Car Repair Tips: Fuel Pump Strain, Gasoline Odor and a Hard To Start Car

Car repair tips from MOTHER's Mechanic column includes questions about fuel pump strain, gasoline odors and a hard to start car.


MOTHER's Mechanic Jon Gail Blair shares his car repair tips with readers.


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MOTHER's Mechanic Jon shares his thirty-five years of car repair tips and know-how . . . under the hood. Getting that cold feeling in the morning when your car just won't turn over? Jon Gail Blair comes to the rescue.  

Car Repair Tips

I've had the fuel pump in the tank of my 1989 Tempo replaced three times this year. Every time the temp exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit (and this is Texas, for Pete's sake) or the tank gets down to half full l can hear the pump straining its little heart out. Should I have it relocated? Can you help?
Mrs.Dawn Bellemare
Taylor, TX

Well, Dawn, you will have to answer some questions that people who usually guarantee such pumps would ask. Was the screen on the new pump replaced as well? No warranty would apply unless this was done. Was a new fuel filter included when the new pumps were installed? I also would have broken the line loose up front at a convenient place and blown compressed air back through the line with the fuel filter off. I've even had to replace lines on cars younger than yours. Do yourself one more favor though; go and get a proper replacement gas cap for this system and put it on, just in case. Don't replace it with a piece of junk, ever. In your owner's manual in the glove box you should be able to find the manufacturer's 800 number. They may want to know about your problem. Call them!

I have a 1985 Mercury LYNX which has 91,000 miles on it. The problem started at 30,000 miles. Just after starting, and only with the heater fan on, I get a very strong odor of gasoline. It continues as I drive but the odor isn't as noticeable then as when the car is parked. I have mentioned this to several mechanics but they treat it casually. Any insight would be appreciated.
Karen Coleman
Steelville, MO

Karen, you better get this car to somebody who knows what to look for before it catches fire on the road. Your car has a fuel leak on the top of the engine or around the fuel pump. All connections that have clamps must be checked and/or replaced soon. Are you filling the fuel tank right to the top after the pump tries to shut off? This has caused some carbon canisters to overflow, causing just such a gas smell. Take this problem to somebody local who cares, right now!

I have a 1986 GMC Vandura 2500 with a 4.3 liter V6, manual transmission. My question deals with my factory-installed cruise control. I could drive 10 miles or 300 miles before the problem starts. It may happen once or repeatedly. I'll be on cruise at 55 and slowly the speed starts to reduce (on a flat road). I can get my speed back by giving some gas and resetting the control. The module has already been replaced at a cost of $200. What do you think?
Joseph Kaye
Phenix, VA

It sounds to me like you might have a small vacuum leak that is causing the cruise control to drift (it might even shut it down entirely on occasion). These small items of needed maintenance are chronically forgotten at small and large garages the world over. Tell your mechanic to grab a vacuum gauge and test the cruise control unit as well as the main vacuum outlet on the engine for leaks. Put a piece of hose on the vacuum advance and suck on it to check for a leaking diaphragm. Check with hand and eye every hose on the engine.

I have a 1987 Subaru Justy DL that is very hard to start at times but seems to run well enough once started. It has run over 98,000 miles. I have had the ignition coil, ignition plate, and carburetor replaced and the choke readjusted and cleaned. Someone else replaced the fuel filter, fuel pump, then the distributor cap and rotor. The problem is still there but seems to be less frequent in warm weather.
Gerald Nethdurft
Columbia, MO

Gerald, has a compression test been done on this car? At that many miles, either timing or compression could be causing the poor start problem. Is the problem one in which the engine runs for a while then won't start again a few minutes after it's shut down? If so, expect a valve job in your future. Timing chain or gear ware will also drive some people nuts before they quit working. Rubber timing belts on smaller cars are recommended for replacement at 50,000 miles, so get that done. Also, at that mileage, it could simply be a leaking rusty fuel line or a worn-out ignition switch. I would recommend you find a reputable computer diagnostic operator in a dealership and have the complete series of tests done. These can be printed on paper and discussed after the series of tests is run. You may have to surrender your car overnight for these tests. I have no doubt they will find something. Good hunting!

I've asked everybody and read everything. I'm at wit's end. Fuel will intermittently drip or pour from the carbon canister on my 1985 Honda Civic Sedan, 1.5 liter. It tends to occur in hot weather, as if some check valve was stuck open. I'm not expecting a miracle, but give it a shot.
Gary Aubrey Linn,
Bloomfield, IN

You're not running very safe these days, Gary. If your car was in my shop it would be minus its carburetor right this minute be cause it would be in my acid tank, well along the way toward a complete overhaul—just for starters. The excess gas must flow from the carb to flood the canister. So, has any thing in the fuel system been altered in any way? But here's a suggestion. Get the engine good and warm, and then have a four-gas analyzer run on this system. If it's running as rich as I suspect it is, that carb has to come off soon. It will probably bury the needle on a gas analyzer for sure. You might also check with your dealer to see if they have had any recalls involving this problem.

If your car or truck is getting you down and you need some practical answers fast, write Jon at "MOTHER's Mechanic," c/o MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Arden, NC, or via E-mail at editor (at) Don't forget to include your phone number and a photo. 

adam je
8/24/2015 6:40:00 AM

Car repairing is really a big headache and often people failed to perform it well. As I care so much for my Mercedes that's why looking for every possible things that I can do for its maintenance. Thanks for the great tips. I think choosing a good repair center is almost done with a proper maintenance. Glad to find your blog. Keep posting.

