Automotive Advisers: Keeping your fuel system tip-top

Like the human body, a car has a lot of parts and systems that work together to make it run efficiently and well.

The fuel system is one, and it has a very important job—storing and supplying gas to the engine to power your vehicle.

Not surprisingly, it’s vital to maintain your fuel system to ensure the health and performance of your car in the short and long term. Otherwise, issues that go unattended could have a significant, lasting and adverse impact on your vehicle as well as your pocketbook.

Your car’s fuel system is made up of the fuel tank, pump, filter and injectors (or on older vehicles, a carburetor).

Here’s a snapshot of how it works: The pump moves gas from the tank through lines and filters to the injectors inside the engine, which is where gas gets burned in order to propel the car. Any leftover gas that’s in the engine gets sent back to the tank to repeat the cycle again and again (that is, so long as there’s gas in the tank to draw from).

As with your own health, the regular check-ups for your fuel system are a good idea, and your car’s maintenance manual is your best guide when it comes to timing and frequency of those services, specifically when it comes to filter replacements and system cleanings.

But, as we all know, maintenance manuals aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to sleuthing and problem solving for your ride—there are issues that pop up and require you to visit your auto repair shop beyond the usual check-ups.

With fuel systems, failing fuel pumps, dirty fuel filters and faulty fuel injectors tend to be the most common problems.

Fuel injectors are responsible for delivering gas to the engine, and they can become dirty and clogged or even leak, causing problems that can prevent your engine from turning over.

Injectors should be checked regularly, and they can be serviced by your technician on an as-needed basis.

Fuel filters are what keep any impurities and debris in the gasoline from making their way into the injectors and engine and causing problems.

The type of car you have and potentially its age will determine your approach to filter care, and your technician will be able to assist with change-outs.

Fuel pumps are not something you can repair, so problems with them will require replacement.

Signs of a failing pump include bumpy acceleration, sudden jerking at highway speeds or your car failing to start at all.

Some other signs something might be wrong with the pump—or the overall fuel system—include experiencing lower-than-usual gas mileage, power loss, stalling or the smell gas while driving.

If you notice any of these issues, be sure to flag them for your technician.

And then there’s the weather.

Winter’s chill isn’t a sign of a problem, per se, but it does indicate that now’s a great time to schedule a once-over on your fuel system.

Just as the cold makes it harder for our hearts to pump blood throughout the body, the same goes for your fuel system, engine and car.

Winters here in Kansas require your car’s engine to work extra hard to warm up and run at its preferred temperature, which burns more gas.

As a result, making sure your fuel system is in tip-top shape is a good idea—for example, a fresh filter or an injection or system cleaner can facilitate easier starting while diminishing wear on the starter and battery.

So, before you pack your car with people, gifts and tasty treats and hit I-35 or I-70 bound for festive celebrations with family and friends, consider scheduling a quick visit to your auto repair shop and ask them to take a peek at your vehicle’s fuel system.

After all, a happy fuel system makes for a happy engine, and helps you avoid a hapless road trip in favor of a happy holiday journey.

-Scott and Tammie Green own Christian Brothers Automotive in western Shawnee. It is located at 22240 Midland Drive.

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