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Author Topic: Replaced fuel sender in fuel tank - gauge works for first time in 9 years!  (Read 646 times)
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Bill Salina
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Posts: 252

2003 Gold FWD Aztek - aka "The Warthog"

« on: September 11, 2016, 02:57:43 PM »

SO, today was the day...  I replaced the fuel sender in the gas tank. 

Getting ready:

1. I put the rear wheels up on ramps.  I bought the $40 steel ones from Harbor Freight (25% off on Labor Day - so only $30), then chocked both front wheels.

2. With the car running (IMPORTANT), I opened the front hood and popped the cover off the fuse panel.  Pulled the fuel pump relay, then after the engine died I pulled the fuel pump fuse.  Turned the key in the ignition as if to start it a couple of times and cranked the engine.  This relieves pressure on the fuel rail and in the fuel lines by releasing the fuel pressure through the injectors.  The engine will try to start, sputter and stop.  Did this a couple of times, then turned the ignition off, and removed the key.

Under car - up front:

3. Removed the 3 front fuel line connectors.   These use quick disconnects.  To remove them, you squeeze the tabs from the clear plastic inserts in, and pull.   The fuel line will come off leaving the clear insert behind.  You pry off the clear insert with a small flat blade screw driver.   As long as you don't break it, you can reuse the clear inserts.  I put an oil drain pan under the disconnected hoses.  The hose that had been connected to the fuel filter kept slow dripping.  Because I had relieved pressure in the fuel lines, no fuel came out of the fuel filter or the other two fuel lines.

4. Since I was under there and already had the rear connector off of the fuel filter, I removed the 10 mm nut holding the fuel filter bracket to the car, pulled the filter free, then disconnected the front connector.  Then I installed a new fuel filter.

5. Removed the 10 mm nut holding the charcoal canister to the body.  This is effectively the front gas tank mount.  The nut also holds the front gas tank heat shield to the body.  The heat shield will be lowered with the tank.

Moving to the back:

6. Disconnected the 2 electrical connectors at the C305 connector. (you don't really have to disconnect both, but I preferred to have NO electrical connections live while playing with the gas tank.

7. Loosened the fuel filler hose clamp at the gas tank flange.  Not sure that this is what came on a new car - my gas tank had been replaced under warranty (defective tank).  I think the dealer replaced the stock clamp with a standard stainless steel hose clamp.  Once clamp was loose enough to move away from the tank, I placed a drain pan under it and pulled the filler hose off.  Very little gas came out (1/4 cup?)

Prepping to drop the tank:

8. I placed my low profile jack under the center of the tank with a wooden board in between the tank and the jack.  I didn't want to take a chance on the jack punching a hole through the bottom of the tank.  I raised the jack so that it was pressing lightly on the bottom of the tank.  Jack was on the driver side of the car.

9. Moving around the passenger side of the car, I removed the 15 mm bolts from the two restraining straps and removed the straps.  I set the aside on the passenger side of the car.

10. I began lowering the jack expecting the tank to drop.  It didn't.  I had to really start pulling on it and rocking it.  Apparently there are large adhesive pads on the top of the tank.  These pads work to cushion the tank against the body, and hold it in place from moving around.  Fortunately, the dealer who replaced my tank didn't remove the protective strips that covered the adhesive, so the tank wasn't completely glued up in place.  But some of the adhesive strips had become partially exposed so that they had bonded to the underside of the car.  A bit of pulling and rocking finally got them to release and the tank finally came down onto the jack.

11.  Lowered the jack and tank all the way down, then pulled the jack straight out on the drivers side of the car.  The tank came out and exposed the top of the fuel pump.

12.  Removed two 10 mm nuts that held a protective steel cover over the fuel pump.  Removed the cover and set it aside.

13.  Removed the 3 fuel connectors from the top of the fuel pump.  Removed 2 electrical connectors.

14. Using a hammer and a long 1/2" drive extension turned around the wrong way, I worked my way around the fuel pump retaining ring until it was free.  Removed the ring, and lifted the fuel pump out of the gas tank. 

15. Tilted the fuel pump over and drained it into a drain pan.  Quite a bit  (2  to 3 cups) of gas came out. 

16.  Removed the bad fuel sender.  This involves disconnecting 2 electrical connectors, then removing the sender assembly.  First a red retainer clip is removed and using a flat blade screw driver, the top most connector is removed.  Then the lower connector is removed by pulling up while releasing the retainers on the sides.  Finally, to remove the fuel sender assembly a white plastic (might be yellowed from gas) retailer must be removed and the sender clip will slide downwards. 

17. Installation of the new sender is the reverse of removing the old one.

18. Installation of the fuel pump is the reverse of removal.

The hard part:

19. Slid the tank back under the car on the jack and raised it into place.   Unfortunately in my case, there was still some gas in the tank.   This caused the tank to keep shifting as the gas shifted in the tank.  Two people would make this an easy thing to do, but doing it alone, well, it was kind of a pain.  But I finally got the tank up and into place.

20.  Reinstalled the 10 mm nut from the charcoal canister to the body.

21. Reinstalled the two retaining straps and 15 mm bolts.

22. Reinstalled the fuel filler hose to the tank and tightened up the hose clamp.

23. Reinstalled the three front fuel line connections.

24. Plugged in the two electrical connectors disconnected in step 6.

25. Reinstalled the fuel pump fuse and fuel pump relay.

26. Started the car and checked for leaks. 

27.  Pulled the wheel chocks and drove the car down off the ramps.


The fuel pump made a quite a bit of noise until it had filled with fuel.  then drove to my local RaceTrac and filled up.

Holy Moley!  The gas gauge works again!

The wiper contacts on the new sender were about twice as wide as the original ones.  The original wipers were not making any contact with the sender's resistive strips.  It was as if the tips had worn off.  There was also rust on the lugs where the wiring attached to the sender. 

Hope this helps anyone who has to replace one of these. 

Bird Dog

Bill (aka Bird Dog)
2003 Gold FWD Aztek "The Warthog"
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