3/18/2015 1:32:49 PM

I'm glad you answered that question about cruise-control at the end. I have been experiencing some similar issues but have been afraid to bring it in only to be told that it's an expensive repair. I'll have to test the vacuum hose as you suggested.

gary birtles
3/12/2015 8:27:04 AM

My wife noticed a gas odor in her car whenever she drove. We put off having it looked at for a few weeks and it ended up costing us quite a bit. I guess it turned out to be her catalytic converter. Now I definitely agree, that it is best to get a vehicle looked at asap when something like that occurs.

tara tompson
10/3/2014 6:31:30 PM

I want to get my fuel pump looked at. I think that's the problem with my car. I don't really know how to fix it though.

7/26/2014 7:35:19 AM

Good information about car care tips, now, everybody drive cars but many people got problem in car due to proper maintenance. As per use of a car, its regular maintenance also required so do regular maintenance in proper time for a long run.

7/26/2014 7:33:57 AM

Good information about car care tips, now, everybody drive cars but many people got problem in car due to proper maintenance. As per use of a car, its regular maintenance also required so do regular maintenance in proper time for a long run.

7/24/2014 2:44:34 AM

Really this blog is very informative to car users and as well the repair and service points.You have to take a proper care of your if you want to enjoy the real benefits all the daylong. And also it depends on how you are taking care of your car,whether you are doing the servicing and maintenance in a regular interval of time or not.So select good service point for your car whether it is German luxury car or normal small Mini Cooper type cars, just be the responsible and careful owner of your car,so it will reduce your extra repair cost etc. Mini Cooper Repair Studio City

7/9/2014 2:21:06 AM

May be as the vehicle is old, it is start showing such problem. It is better to replace it completely rather then repairing it three times. I think a part of the vehicle can be repaired well if we visit a professional repair center. Normal or we can say ordinary repair centers do not have the skill to deal with our branded cars and result such problem will arise. That's why it is always preferable to use OEM parts in the vehicle rather than ordinary parts. We can get OEM parts in professional automotive center and the engineers or technicians available there are completely trained to deal with branded cars. As far as vehicle is concerned safety is the main thing to consider and to avoid such problem and to stay safe we have to behave smartly. For my BMW in Roswell I prefer to visit Performing Imports as it is a and have quality engineers to deal with BMW. We can collect reviews from directory sites about the best repair center available for our respective cars and move likewise.

7/3/2014 8:34:21 AM

Well now a days buying a car is not bis deal for people as they more conscious about living a luxury life. So they are also buying the luxury cars like BMW,Mercedes,Audi etc to suit their finance.But in real term buying is not a deal here,but to maintain it in real way like proper servicing and regular maintenance is the matter of fact. so just go to select a well established and well known for it.

6/24/2014 8:07:33 AM

Now a days every one is preferring car for their day today use but buying a car and using its a general thing, most important is how you are managing to solve the problem of car like the above problem in fuel pump. And also as the parts and its functions are connected so if one part got damaged then it will affect other parts. So for avoiding all these problems you should choose a repairing or servicing center that will more helpful to you . As per my views i have visited a servicing center near better servicing and well improved technology they are using for car maintenance.

3/13/2014 2:09:59 AM

Most of the persons now-a-day have a car and face a lot numbers of problem time to time. In this article, this thing is properly mentioned. So, those who have cars have to take care of their car. Most of the people face problem in fuel pump. As this fuel pump is a main part inside the car body so, when we face any bug in it, it is mandatory to repair it as soon as possible because, inside the car if one part is not functioning well then it may damage all other parts or can restrict them to serve the car to their level best. So, whether we have any problem inside our car, for its smoother and better running it is preferable for us to repair it from a good repair center. Once, in my Mini Cooper, I have faced problem in its engine. It did not even take a start. So, I have visited a and get my car repaired. After that my vehicle is running well. So, if we take care of our car and maintain it, service it in proper time interval then it will serve us the best.

1/29/2014 12:24:52 AM

Use of car is really comfortable. Now days the use of car increase day by day. Car become the most common way of communication and travel. After having a car the repair and service are the most essential and every car owner also did this. Many car owner don't know how to take care of their car. In this situation the above tips will be very useful. Not only in a specific country rather it applicable for all over the world. Thanks for these useful

1/13/2014 5:00:24 AM

Buying a new car is not enough but to maintain it more essential. To keep your car fully furnished newly is the best thing. Through the car right from the beginning through which we can also save our money. there are many tips we could repair our vehicle . The best way to avoid costly repairs is to take preventative steps that will keep your car in the best condition possible. f there is a problem with your vehicle, get it checked out, and if it requires repair handle it immediately to avoid bigger problems . Change fluids, filters and spark plugs. Any many more , steps are there through which we can maintain our vehicle and save money.

chris marti
1/13/2014 4:50:40 AM

Buying a new car is not enough but to maintain it more essential. To keep your car fully furnished newly is the best thing. Through

chris marti
1/13/2014 4:47:37 AM

Buying a new car is not enough but to maintain it more essential. To keep your car fully furnished newly is the best thing. Through

harold bai
1/6/2014 7:21:49 AM

Car repairing is the most important thing we should follow. There are many tips of car repairing and maintenance. Firstly, we should wash properly our vehicle keep it neat and clean. Then , should check the tire pressure oil filter and pipe , in a duration period. is not a tough work if we try and follow all the tips we can maintained it properly and save our money.

1/2/2014 4:31:43 AM

Car repair and maintenance is the first and foremost responsibility we should keep in mind whenever we buy a new car. If we car in a proper way then we could save our money . We can get rid of investing a lot of money in repairing and maintenance. our wallet will be safe condition .There are many tips to maintained our vehicle. Firstly, we should change the oil filter, properly check if there is any oil leakage and changing of filter. Then, we should check the pressure of the tires. We should be aware of fuel pump strain.We should check our brakes. We should be alert of all safety and precaution like seat belt etc.