1996 Chevy 1500 Series Pickup Fuel Pump Replacement

Mark: Hi it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 17 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well

Mark: So we’re gong to talk about 96 Chevy 1500 Series pickup truck, what was going on with this truck?

Bernie: Well the vehicle was towed to our shop with a no start condition, the engine was cranking over fine but it wouldn’t start. So that’s what was going on with the vehicle. Basically when we have a vehicle like that, obviously diagnosis is the first thing to do to find out what’s going on with it. There’s really three things that will cause the vehicle not to start if it’s cranking over, either the engine compression is bad, the ignition system isn’t working or the fuel system’s not working. In this case, what we found is the fuel pressure was very low, not sufficient to have the engine start. 

Mark: So what type of fuel injection do these trucks use?

Bernie: Well these GM’s of this vintage, they used it throughout most of the ’90’s, it’s called a vortec fuel injection system. GM used it on the V8 and V6 engines in their trucks and to be honest, it wasn’t GM’s best system. So anyways, the fuel pumps generate quite a lot of pressure to actually get the fuel system to operate and yeah, so that’s part of it. The way the fuel injection system works, just to give a few details, the actual fuel injectors are actually located inside the intake manifold, so when you look at the engine, it’s got this big fat intake manifold that actually comes apart in two pieces and inside are, this is a V8 engine, so all the eight fuel injectors are inside. There’s a central electronic control unit that operates the fuel injectors, there’s a fuel pressure regulator, all inside the intake manifold and the fuel lines basically just go in and out through the top. So it’s a big wiring connector and the fuel lines, all hidden away, real nice, easy to manufacture but there’s a lot of problems that happen with this system. 

So I’ll just share a couple of photos here, here’s our truck here, real nice old nice truck, lowrider, really good condition. So again, you know 1996 it’s getting to be a 20 year old truck, is it worth it? Of course. It’s a beautiful truck, it’s well taken care of and a nice vehicle. I’ll just get our other photo up here, so here’s our fuel pump. This is basically a complete fuel assembly unit, you remove it, this is the part that sits into the fuel tank, right here it mounts from the fuel tank and yeah, so the pump is in the fuel tank. Here’s the pump right here, that’s the section right here, I mean really you could just get away with changing that piece and the strainer here, which sort of pre filters the fuel, but they sell it as an assembly and the good news is you get a new gas tank sending unit, that’s this thing here, this yellowish object, this is actually a float,  kind of like a float in your toilet bowl, it moves up and down with the amount of fuel. There’s a little rheostat here that sends a voltage signal to the fuel gauge and that’s how you know how much fuel you have in your tank. So again when you do this kind of replacement you’re actually getting all these parts which is kind of nice because these pieces fail too and then you have fuel lines here, you can see some gas has leaked out, the fuel inlet, fuel return line and then there’s some pipes here for the evap system which basically captures the gas fumes from getting out.

Mark: So is this a fairly reliable fuel injection system?

Bernie: No it’s not, as I was mentioning there are problems with it. There’s been a lot of issues with them, the injectors will fail, the other big problem that happens too because the fuel pressure regulator is located inside the intake manifold, it can actually start leaking fuel when it fails and it’ll start causing excessively rich mixture especially into the rear cylinders where it’s located because the fuel will actually start pouring out, extra fuel is leaking out, will actually start pouring into the cylinders. So it fails and just the injectors were just not very reliable in the way they work. The problem putting it inside the intake manifold is that you’ve got all the blow by gases, the PVC system sucks the crankcase gases in and they can create this horrible sludge and it’s a really toxic harsh environment. So it wasn’t the best idea.

There’s a replacement system available that actually makes each injector electronically controlled and so instead of having the central unit that controls the injectors, it’s still inside the manifold but it has each injector is electronically controlled. Kind of like the more modern systems are, and that definitely works better. Though I have to say, the first time we ever replaced one of those, we bought one, we put it in and it actually the unit failed right away, so hmm not sure about this, but the second one worked and the car’s been running forever, but every once in a while you get a bad part. It’s not a great time to get a bad part in the very first replacement.

Mark: So 21 years old vehicle, what does GM use now?

Bernie: So beginning in the early 2000’s, GM they redesigned their engines, they got away from this vortec fuel injection system and they basically put individual port fuel injection, individual injector, externally mounted like almost everyone else and very reliable. I’ve had at 2001 Suburban since 2006, like nothings gone wrong with it, bullet proof reliable, amazing truck. So that system works really well. We get a lot of Chevy trucks, nothing ever goes wrong with that fuel system, so that was a really good upgrade doing that. Now speaking of Chevy trucks, you know I speak pretty highly of them but really when they hit about the 2000 model year, that’s when they started building them really well. Prior to that, a lot of the Chevy trucks were definitely on the weaker side with this vortec fuel system  was problematic. A lot of the brakes were way under sized on them and you might, some trucks you know, 20 or 30 thousand kilometres would be all you’d get on a set of brakes. Sometimes even less if you’re hauling heavy loads but on the newer ones, the brakes will last a 100 thousand kilometres even with heavy loads. So they really upped the size of the truck and really built it well starting around the 2000’s.

Mark: And how about these 96 vintage, how are they for reliability?

Bernie: Well again, they’re kind of in that category, they’ve got this vortec fuel system which is problematic and the brakes are smaller, so they’re not as reliable, they’re  definitely, the 90’s were not really the best years for GM trucks. I mean you saw the picture of the truck, beautiful truck and I can’t fault someone for owning it and taking care of it and it just needs more work than the newer model, which I guess is good for us.

Mark: So there you go, if you have a Chevy or GM vehicle that needs some repair or maintenance in Vancouver, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book ahead, they’re busy so you’ve got to book ahead or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com or our Youtube channel. We’ve got hundreds of videos, just search for Pawlik Automotive on Youtube. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark

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