Have you ever heard of a car that can't turn?

Hello lovely people!

Here’s my situation of the day - my wonderful Mazda Protege 1993 gets me from point A to point B. That is only if the gas tank stays above above a half a tank of gas. The second the gauge drops below the half tank mark I can no longer turn right. I can reverse and turn. Turning left is fine. But the moment I try to turn right - the car shakes a little, all of the lights on the dashboard turn on and the car stalls out. I then put it in park and restart the car and try to very quickly find a gas station.

If you have any thoughts on how to fix this issue I would love your help! Everyone I ask stares at me like I have four heads.

Thank you!!!

You have a weak fuel pump.

The reason the gas tank needs to be above half full is so that the weight of the gasoline can assist the pump in pushing the gas through the line. And, when you turn right and load the power steering pump down, it loads the crankshaft down sufficiently to kill the engine, which is struggling to get enough fuel as it is. Why it only happens when turning right…let me ponder that one for awhile.

Okay, it’s been a while. You could also have a bad steering rack. Or perhaps the steering rack simply isn’t totally symettrical in its function and puts more stress on the pump when turning right than when turning left.

Have your fuel pump pressure checked. Post back with the results. My guess is that once you solve that problem the steering problem will disappear.

I’m kinda on the same path as SMB, but the Protege’s of that era had a rather small fuel filter. Fortunately it was easy to change so its not too expensive to get it replaced. I think I’d start there.

Keith, I agree with your thinking. I never think of filters.

Sounds like an inaccurate fuel level sender. It says a half tank when it’s really almost empty and when turning right the fuel moves away from the pickup. so whenever it gets to a half tank how much gas does it take to fill it up? This is an injected vehicle with an in-tank pump. No mechanical pump having to pull it through the line.

@pete peters, SMB specifically said ‘push through’. I agree that this is a fuel delivery problem. I think a fuel filter change and a fuel pressure/ volume test needs to be done. If either is not up to spec, drop the tank and change the pump.

who cares what who said. You the referee here? Not to mention I made reference to no one. The fuel pump was not designed to rely on the weight of the fuel to help push it through. that is pure BS! It’s folks like you who “think” they know something looking to pick a fight instead of sticking to facts which might help the poster. But hey don’t worry I wont be around to muddy up “your” waters with my experience anymore. Good day you yahoos! And on this car the rear seat is removed to gain access to fuel pump. But hey don’t let facts get in your way! Friggin moron !

The problem may be showing up on right turns only (or first, fueling corrects it before it gets worse for left turns) simply because the load on the power steering is higher during most right turns. Anywhere that drives on the right, the right turns at an intersection are much tighter than the left turns.

Well, I have heard of folks who have no clue how to ask questions properly. Car won’t turn? Won’t turn over? Crank starter? So, low fuel means car does not like to make left hand turns? How flipping confusing is that? It’s not that people are stupid, it’s more like they are totally mechanically clueless or just plain ignorant. But I am not so I will just keep moving on.

@pete peters, don’t let the door hit you.

I had a similar “stalling out while turning” problem on a Ford Contour years back, and it turned out to be a bad fuel sock on the pickup. I think that’s your problem, too.

What’s happening is that, during turns, the fuel in the tank is sloshing AWAY from the fuel pick-up (located at the lowest point in the tank.) A working fuel sock mitigates this: as long as SOME portion of the sock is in the fuel, the pump draws fuel. If the sock is damaged or has fallen off, however, the pump starts “sucking air” once the fuel moves away from the pickup.

However, given that replacement of the fuel sock involves some dissasembly of the tank, I’d advise first trying a new fuel filter (IF outside the tank on this car) and a pressure check of the fuel to rule these out.

Good luck!

I tend to agree with pete peters about the fuel sender being inaccurate and there not being as much fuel in there as thought.
Note the top of the fuel tank where the pump sits is angled towards one side. The bracket for the pump causes the pump to become even more horizontal so I could easily see the gas sloshing away from the pump sock during a right turn and exposing the pump pickup to open air if the fuel level is lower than thought.

What the OP needs to do is provide info about how much gasoline is needed to fill the tank when the gauge reading is at half or somewhat below.
At this point I think there may be far less fuel in the tank than thought when the gauge reads half.

The fuel pump was not designed to rely on the weight of the fuel to help push it through. that is pure BS! It’s folks like you who “think” they know something looking to pick a fight instead of sticking to facts which might help the poster.

He never said it was DESIGNED to work that way. He’s pointing out the potential for the weight of the gas to overcome a WEAK (i.e. failing) pump. It’s the first line of the post in case you missed it.

I would look up the normal operating pressure range of the fuel pump. You will likely have a low number and a high number. There is a vacuum regulator that kicks the pressure up during higher demand times so variations in the pressure are totally normal.

Then, go to any parts store that “loans” tools and rent a fuel pressure gage. Attach it to the valve on the fuel rail and then run the hose up under the windshield wiper and duct tape it so you can see the gage through the glass when you drive. See how the pressure does under normal driving and right hand turns. Also see if you can get the tank low enough and duplicate the stalling in a controlled condition such as in a parking lot away from traffic while reading the gage. My gut tells me something is wrong with the pickup. It either failed from age or you might have hit something and dented the gas tank. I hear about this happening.

If you have to drop the tank for anything, replace the sock, pick-up, and pump. You usually get them as a kit but the cost of these parts is low compared to the labor involved for the job.

I would also change the filter if it hasn’t been done in a while. Most pumps require a filter change at the same time to honor the warranty so you will have to do it no matter what.


Pete, I agree that in a properly functioning system the pump does not need or rely on the weight of the fuel. But this is not a properly functioning system. And the weight of the fuel, called “head pressure” can, in fact, assist a weak fuel pump in getting fuel through the lines. To call my theory “pure BS”, suggest that I only “think” I know something, call any of us a “Friggin moron” and all of us “Yahoos” is…well…let’s just say it certainly is not “sticking to the facts” to help the poster.

Cavell, I promise not to try to dissuade you from “moving on”.

Macfisto, I like your theory. I hope the OP posts back after getting the fuel filter and pump checked, and I hope it identifies and solves the problem. We really do care, and really do try.