Cranks, but won't start

My battery is strong and the car cranks and “almost” catches. It feels like it’s almost getting enough fuel. What can I ask the repair place to check before they change out the very expensive fuel pump? Spark plugs, vacuum, clogged injector, fuel filter, etc and how can I find out if they really did check these things?

They should check fuel pressure before replacing a fuel pump. Either the fuel pressure is up to spec, or it isn’t. There’s no reason to blindly change a “very expensive” fuel pump without doing a pressure test first.

Furthermore, if you’re taking the car to a competent mechanic, all you need to say is, “The car won’t start. Please diagnose it for me.” That’s their job, not yours.

How do you know they “checked these things?” If the car starts and runs properly when they hand you the keys, evidently they fixed whatever needs fixing. If it still doesn’t start…they didn’t fix it.

PS–So if they want to replace the fuel pump first, just ask them if they did a pressure test and what the results were. And you can also ask them if they checked for spark, compression, etc, before zeroing in on the fuel pump. If they didn’t, ask them why not.

Thank you jesmed. It’s hard to know is someone is competent or honest and I just moved to south florida so I don’t know anyone yet to ask for a reference. I’m just going to have it towed somewhere. The first guy I called said it was probably the fuel pump and quoted almost $800 for my 15 year old Saab. I took that as a bad sign and decided to post the question.

If you haven’t already taken it somewhere, check the Car Talk Mechanics Files for recommended mechanics in your area:

I’d think most shops will check a few things prior to replacing a fuel pump. It is an expensive part and if a new one doesn’t do the trick the shop is hanging out there too. Some Saabs have 2 fuel pumps, then there are fuel filters, etc. Ask the shop how they plan to troubleshoot the problem and see if the plan makes sense to you.

Thanks both of you. I did take it somewhere, but they were too busy to look at it and since the car finally started, they couldn’t easily duplicate the problem. I went to the “recommended mechanics” list and found someone with lots of positives. I talked to him and feel comfortable taking it there when the problem resurfaces. I appreciate your time.