bad fuel pump without putting yourself in danger? You must let the engine cool off and then try starting your car a couple of times. If it remains unresponsive, use starter fuel or tap the fuel tank.

Once you’ve resolved the issue, keep your car parts in good condition through regular maintenance and sensible driving.


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