The fuel injector is responsible for injecting gasoline into the combustion system at certain times with specific amounts. Over time of use, the fuel injector can get damaged and require immediate replacement to avoid significant-high repair costs.
Your fuel injector will tell you when it's close to getting damaged before it even does. There are several signs of a bad fuel injector that you MUST not ignore. Some of them are easy to detect, while others are a little more tricky.
In this article, we provide you with a quick overview of what the fuel injector does in the fuel delivery system. Then, we highlight the top 10 signs of a bad fuel injector. Once you experience any of these signs, you must get your car inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic. Lastly, we provide a cost estimate for replacing the fuel injector and help you decide whether it is worth replacing the fuel injector or not.
What is the fuel injector, and why do we need it?
The fuel injector is part of the fuel delivery system responsible for injecting the fuel when needed by the engine.
This part consists of a simple wire in a cylindrical shape formin a solenoid. It carries electrical current actuating pistons fast. The fuel injector receives a signal from the internal vehicle computer to spray a certain amount of gasoline at a specific time using a specific angle and speed.
The majority of small vehicles and light trucks have one fuel injector associated with each cylinder in the combustion system. These injectors can fire the cylinder up to million times over its lifetime.
At earlier manufacturing stages, the fuel injector used to spray gasoline into an upper or lower manifold and get it mixed with the air before entering the combustion system. However, as time progressed, the manufacturers created direct fuel injectors that don’t deposit the fuel into manifolds. Instead, direct fuel injectors supply fuel directly to the engine cylinders resulting in higher fuel efficiency and less emission.
Despite the long list of direct fuel injectors pros, it usually comes in higher costs and increases fuel consumption, although the fuel is used efficiently.
In the fuel delivery system, the fuel pump receives a signal from the internal computer to supply more fuel to the combustion system. Before the fuel gets into the combustion system, it is controlled by the fuel injector.
Signs of a bad fuel injector
A bad fuel injector affects your engine’s performance significantly. Thus, you must maintain a clean, perfectly running fuel injector all the time to avoid throwing a wrench in your day. This is because a bad fuel injector will affect the quantity or frequency of fuel spray to the combustion system. With both problems, the engine will not perform as efficiently as it should.
In this section, we provide you a list of the top 10 common signs of a bad fuel injector to help you detect and address the problem as early as possible.
Your engine idling becomes very rough
If your vehicle has a bad fuel injector, the fuel will not be supplied to the engine with the right amounts and at the right time. As a result, the vehicle’s round per minute (RPM) decreases significantly below the designed level, causing engine stalling and requiring a restart.
That’s why, when you drive a vehicle with a bad fuel injector, you might feel some shaking or vibration when stopping at a traffic light. In more severe scenarios, your vehicle can stall.
Your engine might vibrate
When the fuel injector gets bad, the cylinder will not receive the required fuel to fire up. Thus, the cylinder might hiccup looking for more fuel, which results in engine shaking or vibrating.
Your engine might misfire
Engine misfire occurs when one of the combustion systems component malfunctions, disturbing the time and frequency of fuel firing. When the fuel injector is bad, the combustion system will not receive the right amount of fuel at the right time, causing the engine misfire.
Engine misfire makes it hard for your vehicle to accelerate. That’s why even if you press the gas pedal, the vehicle might pause for a little before it accelerates.
Your vehicle’s check engine light will illuminate
Your vehicle’s internal computer uses the check engine light to grab your attention to an internal problem. While the problem might be very simple, some check engine light illumination causes can be very significant, resulting in complete engine failure.
Therefore, if your vehicle's check engine light illuminates, you must not ignore the problem, and you have to take your vehicle to a professional mechanic as soon as possible. Some very complicated problems do not give you the time even to drive your vehicle to the mechanic. In this case, the vehicle must be towed to the nearest repair shop.
Although there is a list of causes for check engine light illuminating, a bad fuel injector is one of the common causes as the engine is not receiving the right amount of fuel at the right time.
The best way to confirm the cause of the problem is by using an OBD2 scanner. The OBD2 scanner will read the error from the vehicle’s computer, translate it, and suggest different repair options along with the expected repair costs.
You might see a fuel puddle leaking under your vehicle
In cases of a broken fuel injector, the fuel might start leaking before getting to the combustion system. This happens when the fuel injector deteriorates, and the seals are breaking.
