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For some the thought of taking your vehicle in for repair is just too upsetting. Some just keep driving around hoping that the problem will just go away. It does happen. Not frequently though. Others just “google” the crap out of it in hopes of an easy answer. Again, maybe if you are lucky. Inevitably most will end up phoning or showing up at a shop.

Again they will be looking for answers before making an appointment. The real answer they want is how much will it cost. Too much and they are not going to fix it or they will go ask someone else in hopes of a more pocket friendly result.

They will bring their hypothesis to the phone call or to the appointment desk or through the back door to a mechanic busily plying his trade. “I think I need a fuel pump. Sometimes it won’t start. How much is that?”

The answer to this question may often be a cold one. Sure, the contact person (mechanic, service writer) may try to drag some symptoms out of the vehicle owner but symptom interpretation without having the technicians hands on the vehicle many times is akin to a crystal ball reading.

So the most likely answer to what is wrong is commonly a non committal answer followed by a request to make an appointment so we can figure it out.

No, we don’t want to sell you a fuel pump if you don’t need one and yes, it costs money to figure out what is wrong with your vehicle.

Sometimes the figuring out part is a lot more time consuming than the repair itself.

Definitely, some diagnostics go very quickly. In many cases a quick solution is the result of a combination of things; skilled technicians, special tools, and access to information.

When a problem is intermittent diagnosis is going to take some time. Finding the problem requires experiencing the symptoms and then developing a plan to catch that intermittent problem when it happens and formulate the solution.

So the answer from the shop personnel to the question how much may seem quite evasive. It is for a good reason. The crystal ball is not a legitimate diagnosis.

Your car won’t start? Does it need a battery, alternator, starter, fuel pump, ignition switch? Each of those items is part of a system of wires, switches, relays and computer logic.

Your engine cranks over but will not start. The technician determines there is spark at the spark plugs but no fuel pressure to the fuel injectors. Is the fuel pump running? If not, is there power and ground to the fuel pump? If there is no power to the fuel pump is the fuel pump fuse good? Is the fuel pump relay being commanded on? Does the fuel pump relay work? Is the engine computer turning on the fuel pump relay? Is the immobilizer system disabling the fuel pump?

The diagnosis requires answers to all these questions. A bad fuel pump relay is a lot less expensive than a complete fuel pump.

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