Electric fuel pumps are nothing new to the aftermarket, but they continue to offer their challenges. Here are some things to think about that may help you improve your ability to serve this product category and your customers.
1) While you can’t stock all 1,000-plus fuel pump part numbers, you can still address the market effectively. Fewer than 200 numbers should give you 80% coverage in stock and a variety of suppliers offer consolidated listings that provide coverage at a reduced SKU count. In some cases, these can reduce six numbers to one. Likewise, bare fuel pump units are offered by manufacturers in addition to fully assembled units, which can also lessen inventory investment.
2) Inventory must be profiled with the market area and the trade customer in mind. As mentioned above, there are a number of ways to achieve the coverage you need with the investment you want, but care must be taken. It is possible, to have a higher theoretical coverage number by stocking bare units than complete pumps with a given dollar investment in inventory, but if your customers are inclined to opt for complete, application-specific units, you may find the lower cost fuel pump option sitting on your shelf more than you would like.
3) Dirt kills pumps and it is avoidable. A worn out pump may also be the victim of restricted fuel flow in the lines. Failure to replace clogged or kinked lines will not only result in an ineffective repair; it will also lead to early failure of the replacement pump. Contamination in the fuel is the main reason for pump failures and returns. Contamination downstream can be even more troublesome. Ensure that technicians know they should clean the system, including back flushing the lines and cleaning the tank, when a pump is being replaced as it will help reduce comebacks for them, too. Also, installing an additional in-line filter between the tank and the pump is often recommended.
4) Also, fuel strainers must be replaced any time a pump is replaced. Sometimes, especially if a bare pump assembly is being installed, an installer may be tempted to reuse the old strainer. This is a recipe for a comeback. The strainer is the only protection for contamination that an electric pump has. Once it has become plugged or contaminated, it is virtually impossible to clean. A contaminated strainer is frequently the cause for low pressure or flow in a fuel system. Also, it can cause the pump to draw more current, as much as 7 amps more, which will cause it to fail in a few weeks or less.
5) This one’s not new, but it bears repeating. One of the classic causes of a non-functioning fuel pump, with no power in the circuit, is a tripped fuel pump safety switch. Generally, this problem is revealed as a no-start condition that has no apparent cause and has appeared without warning. Usually the car will arrive at a garage on a hook. Before ordering and installing a variety of components and going through numerous system checks, technicians faced with such a problem would be well advised to check for a safety switch. Designed to shut off the fuel pressure in case of a collision, these can sometimes be triggered by the slightest of bumps, from parking by “feel” or even tossing a bag of golf clubs in the trunk. It’s an easy check and worth the trouble.
6) Improper pump mounting or installing the strainer incorrectly can lead to noise or pump failure. Noisy pumps annoy car owners and can cause comebacks. Instructions need to be read and understood.
7) Incomplete fuel system diagnostics can lead to a pump replacement that is not required, or other components being replaced without fixing the problem. Technicians should not discount how other items, like the electrical system, relays, the pressure regulator, and fuel lines, can affect the pressure and volume reaching the engine.
8) A fuel pump must be able to provide sufficient pressure and flow (or volume) to the fuel injection system. If either specification is not met, the engine will not perform properly. Technicians must test for both or find they are searching in vain for a problem elsewhere.
9) Pumps can also be damaged during installation. Some in tank units are a tight fit and if force is used, the hanger assembly can be damaged, causing improper function of the pump or the fuel sender. A pump that sends the wrong signal to the fuel gauge can cause a very unhappy customer. If a pump is returned, check for physical damage.
10) Application errors are also a popular source for comebacks. This is understandable, considering that some vehicles may have multiple pumps listed, but whatever the cause the wrong pump will be returned with its accompanying customer relations consequences. Be meticulous when checking catalogs and get as much detail from the technician as possible to ensure they get the right pump the first time.