A few symptoms indicate an issue with the fuel pressure regulator, including misfires and a decrease in power, acceleration, and fuel efficiency, fuel leaks, and black smoke coming from the exhaust. If not caught early, repairs to other parts of the vehicle could more than double the cost.
It's really common for this piece to have problems, even though some vehicles may never require fuel pressure regulator replacement. Reasons vary from fuel quality to vehicle age. With an older vehicle, repairs are more common and add up quickly.
If caught early enough, a bad fuel pressure regulator can be replaced without much stress. However, in the worst-case scenario, a bad fuel pressure regulator could cause the vehicle to lose acceleration, lose deceleration, or the engine will not start. Those are stressful situations we would all like to avoid.
Proper research can help determine if a fuel pressure regulator is bad, how it got that way, and estimating the cost of the repair. The repair is usually worth doing, especially if it means you won’t be left stranded without a functioning vehicle or on the side of the highway in the middle of the night.
This article will outline some common questions about fuel pressure regulators, signs it needs to be replaced, and associated costs.
What Is the Fuel Pressure Regulator and What Does it Do?
The fuel pressure regulator is a solution to an excessive amount of pressure in the fuel pump. The regulator limits the amount of fuel pressure that passes, keeping the pressure constant at all times so that the car runs optimally.
The fuel pressure regulator works by taking in all of the fuel pressure sent from the fuel pump. When the fuel pressure exceeds the amount allowed by the regulator, it is restricted so that only the necessary amount can flow through. This keeps everything in operating order.
Why Do Fuel Pressure Regulators Fail?
Fuel Pressure Regulators actually fail all the time. Failure depends on fuel quality, fuel system maintenance, allowing the fuel tank to empty, and age.
If the fuel filler cap doesn’t seal properly, it allows contaminants to enter the fuel tank, sacrificing the quality of the fuel, which will then be sucked up by the fuel pump and pumped through the entire fuel system. That isn’t good for the car!
Allowing the fuel tank to run to empty, or close to it, guarantees these contaminants will be sucked up by the fuel pump. This can be avoided by filling the tank while there is still some fuel remaining. In other words, don’t run the car to E for empty. It will haunt you later.
If a vehicle sits for a long period, it is at risk of failure since the components of the fuel system are non-lubricated and could dry out over time. When they dry out, they leave contaminants in the fuel system which could clog.
If a vehicle is kept up-to-date on maintenance and good fueling practices are used, you should be without major issues. This doesn’t only pertain to the fuel pressure regulator but to many parts and systems within the vehicle.
Fuel pressure regulators are rated for the specific engine and fuel system a vehicle has. It is highly recommended to purchase an exact replacement by part number. This will ensure that the fuel pressure regulator supplies the appropriate amount of fuel and correct fuel pressure.
If your vehicle is presenting symptoms of a failing fuel pressure regulator, but you ignore them, you risk causing damage beyond the cost of replacing the fuel pressure regulator. This could include purchasing more fuel, replacing catalytic converters, replacing the fuel pump, or even replacing the engine pistons.
Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Fuel Pressure Regulator
If the fuel pressure regulator is failing, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Misfires and a decrease in power, acceleration, and fuel efficiency
- Fuel leaks
- Black smoke coming from the exhaust
If the vehicle’s fuel pressure regulator fails, it throws off the engine’s air-fuel ratio causing a dramatic effect on the performance of the vehicle. This could lead to misfires, less power, a reduction in acceleration, and poor fuel efficiency. None of these situations are good for the car.
If any of the fuel pressure regulator’s seals fail, fuel leaks can occur. Normally, a noticeable fuel smell will indicate a fuel leak. This can also lead to engine performance issues. If the smell isn’t enough to raise a red flag, imagine the havoc this problem is causing to the car.
A bad fuel pressure regulator can cause the vehicle to use more fuel, reducing MPG (miles per gallon) and performance, leading to black smoke emitted from the tailpipe. Not only is this embarrassing and indicative of an engine problem, it’s bad for the environment. The state doesn’t like that one bit.
These symptoms can also be caused by other issues. Some fuel pressure regulators are built into the fuel pump, but most are mounted in the fuel rail and have to be serviced from the rest of the system. Having the vehicle properly diagnosed and serviced by a professional technician is recommended.
Will a Car Run with a Bad Fuel Pressure Regulator?
Driving with a bad fuel pressure regulator could lead to several issues. If you are worried about the time and money associated with this type of repair, you should avoid driving your vehicle. Safety is far more important than saving a few bucks, especially since the wait will cost the driver in the long run.
