(By the way everyone, Byron over at 1977, the Webcomic allowed me to create a guest comic for him today, so go check it out here!)

Apparently this is in the owner’s manual, but in case you haven’t read it, I’m going to save you about a thousand bucks. Your car’s fuel pump is located in the gas tank, so that the liquid fuel can cool the motor. If your automobile spends too much time running with a mostly empty tank, you will burn out your fuel pump, likely while on the way to the dealership because your alsoΒ unrealistically expensive catalytic converter just went out. (Apparently the inside of it is made of platinum. I shit you not.)

That reminds me, if you have less than 80,000 miles on your car, (not 88,000 like I do) then the EPA hasΒ warrantedΒ your catalytic converter and the dealership will replace it for free.

This week has really sucked.

10 Responses to 427

  1. I sympathize.

    Something is very wrong currently with my car. It’s probably the transmission. Again. For the fourth time.

    That and it runs waaay too hot for reasons no mechanic I’ve met has yet been able to discern to my satisfaction.

  2. Sorry about the car problems — seems to be going around (like the flu).

    Interesting to know about the fuel pump issue. Never would have occurred to me. As to the platinum in the catalytic converter, that would be the “catalyst” that does the “converting” πŸ™‚ Just be glad that, as a catalyst, it doesn’t take very much platinum and it doesn’t get consumed by the process (hence “catalyst” instead of “reagent”).

  3. Yeah, what Mac said about the converter – it’s why salvage yards rip them out first thing – the precious metal scrap resale value on them is pretty high.

    I knew about the fuel pump thing – have always been told “don’t let it get below 1/4 of a tank”. However, does anyone else find it strange that car designers thought it a “good idea” to use GASOLINE as a COOLANT?!? Seriously, what were they smoking? Imagine the conversation in the design lab:

    Tech 1: Hey, this fuel pump keeps heating up and burning out. How can we deal with that?
    Tech 2: I know! Lets submerse the hot moving part in a highly volatile fuel.
    Tech 1: Great idea!


    btw – I know, I know – it really is safe since cars don’t randomly explode from overheated fuel pumps, but sheesh folks there’s plenty of pump designs that don’t require liquid cooling

    quick edit: love the 1977 guest comic – excellent work

  4. I’ve heard people in forums for my car model run their gas tank dry, car dies b/c there’s no gas, it still won’t start after they add fuel, everyone says “Oh it’s the fuel pump” and in the end it never is. Yeah that’s bad for the pump but depending on the car model/reliability it may or may not fail. Even then you have to practically let it run dry or the pump will still be fully submerged. Most people let their gas get low a lot, and I suspect his dealer is just trying to find a way to blame the problem on him. If you want to get anything from your owner’s manual check out the scheduled maintenance section. And buy a reliable car.

    Fuel pumps don’t get hot enough to ignite gas, the fuel tank fuel:air ratio is way to high to ignite anyway (you’d need a few teaspoons of gas for the right ratio), and the heat has to go somewhere, there’s no air around, so it’d reach the fuel anyway.

    Common causes of running hot are (in order): thermostat, thermostat, thermostat, fan clutch or electric fan, water pump, no plastic undertray/radiator-foam surrounding radiator, insufficient coolant, air bubbles in coolant, blown head gasket (but that’s easy for mechanic to find). Even if you replaced your thermostat, do it again. If it works but soon runs hot again, then get an OEM one from your dealer.

    As for transmission problems, sorry you’re screwed.

  5. Sorry for not being more clear. The fuel pump in my Saturn just burned out. It happened while we were driving on an almost empty tank to go find out whether or not the dealership would replace the catalytic converter.

    Besides, it doesn’t cost any more to drive with at least a quarter tank than it does an empty one.

  6. And please explain why you drive a Saturn?Any relative of yours work in the company and you got it extra cheap?Or the used car dealer fooled you?O donΒ΄t mean to sound intrusive, but there are far better cars being sold in the US for the same price of a Saturn…

    Or, get a motorcycle!

  7. So I’ve never heard of or read that 1977 comic, but that was pretty freakin’ funny. Kudos man. Sorry to hear about your car Kevin. Keep that tank full.

  8. Yeah I blame the Saturn :P. Actually I don’t know the cause for sure, but they are unreliable. Seriously, stay away from GM and Chrysler. Their cars sucked, they suffered, they still suck, in spite of misleading ads they still suffer, and now they’re asking for a bailout. Ford is improving *some* of their cars at least. If you get any American car then get a Ford, but research first to get the right model. Or better yet get a Honda/Mazda/Subaru/Toyota. A couple Mazdas have issues, though, so research first w/ them.

  9. Or buy a Hyndai. Partner and I have had a Hyundai Elantra since early 2006. Bought it new. I used to run a delivery route and put 60,000 miles a year on the car. At 200,000 miles, it is still in great condition and runs like a champ. If we ever do buy another car, it’s going to be another Hyundai.