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A fuel pump is a frequently essential component on a car. Most cars do not rely on gravity to feed fuel from the fuel tank to the engine. For these cars fuel has to be pumped from the fuel tank to the engine and delivered under low pressure to the carburetor or under high pressure to the fuel injection system. Often, carbureted engines use low pressure mechanical pumps that are mounted outside the fuel tank. Fuel injected engines often use electric fuel pumps that are mounted inside the fuel tank. Some fuel injected engines have two fuel pumps: one low pressure/high volume supply pump in the tank and one high pressure/low volume pump on or near the engine.
In many modern cars the fuel pump is usually electric and located inside of the fuel tank. The fuel pump creates positive pressure in the fuel lines, pushing fuel to the engine. The higher fuel pressure raises the boiling point. Placing the pump in the tank puts the component least likely to handle gasoline vapor well (the pump itself) farthest from the engine, submersed in cool liquid. Another benefit to placing the pump inside the tank is that it is less likely to start a fire. Though electrical components like fuel pumps can spark and ignite fuel vapors, liquid fuel will not explode, this makes the tank one of the safest places to put the fuel pump. In most cars, the fuel pump delivers a constant flow of fuel to the engine. Any unused fuel is returned to the tank. Doing this further reduces the chance of the fuel boiling, increases the life of the pump, allows a smaller and lighter device to be used, and reduces electrical load.
Fuel injected cars have an ECU (Electronic Control Unit) and these can be programmed with safety logic that will shut the electric fuel pump off even if the engine is running. In the event of a collision this will prevent fuel leaking from any ruptured fuel line. Additionally, some cars have either an inertia switch or a roll-over valve. The inertia switch is usually underneath the front passenger seat. In the event of an impact, this switch would be tripped to prevent fuel loss. The roll over valve would shut off the fuel pump in case the car rolls over.
Some ECUs are programmed to shut off the fuel pump if oil pressure gets too low or shows no reading. For instance, if the engine has suffered a terminal failure, which may cause the risk of fire in the engine area. The fuel sending unit assembly can be a combination of the electric fuel pump, filter, and the electronic device used to measure the amount of fuel in the tank via a float attached to a sensor with sends data to the dash mounted fuel gauge.