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Fuel Pump Replacement Is Getting More Expensive

The cost of replacing a fuel pump on Domestic vehicles (GM, Ford & Chrysler) has risen dramatically over the years. While this seems like a bad thing there is good news also!

There was a time, in the early years of domestic fuel injected vehicles, that most fuel pumps would be dead within a 100,000 kilometers: not a very long life. Pumps were not extremely expensive but were installed inside the fuel tank making the job labour intensive. In the mid 1990s fuel pumps became part of an assembly which included the fuel tank sending unit, the strainer, wiring, all mounting hardware and evap sensors (if equipped). Replacing the pump still required the labour intensive fuel tank removal but the pump assembly was just slipped in and out of the tank.

As you might guess making it more complex costs more: where once a fuel pump replacement may have been a $500.00 job, it is now often over $1000.00 to replace.

So what is the good news?

Quality is way up: usually these pumps last well into the 200,000 to 300,000 kilometer range so replacement is less often. An added benefit to the pump being included in an assembly is that everything gets replaced including the fuel guage sender so it leaves less chance of something else inside the fuel tank failing and requiring future costly repairs.

What about fuel pumps in Japanese or European cars? They have always made very durable fuel pumps that last a long time. I can’t remember the last fuel pump we replaced on a Japanese or European car, however we do replace them. Often (but not always) these pumps are expensive but labour is simpler as many of the import vehicles provide access holes through the trunk or inside the car to remove the fuel pump from the tank.

The silver lining with the new designed pumps is durability, for when a fuel pump fails it is usually without warning: your car dies and needs to be towed for repairs. The less often this happens the better!

Fuel Pump Replacement Is Getting More Expensive

The fuel pump as it was once replaced (the old and less expensive style)

Fuel Pump Replacement Is Getting More Expensive

The fuel pump assembly, the pump shown above sits inside this unit

New GM Central Port Fuel Injection Unit

Finally a Newly Designed Central Port Fuel Injection Unit is Available

This replacement part is for GM trucks that use this fuel injection system. And there are many trucks: millions of them, built from 1992 to 2002. This system was fraught with problems almost from day one and it’s surprising that it took so long to build a replacement part to address the original design flaws.

Most of the concerns with this system are due to sticking poppet valves and a leaking fuel pressure regulator. This system is unique in that poppet valves are located inside a ‘box’ from which the fuel lines and injectors are connected. The poppet valves are electronically controlled inside this ‘box’.

The redesigned part’s major change is to install electronically controlled fuel injectors at the end of the fuel line. This allows for very precise fuel control which the original unit lacked. It also eliminates the need for the troublesome poppet valves.

A Recent Repair Illustrates How Bad This Can Get

We had a 1996 Chevy pickup with a V6 towed to our shop for a no start concern. After a thorough diagnosis we found that the fuel injection unit was defective and causing the starting problems plus an array of other concerns:

    • Very Rough Running Engine
    • Poor Starting
    • Horrible Fuel Mileage
    • Vehicle Was Running So Rich That the Catalytic Converter Had Been Destroyed

The good news is that after installing this unit our truck ran great. Even better news it that these new and improved parts cost less than the old designed parts!

New GM Central Port Fuel Injection Unit

The new and the old: New, redesigned part is on left, note the wires and larger electronic fuel injectors on the ends. The old unit is on the right.

Proper Diagnosis Saves You Money

Proper diagnosis is essential before repairs. It sounds simple and makes sense but it is amazing that some folks would rather avoid this critical step. The same holds true for many auto repair shops who would rather guess at what is wrong and waste your money on unneeded repairs.

We recently serviced a 2000 Dodge Truck that had a check engine lamp on and a slightly rough running engine. The vehicle had been at another shop where they replaced spark plugs, ignition wires and a fuel injector in #8 cylinder. We found that the check engine lamp was on for a code P0308 which indicates a misfire detected in #8 cylinder. While the previous shop must have found this code, the fact that a number of parts were replaced and the concern remained indicates that diagnosis was not done. In all fairness the spark plugs and ignition wires may have been old and been due for replacement but it looks like the fuel injector was just a guess.

We took the time to do a proper diagnosis and found the concern was caused by poor compression in #8 cylinder. After the cylinder head was removed and tested, a crack between the intake & exhaust valve seats was found to be the culprit. With a new cylinder head installed the truck ran great, as it should have if proper diagnosis was done the first time.

Proper Diagnosis Saves You Money

Dodge V8 cylinder head showing crack between valve seats

Oil Leaks Can Be Dangerous

Oil leaks are common as cars age and there are many places for oil to leak from: engine gaskets and seals, transmission gaskets and seals, differential seals and the power steering system. Cost to repair these leaks can vary from under a hundred dollars to into the thousands. While it is often cheaper to add oil than spend money to repair, there are a few reasons why you should fix your oil leaks.

1) Though it is rare, oil leaks can catch fire. We recently found a potentially hazardous leak on a 2001 Audi A8. It is dangerous because the oil is leaking directly onto the left resonator. This part of the exhaust system can become very hot and under the right conditions this leaked oil could ignite.