Imagine driving while trying to merge onto the expressway. You step on the gas pedal only to discover you have lost acceleration. Unable to merge into the fast oncoming traffic, you drive on the shoulder with your warning lights on until you reach the next exit.
What if the opposite occurs? You are driving on the expressway. As your exit approaches, you try to decelerate but are unable to. Frantic, you are forced to miss your exit and drive at a higher speed until your car finally allows you to decelerate. This is every driver’s worst nightmare.
Lastly, a bad fuel pressure regulator could mean the engine will not start. Regardless of how many times you try, it just won’t turn on. This is an incredibly frustrating situation, especially if you are in a hurry.
It is not safe to drive a car with a bad fuel pressure regulator. Once you notice symptoms, it would be much wiser (and easier), to take the vehicle to a mechanic. They can inspect your vehicle and make a proper diagnosis.
Any of the aforementioned situations could occur while driving with a bad fuel pressure regulator. It isn’t worth the risk to yourself or others.
In summary, you could drive your car with a bad fuel regulator, but you shouldn’t.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Fuel Pressure Regulator?
Receiving a diagnosis that the fuel pressure regulator needs to be replaced sounds serious. The fuel system affects many other areas of a vehicle. Luckily, if only the fuel pressure regulator needs to be replaced, it is an affordable repair ranging from $250 to $330.
The variations of each make and model affect the price of parts and are approximately the same as labor.
With the risk of driving around town with a bad fuel pressure regulator, the cost of the repair may seem necessary. However, there are a few other options like replacing the fuel pressure regulator yourself or sending the car to a junkyard.
Can I Replace a Fuel Pressure Regulator Myself?
If you consider yourself a novice DIYer, replacing the fuel pressure regulator would be best left to professionals.
Accessing the fuel pressure regulator in your vehicle is difficult and varies depending on the model. This requires removing harness electrical controls, disconnecting glow plugs and fuel rail temperature sensors, and removing the fuel injector connectors, PCV hose, and injection pump hoses.
If you aren’t a mechanic or professional, this may sound like an endless maze.
If you want to save money, get estimates from several area mechanics. Ask about labor costs, part costs, and time, not just the lowest price. Alternatively, you could recycle your car at a junkyard and get paid cash.
Is Fixing a Vehicle with a Bad Fuel Pressure Regulator Worth It?
The fuel pressure regulator is an unknown but very important component. Without it, the vehicle will not run properly and the internal fuel system performance is sacrificed. This can lead to a variety of problems, some of them pricey.
A bad fuel pressure regulator repair takes approximately five hours to fix and is fairly affordable. $250 to $330 is a small price to pay in comparison to the risk of your engine not starting.
Driving around town with your family in tow, only to suddenly lose the ability to accelerate, decelerate, or even drive completely, is a major risk. You could lose control of the vehicle or have sudden engine failure.
A few hundred dollars is minimal in comparison to what the expenses could be. However, there are other factors to consider.
Is the vehicle a necessity? The repair is worth the investment. Is the vehicle old and could be replaced? The cost of the repair could be used as a down payment on a more reliable vehicle. The repair may not be worth the investment.
If you are unable to replace the bad fuel pressure regulator, there are other options available including selling the car to a mechanic.
You could also send the car to the junkyard.
A quick internet search will reveal local junkyards that give payment in cash. You can have your car towed directly to the junkyard of your choice. Once the valuable parts are removed, the vehicle will then be recycled.
A Broken Fuel Pressure Regulator Caught Early Is Nothing to Fret About
When you try to start the engine and nothing happens, you immediately start thinking of possible reasons. The list seems endless. The next thoughts that fill our minds relate to money and time.
Knowing the symptoms of a bad fuel pressure regulator and receiving a proper diagnosis means you have plenty of options. If you catch the symptoms early, a few hundred dollars will afford you the safety and peace of mind of having the broken fuel pressure regulator fixed.
If you cannot afford to repair the broken fuel pressure regulator, have a place to store your car, and live in an area with readily available public transportation, you have some time before paying for the repair. During this time, you will not be spending money on fuel and can use that money towards a mechanic.
If you are unlucky enough to deal with one of the severe symptoms of a broken fuel pressure regulator while driving, try not to panic. Stop the car as soon as possible, on the side of the road where it’s safe, and wait for a tow service.
While you are waiting for tow service, consider your options. If you can afford the repair, you can have your vehicle towed directly to your mechanic for repairs. If you cannot afford the repair, the tow service can deliver the vehicle to a junkyard instead.
Let’s not forget what is important: your safety and wallet. Vehicle repair is nothing anyone wants to deal with. Know your options, and make the best decision for you.
Keep up with regular vehicle maintenance to ensure a fuel pressure regulator is functioning properly.