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I Fixed It. . .It’s Still Broken

October 22, 2018

My son’s car is what you would call a junker. If you saw it trying to merge in front of you on the freeway, you’d give it plenty of room. Apparently in the past someone didn’t. Maybe plenty of someones.

I recently replaced the power steering pump. It took awhile. His car was out of commission for nearly a month. Finally I got it working. I’d never done a power steering pump before. I did his three times.

His car ran for about three weeks. Then, the fuel pump went out. I’ve been working on it for several weeks, finding time. Last week, I finally had some uninterrupted time to devote to it.

The fuel pump, not surprisingly, sits inside the fuel tank. The fuel tank is typically fifteen to twenty gallons. It’s a big steel tank that sits under your trunk. That puts it about 12 inches above the road. Nothing between the tank and the pavement.

The tank is held on your car by two steel straps. You can’t actually screw the tank to the car. It would be too dangerous.

It’s not complicated to change the fuel pump. You have to drain the tank, of course. Gasoline weighs about 8 lbs/gallon. A full tank can weigh between 120 and 160 lbs. That’s a lot of weight on those steel straps.

You have to disconnect the electrical wires and the fuel lines. I was replacing the fuel filter as well, so two more sets fuel lines. The fuel line connectors were pretty rusted. They actually push on and off with a simple tool. I spent a couple of hours wrestling with them.

After all that was done, it was time to remove the straps and lower the tank. I placed a floor jack and a couple of jack stands under the tank and went to remove the bolts that hold the straps in place. The straps that keep the 150 lbs fuel tank from dropping onto the road in a fiery explosion of fire and destruction.

The left one looked like this.

This is what the right side looked like.

That’s paracord. I wondered why someone would obscure the bolt with paracord and old wire ties. On closer inspection it was obvious that the paracord wasn’t obscuring the bolt. It had replaced the bolt.

My realitively simple fuel pump replacement had turned into a more complicated operation. I removed the one good bolt and cut off the paracord. The tank came out pretty easily.

Next, I turned my attention to the problem of the broken bolt. I started by shearing off the stub with a handheld grinder. A grinder throws out a tremendous amount of sparks. Normally operating a grinder that close to the fuel tank is a dangerous operation. But, considering my fuel tank was bone dry and sitting 20 feet away I felt pretty confident that we’d avoid an accident.

I tried drilling out the remains of the bolt. The end was welded into the frame, It became clear that even my titanium drill bits were not going to get much of a purchase on the hardened steel bolt. Finally, I picked a close spot and drilled a new hole. I couldn’t access it from the trunk, so it became a new pilot hole.

Replacing the pump is pretty simple. You just remove a locking ring, pull out the old pump and install the new one. The tank went back in pretty easily too. Reattach all the fuel lines, the new fuel filter, and the electrical connections.

A self-drilling screw took the place of the discarded paracord. It now looks like this.

I replaced the fuel pump relay and the 30 Amp fuse. I added a few gallons of gas and we were ready to test the new pump. My friend who gave me the car said the fuel pump was replaced recently. I told him whoever he paid to do the work cheated him. The pump I removed did look new, but the fuel filter certainly was not, and of course, no reputable mechanic would secure any part of a car with paracord, let alone a steel tank full of flamable fuel.

Incidentally, when we turned on the key to test the new fuel pump it immediately blew the fuse. My repair had not only not fixed the fuel pump issue, the problem may not have even been with the fuel pump at all.

In the coming days, I’ll check the oxygen sensor, and then the six individual fuel injectors. And if none of those are faulty I’ll trace the wires down and see if one has become worn and frayed.

But, I don’t view my time replacing the fuel pump as a failure. In fact, I’m glad I went through the process. The most important thing I did was screw a $0.59 piece of metal into a hole I drilled.

Yes, definitely a success.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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