Roadside repairs: Motherlode 400 fuel pump failure

I purchased my Sprint Veloce March of this year (2008) .  The car had been gone through mechanically by a local vintage Alfa Ferrari Lancia mechanic who specializes in long involved rebuilds to a high standard.  While great care was taken in the set up of the SV, it had been about 4 years since its mechanical setting-up was completed and it didn’t receive more than a few hundred miles of break-in.  What it did receive is a lot of dis-assembly, rust repair, then reassembly.  No real teething drives were taken after this.  I put the car on the road after a thorough cleaning and reinstalling the interior pieces and spending about 20 hours stabilizing the wiring in the car to fix some little problems like 4 volts at the headlights, brake lights only when the headlights were on and no turn signals or horn or gauge lights… you get the idea. 

Woe is me to be laying in rough gravel under the car roadside in 80+ degree heat sleepy from a belly full of lunch getting grease and gasoline all over my arms.  Why is the fuel pump not in the trunk or under the hood?

 

The pump actually quit about a mile from the intersection of Highways 89 and 4, maybe 5 miles east of Markleeville.  When it quit I knew exactly what it was because I had a nearly full tank of gas, the car was behaving like it was running out of gas and I had spent time tracing the wiring from the ignition switch to the pump and redoing some poor old connections and was in tune to the sound of the pump that was missing when the car quit.  Fortunately one of the drivers (Thanks again Kip!) in the pack I was driving with had a spare pump for his car and just about every tool I needed to make the repair.

That inverted drop of blood with the ‘A’ in it marks the spot where I broke down.  I’m not sure what I would do if we were all alone.  Remove the gas tank, put it on the hood and rig up gravity feed? 

The pump I borrowed roadside is a vintage Lucas unit from a Morris Cooper.  Fortunately it’s about the same size as the Facet pump it replaced, and it’s a low volume pump.  The replacement itself only took about 15 minutes once I realized the only way to mount the new pump was to zip-tie it in place, and the only way to wire it up as to cut, strip and pinch the existing wires under screws on the body of the pump.  The worst part of the job was laying on my back in the rough gravel under my car when it was about 80 degrees out.

  I only had to climb under and out from under the car about 10 times to get tools.  I was glad the wire run from the ignition switch straight to the pump was long enough.  

This little guy made the whole thing possible.  Two zip ties, a little duct tape and some stripped wires and I’m back on the road.

My theory on the fuel pump failure is that when the fuel tank was removed to weld up the problem areas in the trunk floor the rubber fuel lines were not hooked up tight upon reassembly, maybe even left loose, and the fuel pump was sucking air and gas while the car was being driven which made it work at 100% at all times.  This is corroborated by a raw gas smell whenever going over serious bumps or during heavy cornering, when gas would slosh around and push through this loose connection.  I had turned on the ignition switch to let the pump run and looked for leaks a couple of times but since the loose connection was before the pump, the loose line didn’t pressurize and leak. 

At 11pm on my way home one of the connections worked loose and I had to reattach it at the bottom of an off-ramp by the light of a cellphone while laying in sharp roadside debris.

The offending item.  I have read discussions of the merits (or lack there of) of these Facet fuel pumps, I can’t really add to the discussion since it seems like the pump did its best under the circumstances.  I guess it’s time to buy a couple of the original Bendix pumps that Veloce’s came with off eBay, one for the car and a few for spares to live in the trunk.  If I mount it with wing nuts and have them all set up with crimped connectors ahead of time it could be an easy roadside replacement.

In the future I intend to always carry a spare fuel pump on long distance events and the tools to wire and mount it roadside.  Had I been alone out there, or if there was no spare fuel pump to be had it would have been an expensive towing bill or two day back and forth ordeal to fix the car.

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