At the heart of any vehicle is the engine, but without fuel to burn, an engine is just a useless lump of metal, plastic and rubber. The fuel system is responsible for feeding the engine and primarily consists of the tank, fuel lines, fuel filter and a pump that pushes the fuel from the tank to either an injection system or, in older vehicles, a carburetor.
The fuel tank, pump and lines generally don’t require any service over the life of the vehicle. However, any fuel smell at all in a modern vehicle should be quickly investigated. The fuel system is completely sealed from stem to stern, and shouldn’t emit any smell of fuel or leaks. If you’re seeing or smelling anything, it should prompt you to have your dealer’s service techs take a look at the system immediately. Not only is it obviously dangerous, but lots of work has gone into keeping fuel from venting to the atmosphere. Fuel tanks are typically plastic today, but fuel lines are generally steel and can rust over the years, causing leaks. Road hazards can also cause punctures.
Most modern vehicles use electric fuel pumps that are submerged in the tank, while older cars use mechanical pumps that are mounted on the side of the engine and driven off the crank or camshaft. Replacing a submerged fuel pump generally requires the fuel tank to be removed, and testing one isn’t something even a seasoned DIY’er should mess with.
The only part of the fuel system that needs any regular service on newer vehicles is the filter that catches sediment and particles that may be in the fuel to prevent them from getting to the engine. The fuel filter is usually mounted somewhere underneath the vehicle and is commonly difficult to access. Because replacing it requires disconnecting the fuel lines, it’s best to let a professional handle this job. If the lines aren’t reconnected properly, you can end up with a leak that could lead to a fire.
Engines built before the 1990s often use mechanical carburetors, which require periodic adjustments, instead of fuel injection systems. Carburetor adjustments should also be handled by a pro, since an improperly carburetor can lead to excessive fuel use or excessive emissions.
Modern fuel injection systems are electronically controlled and need minimal regular maintenance. However, years of use can lead to varnish and other deposits building up inside the injectors. You might be tempted to use a fuel system cleaner to try and clean out the injectors, but it’s best to have the fuel spray of the injectors tested to see if they’re flowing effectively. Dirty injectors can cause problems like rough idle, engine misfire, acceleration hesitation, loss of power and poor fuel economy.
For more information on these systems and any other car related issue, stop by or contact us today. We have the knowledge and experience to keep your fuel system running properly.