It’s been barely two years since I need to replace my car’s fuel pump after an embarrassing breakdown in the middle of the street on my way to work in August 2010, but last week it was “deja vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra would say.
To be honest, the issue with my car — a 2003 Pontiac Grand Am GT — had been going on for more than a month. The damned thing wouldn’t start when I turned the key in the ignition. Sure, it would crank, but it would take a number of times to get it going before it would start.
A helpful mechanic neighbor mentioned the fuel pump wasn’t “kicking in” — advising me to turn the key to “on” and wait for the buzz of the fuel pump before trying to start it.
That seemed to do the trick, but that buzzing noise didn’t always come in a reasonable amount of time. And I’d get impatient and crank the engine again and again. Or I’d come up with ridiculous “methods” for getting the engine to turn over:
1. Open and close the car door, then try to start it.
2. Put it in neutral, foot on brake, then try to start it.
3. Lock the car using the key fob, then try to start it.
Invariably, one of these would work, and I’d latch on to the routine for the next few starts. When it failed, I’d come up with a new, even more ridiculous routine. It was the equivalent of blowing on dice for good luck while playing craps.
Fuel Pumps Have a High Repair Cost
After playing Internet mechanic, I was hoping it was the fuel pump sensor — but alas, it was not to be. I’m not sure it would have been cheaper to repair, but surely I wouldn’t have paid close to $1,000 ($935, to be exact) to fix it this time.
Why did it cost me nearly $300 more this time around? Because when I took my car to my regular town mechanic, he couldn’t find anything wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have told him the fuel pump was only two years old — perhaps he didn’t check it because it was still fairly new. Or he focused on the ignition, starter, battery, and alternator as possible culprits.
Because I thought it was an electrical issue (it was, sort of), I took it to a GM dealer, figuring they’d have more experience. I knew the labor cost would be more, and it was. I gained a minimal measure of comfort when my mechanic told me it would have cost him almost as much to replace the fuel pump.
A few days later, the car is still giving me trouble, but nowhere near as bad. I bet I’ve been slowly burning out the starter, but you’d think the dealership would have checked that out. Guess a phone call to customer service is in order.
A new car is looking better and better, but I really need to wait another 18 months or so to pay off Mr. Not-So-Frugal’s vehicle. Two car payments would be a frugal nightmare!