When things go wrong in the fuel supply chain, the first thing on the list of suggested things to fix or replace is often the fuel pump. Before rushing into replacing what is sometimes the most expensive and difficult to access component in the fuel system, it's a good idea to run a fuel pressure test. Peering into what's going on with the fuel pressure can provide a better idea of overall fuel system condition. Replacing a fuel pump can be an involved job. The problem could turn out to be an easy-to-replace 14-buck fuel filter or a dead fuel pump relay.
Besides a fuel pressure gauge and fire extinguisher, the next most important tool in this test is a repair manual for your car or engine. Every automotive fuel system is slightly different and has fuel pressure specifications and requirements unique to the system. While modern fuel injection systems work more or less the same in theory, the service manual will outline test procedures and pressure ranges for your particular engine. If the engine is getting air and spark but still acting the goat, a fuel pressure test can help diagnose what's going on. Some possibilities are:
Too Much Pressure
Excessive pressure will force too much fuel through the injectors and cause the engine to run rich. Poor mileage, fouled spark plugs, sluggish or surging idle, and black smoke out of the tailpipe can all be caused by an over rich condition. Test the fuel pressure regulator.
Not Enough Pressure
Choppy idle, poor engine performance and misfire can all be caused by low fuel pressure. Low fuel pressure could mean a clogged fuel filter. Check and replace the fuel filter before going after the pump. Fuel tank crud can also clog in-tank sock or in-line filters. Test the fuel pressure regulator.
No Pressure At All
Listen for fuel pump whine to hear if the fuel pump is even running. Test for current to the fuel pump. Test the fuel pump relay. Check for the obvious pinched, bent, or even leaking fuel lines. If nothing gets the fuel pump going then replacement could be in the future.