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Is a burping fuel pump a dying fuel pump?

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Dear Tom and Ray:



My husband and I have been married for two months. Recently I found out that his 1997 Dodge Dakota has been having a problem. He says, "You just have to burp it sometimes." What does that actually mean? He reports that his fuel pump gets "bubbles" in it, so he bangs on the fuel tank until the fuel can run again. Last Saturday when we were running errands, it happened twice. It was very embarrassing. He was initially using a long-handled wood splitting maul, but I told him it was not a good idea, so he upgraded to a rubber mallet. Please tell me exactly how long he can get away with this before his car will blow up -- or just die. We are NOT in a financial crisis; he can purchase a new vehicle. He does not plan to have his fuel pump replaced. He says he'll drive his truck until it really dies this time. Please tell me the correct phrase other than "Not safe, honey," or "Please get a new truck." These are not working. Winter is coming -- I don't want him to freeze to death under his truck with his rubber mallet. Thankfully yours. -- Courtney

RAY: Oh, Courtney, you poor thing. You unknowingly married a cheapskate. You made the same mistake that all of my brother's ex-wives made.

TOM: The guy's trying to save a few bucks! Give him a break! What would you rather have, Courtney, a new fuel pump, or a trip to Hawaii?

RAY: How about both?

TOM: Your husband has a failing fuel pump, Courtney. It has nothing to do with bubbles. It's just dying.
And sometimes, before a fuel pump dies completely, you can get it going again temporarily by hitting it.

RAY: Because the fuel pump lives in the fuel tank, he's banging the tank with a mallet to temporarily jolt the fuel pump back to life.

TOM: But the fuel pump's days are numbered. In fact, in the time it took for your letter to get to us and for us to answer it, he already may have frozen to death under his truck. If so, disregard the rest of this answer, Courtney.

RAY: What he's doing is not terribly dangerous, as long as the wheels are chocked so he doesn't get run over.

TOM: And as long as he isn't smoking any El Productos while he's whacking the fuel tank with that wood splitter.

RAY: But sooner rather than later, the pump will die, and no amount of banging will bring it back. And it's not a "roadside repair." To replace the fuel pump, you have to remove the gas tank.

TOM: So, why not plan to do the repair on HIS schedule, rather than wait for his truck to get stuck, with his young bride in it? He should plan to do it this weekend. He's going to have to do it soon anyway. Use an argument that appeals to his frugal nature. Tell him he'll save himself the towing charges.

RAY: And if he's as cheap as I think he is, he can sell the used rubber mallet on eBay to make a few bucks back.

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