Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Bill asks: I’ve got a weird one I hope you can shed some light on. My ’92 Mustang GT 5.0 (5 speed stick) wouldn’t start a few weeks ago. Cranked but wouldn’t fire, which seemed to be fuel to me. After a bit it did start, and then drove fine.
Without droning on too much it’s happened several times, but only when it’s been sitting about an hour. Never in the morning, never after a 10 minute run-in-the-store stop.
Always around an hour. The check engine light came on so I had a mechanic pull the code. He said it was the fuel pump relay, so I replaced that. I also checked and replaced the somewhat corroded distributor cap, wires, and plugs. Then it did it again. It’s stuttered once on me while driving, but otherwise runs well when it’s running. I figure it’s gotta be the fuel pump, but can’t for the life of me figure why it only seems to happen after sitting for about an hour. I also wonder why there’s no code for a failing pump. I’m at best an old-school shade tree mechanic who no longer has shade or a tree, and am very limited in funds. Any suggestions?
My reply: I agree with your old-school instincts; I suspect the fuel pump is your problem – and for the following reasons:
First, the symptoms. The pump gets hot (bet your fuel tank isn’t full – the fuel would help cool the pump), stops working; you sit for awhile – it cools down – and works again, presto!
Second, the age – your car (and fuel pump) are 27 years old; that is well beyond the reasonable service life of the factory fuel pump, especially given the higher ethanol content of fuels today vs. what was typical circa the early ’90s.
The pump itself should not be expensive but the labor might be if the tank has to be dropped to get at it. However, it’s not a technically difficult job for the DIY/shade-tree mechanic. Have you got a floor jack, 2x4s and a basic socket set? That’s really all you ought to need to lower the tank. Once that’s done, replacing the pump is as easy as changing spark plugs.
There are lots of Mustang people here, too – and I expect several will chime in with some specific tips that will be helpful.
And here’s one, from me: With any car that has an electric pump in the tank, try to avoid running the tank to near empty; try to keep it at least a third full most of the time. The pump is cooled (per above) by the fuel and running the tank to nearly empty will tend to shorten the service life of the pump.
Also, try keying the ignition to run – but wait a couple of seconds before cranking. This will let the tired old pump prime the system; it sometimes helps get a car with a tired old pump operational.
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