2) Oil leaks damage our environment. Drips get washed down the storm drains and pollute rivers, lakes and the ocean. While one car dripping a drop of oil here and there is no big deal when you add the thousands of cars on the road together this creates quite a concern.

3) Rubber parts are damaged by oil. Over time if enough oil gets on it, a rubber part will fail and this will cost you extra to repair. Some commonly oil damaged parts that we replace are coolant hoses, engine mounts and suspension bushings.

To prevent such damage, have your car serviced regularly and repair oil leaks as they occur and when they become severe enough. How will you know that you have an oil leak? You may notice drips on the ground under your car; you may need to add oil to your engine; or you may note a burning or unusual smell while driving like our client with the Audi did. It is worth having your car inspected when you note any odd smells for you never know when this could be potentially dangerous.

Oil Leaks Can Be Dangerous

Rear transmission seal leaking onto exhaust system: a potentially dangerous oil leak!

Why Catalytic Converters Fail

Catalytic converters fail for many reasons and the consequence of failure can cause several things to occur including a failed AirCare emission test, a check engine lamp warning, rattles under your car and poor engine performance.

Why Catalytic Converters Fail

A replacement catalytic converter

Let’s look at what your catalytic converter is, what it does and what causes it to fail.

Catalytic converters use a catalyst to transform harmful carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and oxides of nitrogen emissions in your engine’s exhaust into carbon dioxide and water. The catalyst consists of a combination of precious metals: platinum, palladium and rhodium. When the hot exhaust passes these elements a chemical transformation occurs.

The precious metal catalyst is bonded onto a very fine ‘honeycomb’ grid which sits inside the converter housing. It is a simple structure with no moving parts and only requires the heat of the exhaust and the right exhaust gas mixture to operate.

Why Catalytic Converters Fail

Inside the catalytic converter: the "honeycomb" substrate

Catalytic converter failures occur in several ways: First, impact failures which can occur if the unit is hit, often involving running over something. Second, thermal shocks which can occur if the unit is suddenly cooled. A likely cause would be going over a puddle in cold winter weather and the hot converter receiving an intense dousing of cold water. Third cause of failure is poisoning of the catalyst which can come from several sources: use of leaded gasoline (very rare these days); antifreeze entering the unit likely through a blown head gasket or other internal engine coolant leak; use of improper silicone gasket sealers; and use of oil additives which contain zinc. Fourth, is coating of the substrate: this is the honeycomb structure with the catalyst. This can occur from excessive carbon deposits and/or excessive engine oil consumption. Fifth and final cause of failure is overheating of the catalyst and this usually occurs from too rich a fuel mixture and/or engine misfire.

Do Catalytic Converters Simply Wear Out?

While all manufacturers seem to claim that they don’t and that they last the life of the car, it simply isn’t true. Many cars experience early failure due to a substandard size or quality of converter. Aftermarket replacements, always much cheaper than the original manufacturer’s part, are usually inferior in quality.

There are various grades of aftermarket converters. Here, you truly get what you pay for as the cheap ones often fail quickly whereas the good quality aftermarket units usually give years of great service. This is why we always recommend high quality units.

Catalytic Converter Maintenance

As a conscientious car owner looking to maximize catalytic converter life the best thing that you can do is to maintain your car meticulously and always address any check engine lamp concerns, correct rough running and misfiring engines or any performance issues. Failure to do so will result in you buying new catalytic converter(s) sooner than necessary and these are, by the way, normally very expensive to replace!

For more on repairing Catalytic Converters here’s an article at AirCare

Canadian Only Car Models Can Cause Grief

When buying a used car take a few minutes to make sure that the model of car that you are looking at is not a Canadian only car. Just exactly what is wrong with a Canadian only car?

Well nothing, …and several things!

Here are a few examples of reasons that you might be wary of owning a Canadian only model: hard to find parts; very hard to find repair information; parts available only from the dealer.

Hard to find parts may delay repairing your car, lack of repair information makes it difficult to accurately diagnose and repair the car and can add costs for service. Finally, dealer only parts mean a lack of choice often resulting in higher repair costs and delays in getting parts. If you are unsure about the car model that you are looking at, call us or a trusted auto service shop and ask about that car. Knowing the difference can make your car owning experience better.

By the way there is no lack of quality in the Canadian only cars. In the North American automotive business most of our parts suppliers and repair information providers are American companies and cater to the huge number of cars sold in the US. Canadian only cars are such a small segment of the market that they get left out of the mainstream.

If you really love a car by all means buy it, but I can’t think of many “Canadian only” cars are that so fabulous that they are worth the grief that you may encounter by owning one.

Canadian Only Car Models Can Cause Grief

1993 BMW 320i: an example of a Canadian only model. A 325i would be a much better choice as it was sold in the US as well.

A Leaking Water Pump Prevents a Major Disaster

Cracked Timing Belt

While repairing a water pump on a 1990 Toyota pickup equipped with a 3 litre V6 engine we came upon this very badly worn and about to break timing belt. It was perhaps by good fortune that this water pump was leaking as the vehicle was new to our client and he had no idea of the timing belt’s condition.