You can look at the exterior of your vehicle’s fuel injector; if there are signs of fuel leak around the fuel trail, it's a bad fuel injector.
You might smell a fuel-like odor
As a rule of thumb, if you smell anything strange, whether its fuel or anything else, you must take quick action and get your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic. While these smells might be due to simple issues, it can also be related to significant problems.
Smelling a fuel-like smell is not always related to a bad fuel injector; it can be due to breaks in the fuel lines, for instance. It also can be a problem with a broken fuel injector, as we mentioned earlier.
Whatever the reason was, you must get the problem repaired as soon as possible to prevent engine damage.
Your engine might surge suddenly
Most fuel injector problems are related to a clogged or dirty fuel injector. However, sometimes a bad fuel injector can spray too much fuel to the combustion system, and this is as bad as spraying a little fuel.
The combustion system requires a specific air-fuel-ratio; having a lot of fuel can cause the engine to surge as it's not able to burn the excess amount of fuel. With more fuel, the engine’s RPM will increase significantly even if the load is still constant.
Your engine’s fuel economy might drop significantly
When the combustion system is not receiving a sufficient amount of fuel to fire up the vehicle, it will require more fuel supply from the fuel tank. As a result, your vehicle’s fuel economy will drop significantly. That’s why you will need to visit the gas station much more often.
Your vehicle will fail the emission test
A broken fuel injector can cause incomplete fuel burn or fuel leak resulting in more emissions. Consequently, your vehicle will not pass the emission test.
Your vehicle’s catalytic converter might get burnt
A broken fuel injector can cause the vehicle to run on rich fuel, which means a lot more fuel is supplied to the combustion system than air. If air-fuel-ratio got disturbed, you might be scarifying the catalytic converter of your vehicle. Repairing a fuel injector requires less money than repairing the catalytic converter.
How much does it cost to replace the fuel injector?
Replacing the fuel injector is one of the most expensive vehicle repairs. On parts only, you might need to pay between $600 and $1,200. However, the prices build up quickly when adding the labor costs because replacing the fuel injector can be a complicated process.
While many people prefer to replace their fuel injectors themselves, there is a high risk of introducing additional problems to the vehicle. Therefore, it is never a good idea to replace your fuel injector by yourself if you do not have the required mechanical skill sets.
Furthermore, replacing the fuel injector at a small repair shop can also be cheaper than getting the job done at a dealership as the labor cost can increase significantly. It is good to keep in mind that you must ensure professional mechanics who are doing the job for you.
Is it worth replacing my fuel injector?
As we mentioned earlier, replacing the fuel injector is very costly, if not one of the most expensive vehicle repairs. Thus, it is very important to sit back and evaluate whether it's worth replacing the fuel injector or not.
Answering this question depends on several other factors, and to best do the evaluation, you must ask yourself these questions:
- Does the vehicle have other significant problems?
- Are the vehicle at high mileage, and additional problems are expected very soon?
- Is repair costs getting close to the value of the vehicle or more?
If your answer to any of the mentioned questions is yes, then it's not worth replacing your vehicle’s fuel injector.
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Can a bad fuel injector damage the engine?
While a bad fuel injector doesn’t cause immediate engine failure, if the problem is left without fixing, the engine failure is not rare.
How long can a fuel injector last?
According to automotive experts, the fuel injector is relatively durable and can last up to 100,000 miles. However, it's important to keep in mind that this number varies depending on the type of fuel you use for your vehicle and the frequency of replacing the fuel filter.
For instance, using a better and cleaner fuel will not result in clogging and, therefore, damaging the fuel injector. Same for frequent replacement of the fuel filter, you will prevent specks of dirt and particles from making their way to the fuel injector and damaging it.
Your vehicle’s fuel injector is responsible for depositing gasoline at the right time with the right amounts to your combustion system. As the fuel injector gets older, you might need to change it to avoid complicated issues with your vehicle that can be as bad as complete engine failure.
The fuel injector would tell you that it's getting worse before it even does. In this article, we summarized the top ten signs of a bad fuel injector, including engine misfire, fuel leak, fuel smell, check engine light illuminating, and others.
It is important to keep an eye for any of the mentioned signs to avoid complicated vehicle problems and high repair costs. Once you experience any of these signs, you must take your vehicle to a professional mechanic and get the problem fixed as soon as possible.