I have a love-hate relationship with my 2003 Ford Escape. The vehicle is capable of threshing out total rage and adoration depending on what it was that broke. One of these days, I’ll tell you about the alternator, but this issue was a pleasure to deal with: the fuel pump.
Now, for the benefit of everyone, I have to explain how we finally landed on the Fuel Pump as the culprit. There are a number of things that can affect the starting of your vehicle and you can eliminate things very quickly based on WHAT the car is and isn’t doing at startup:
- If your car’s interior lights are dim, dimming or fluctuating, you have an electrical / power issue. Typically, this will be a battery or alternator problem.
- If your car won’t even turn over (just clicking) and you are getting solid interior lights, dash lights, etc, your problem is likely your starter.
- If your car is turning over, but not starting, you can eliminate most electrical issues and your probably focused on air flow sensing, compression and fuel line. This is where my fun began.
We actually thought the culprit was the Mass Air-Flow Sensor which all fuel-injected cars have. If your car is newer, you have one of these. Their main goal is to make sure that the fuel air mixture in the cylinder is correct.
They’re usually easy to get to and clean, but they can go bad. We weren’t able to rule this out as I was able to get the car to start by disconnecting the mass air flow sensor electrical harness and firing up the vehicle. However, I was still having issues even after we replaced the Mass Air-FlowSensor. The car would run fine, but if I made a quick stop into a store, about 20% of the time, I’d return to a car that wouldn’t start. It was like Russian Roulette and driving me crazy as it would take 10-90 minutes to restart…like waiting for the cable guy to show up.
Finally, after replacing the Mass Air-Flow Sensor and the problem occurring quite fatally in a store parking lot (still wouldn’t restart 12 hours later), I knew it was something else. The engine would turn, but it was sputtering, and not running, so I knew at this point that it had to be the fuel pump (I ruled out compression problems…if compression, I should have gotten a Dummy Light from the car’s computer).
On most vehicles, you have to drop the gas tank out of the car to get to the fuel pump (because it is located on top of the fuel tank), which means you have to empty the gas tank, drop the tank, replace the pump and reattach the gas tank. On this one, the designers of the 2003 Ford Escape had it right: they created an access panel under the driver’s side back seat (the seats fold down). We had the pump out and a new one in within 20 minutes (after all of the running around to get parts and tools). A special thank you to Dan Ferrell at eHow.com for excellent instructions on doing this.
I have to send out a plug for Autozone here: All things being equal, most auto parts stores are equal, but here is where I found a major difference: We checked both PepBoys and Autozone for a particular tool to do this job (the Fuel Sender Wrench that Dan mentions in his article). PepBoys had nothing, although they do rent tools like Autozone. Autozone, meanwhile, had the specific tools we needed (by the way, the rental is free as long as you return the tools).
Anyway, if you are lucky enough to have a vehicle that has provided such easy access to your car’s fuel pump in a situation like this, you will save a boat-load doing it yourself. Good luck and feel free to post questions if you have them.