A Leaking Water Pump Prevents a Major Disaster

Severely cracked timing belt

Here are a few facts about timing belts:

➢ The timing belt’s primary purpose is to drive the engine’s camshaft(s) in perfect synchronization with the crankshaft. This precisely times the movement of the engine pistons with the intake and exhaust valves.
➢ Some engines have 2 timing belts and often one of these operates balance shafts. Balance shafts are installed to smooth out the subtle but inherent shaking that occurs in 4 cylinder engines.
➢ On some engines the timing belt also drives the water pump and/or the oil pump.
On many engines if the timing belt breaks the pistons and valves will collide and cause very expensive damage. This type of engine is known as an interference engine.
➢ On all engines, when the timing belt breaks, the engine stops immediately and cannot be restarted until repaired.
Timing belts almost always give no warning before they fail.
➢ On most engines inspecting the timing belt can be quite time consuming as it is located under plastic covers and these are often covered with pipes, hoses and accessories.
➢ A proper timing belt replacement involves not just replacing the timing belt but also the front camshaft and crankshaft oil seals, timing belt tensioner pulley, idler pulley(s), tensioner assembly and water pump (depending on design of engine).
➢ Replacement intervals for most vehicles since the 2000 model year is 168,000 kilometers or higher, however consult your manufacturer’s maintenance schedule to be certain. Cars previous to this usually have shorter intervals and many cars made in the 1980’s or 1990’s require replacement at 96,000 kilometers or sooner.

Don't Disregard Your Check Engine Lamp

Check Engine Lamp

Do not underestimate the value of your check engine lamp even if your car runs perfectly well. Disregarding your check engine lamp can add great inconvenience to your life.

Let’s face it, sometimes spending money on car repairs is not your first choice (or even your second or third choice). It’s often one of those “have to” purchases.

Frequently it’s tempting to make choices about what to repair based on how the car runs. And so it goes with your car’s check engine light: that’s the amber lamp that illuminates on your dash that either says “check engine” or shows an outline of an engine. Its main function is to alert you to a concern with your engine management system and/or an engine concern that causes excessive exhaust emissions. Many times your vehicle will run perfectly well and herein lies the temptation to ignore the lamp.

Don't Disregard Your Check Engine Lamp

A check engine lamp

Let’s look at the consequences of ignoring your check engine lamp:

1) If your engine is running poorly and the lamp is on, ignoring this will very likely cost you more money in repairs down the road. A rough running or misfiring engine will usually destroy your catalytic converter(s) which can cost thousands to replace.

2) Even if your engine is running well it may not be running as intended and could be using more fuel, costing you more to drive. Your vehicle’s powertrain computer is designed to compensate for malfunctions and keep it running as close to normal as possible. Often you can’t feel the problem but something is happening that will cost you more either in fuel or premature wear down the road.

3) If you live in the Vancouver Area and your vehicle is seven years or older then it must be tested at AirCare every 2 years. If your vehicle is 1998 and newer the entire test involves interrogating your vehicle’s powertrain computer for defects. If your check engine lamp is on YOU WILL FAIL the test and waste money for the inspection.

The best plan of attack when your check engine lamp comes on it to have it looked at. A basic inspection will retrieve the stored trouble code and from there a technician can discuss a proper diagnostic and repair plan.

On the simple end of the scale he/she may find your gas cap was loose and tightening it solves the concern. On the more complex end of the spectrum several levels of diagnosis may be required to find the cause and repair the concern. Either way it is important to know why the light is on and what effects it may be having on your vehicle.

Diesels are not Indestructable

Dodge Cummins Diesel melted piston

While Diesel engines are remarkably tough they are not indestructible and can be expensively damaged when abused. Take a look at these pistons from a Dodge Cummins Diesel. The vehicle owner had installed a performance chip in the computer and taking advantage of the extra horsepower hauled a trailer at high speed up the Coquihalla Highway.

It was undoubtably an impressive site, watching a truck and trailer maintaining the speed limit uphill through the steep mountain grades. However a severe price was paid when a knocking noise developed in the engine. After tearing down the engine the damage was found: a partially melted piston caused by the relentless uphill quest for speed. This is an expensive diesel repair.

If you own such a vehicle take care when driving, especially after making performance upgrades or modifications: all engines are built to take a set amount of strain and overdoing it could cost you big money.

Diesels are not Indestructable

Melted piston on left, Normally worn piston on right

Diesels are not Indestructable

Damaged piston skirt on left, normally worn piston on right

Comprehensive Inspections Save You Money

Comprehensive inspections save money

We love doing inspections and maintenance services on vehicles because we often find a concern as it is starting and can advise the client to repair it before it becomes a more costly repair. Case in point was a recent service on a 1994 Ford F250 pick up.

While performing a comprehensive inspection we came upon this rear axle seal just starting to leak. Fortunately we caught it before it had leaked gear oil onto the brake shoes and destroyed them. Our client wisely chose to repair the seal immediately and by doing so he saved several hundred dollars in brake work. Paying for an inspection saved our client money!

Comprehensive Inspections Save You Money

The leaking axle seal, caught before the leak soaked the brake shoes

Let's Discuss Your Vehicle...

In order to provide an estimate, a diagnosis is the next step!