Guide to Identifying & Fixing Low Fuel Pressure in Your Machines

What the P0087 code means

P0087 is a general OBD2 diagnostic trouble code that indicates a fault within the fuel delivery system. This code is set once the ECM has detected low fuel pressure at the fuel pressure sensor.

Low fuel pressure causes the Check Engine Light to trigger by the ECM and a failsafe mode is enacted to prevent damage until repaired.

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What are the symptoms of the P087 code?

  • Check Engine Light illuminated on the dashboard
  • Vehicle may run poorly
  • Loss of engine power, noticed during acceleration
  • Engine misfire
  • Vehicle may stop running

Diagnosis

 Usually, the fuel pressure monitor doesn’t work until the fuel pressure sensor monitor is already running. If you see a concurrent fuel pressure sensor or circuit diagnostic trouble code then analyze and fix it first. Then after you can focus on fuel pressure. . 

For the diagnosis of P1000 code, you’ll need a Manual Fuel Pressure Tester and OBD2 Scanner

Below are the steps to solve the DTC code P0087 correctly:

  • Firstly, ensure that you are not short on fuel using the manual fuel pressure tester. If you run out of fuel, there won’t be sufficient fuel in the lines to build the required pressure which results in this DTC code. Clearing the DTC and adding a new tank of fuel will fix this instantly.
  • Check for fuel leaks. Obvious fuel leaks, where you can see dripping or can smell crude fuel as that will not permit pressure to build properly which will lead to a low-pressure condition. Repair as needed.
  • Check the fuel lines for crimps, which would obstruct fuel flow and prevent pressurization. Some plastic fuel lines are particularly prone to crimping and breakdown, impeding fuel flow from the low-pressure pump to the high-pressure pump.
  • Check the fuel filter for any contamination, especially on high-mileage vehicles, which can likewise obstruct fuel flow.
  • Check the fuel tank for damage. External fuel tank damage could affect the fuel propeller inside the tank, leading to poor fuel intake by the low-pressure fuel pump.

Beyond the scenarios mentioned above, you may not be able to carry out any further diagnosis, as the high-pressure fuel system requires some special additional tools and procedures.

How Serious is This?

P0087 may result in major drivability problems if not given due attention. It might make your vehicle unreliable and in worst-case scenarios, completely useless. If your vehicle isn’t running properly or you found a problem in the engine while you’re trying to accelerate, you should get it checked at your earliest. 

In case P0087 is the underlying cause, then there is a chance that the engine can stop while driving, which makes the driver prone to a variety of hazards and accidents. A qualified automobile technician should be contacted and repairs should be done to get the vehicle safely back onto the road.

How to Check

Fuel pressure monitor don’t usually run unless the fuel pressure sensor monitor runs first and passed. Many times, this error code is accompanied with other error code, such as O2 (oxygen) sensor lean or rich code. If this happens, you will need to diagnose and repair it first before you can turn your attention to the fuel pressure itself.

  • Start your diagnosis by making sure you didn’t run out of fuel. It is important to have the right amount of fuel to pressurize the lines. In some cases, simply adding a fresh tank of fuel will fix the problem.
  • Check for any leaks of fuel. Obvious leaks where you can see fuel dripping, or smell raw fuel, won’t allow the proper buildup of fuel pressure, which will lead to low pressure condition. Repair as needed.
  • Inspect the fuel lines for kinks that may obstruct the flow of fuel and prevent the required pressurization. Some plastic fuel lines are more prone to kinking, which will lead it to collapse and obstruct the fuel flow to the high pressure pump (from low pressure pump).
  • Make sure the fuel filter is NOT contaminated, especially on high-mileage vehicles. This issue can also obstruct the flow of fuel.
  • Check the fuel tank for signs of damage. External fuel tank are prone to damage as they’re exposed to elements, which could impact the fuel sender inside the tank and lead to poor fuel intake of the low-pressure fuel pump.

From here on, you may also want to perform further diagnosis for the high pressure fuel system using special tools and steps.

Fuel Sensor Replacement Cost

Best places to order parts?  See: 19 Best Online Auto Parts Stores

The cost to replace a fuel rail pressure sensor ca

The cost to replace a fuel rail pressure sensor can vary quite a bit depending on make and model of your vehicle. On average, expect to pay between $200 and $340 total for a fuel rail pressure sensor replacement.

Parts alone will set you back about $60 to $100 and the labor cost to replace the sensor will cost between $140 and $240.

Of course, you’re usually going to pay more when you have a dealership perform the work compared to an independent mechanic. Unless you have a good amount of auto repair experience, you should not attempt replacement yourself in most cases.

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What are the common causes of code P0087 ?

Depending on year, make, and model, DTC P0087 may have number of causes. Here are some of the most common.

  • High Mileage Vehicles or Bad Fuel – Fuel filters are designed to catch only a certain amount of contamination. Once they fill up, they practically block all fuel flow. In spite of fuel purity standards, contamination can build up over time, or experienced on at least few occasions, a bad batch of super-contaminated fuel can clog up a fuel filter in just a few minutes.
  • 2001-2004 General Motors – Some of these diesel-powered vehicles suffered from collapsed or kinked fuel line problems, restricting fuel flow to the high-pressure fuel pump. Additionally, new fuel injectors were prescribed to address this problem. (Chevrolet Silverado, Kodiak C4500/C5500; GMC Sierra, Topkick C4500/C5500)
  • 2005-2007 Volkswagen – Some high-pressure fuel pump cam followers failed, leading to low fuel pressure problems. In most cases, the cam follower would turn concave, sometimes blowing off the face and damaging the camshaft and the fuel pump. Most vehicles simply required a new cam follower, though some required a new camshaft. Rarely, the fuel pump plunger was affected, requiring replacement of the fuel pump. (Volkswagen Eos, GTI, Jetta, Passat)

Common Symptoms

Aside from the activation of the Check Engine light, drivers will also experience drivability issues, such as:

  • Rough running
  • Poor acceleration
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Engine misfire
  • Loss of engine power

Depending on the severity of the problem or the make and model of the vehicle, the engine may experience hard starting or may simply just stop running.

Pressure Control Valve

A pressure control valve (PCV) for controlling rail pressure can be located at one rail extremity (pump-external PCV), Figure 1, or at the pump outlet (pump-integrated PCV), Figure 2. The pump-external PCV leads to lower pump manufacturing costs but the proximity of the regulator to the injectors can introduce additional disturbances in injector dynamics. In the pump-integrated PCV solution, the fuel throttled by the control valve joins the leakage flow from the pumping chambers as well as the fuel flowing in the pump’s cooling and lubrication circuits. This combined flow is discharged from the pump to return to the fuel tank.

Figure 1. Common rail diesel fuel injection system
Figure 1. Common rail diesel fuel injection system with pressure control valve located on the rail

(Source: Bosch)

Figure 2. Bosch CP1 pump with integrated pressure
Figure 2. Bosch CP1 pump with integrated pressure control valve

(Source: Bosch)

Rail pressure control with a PCV is inherently fast because of the proximity of the system input (PCV) and system output (rail pressure sensor). In other words, the system does not include the delay resulting from fuel passing through the high pressure pump as would be the case for some of the pump metering approaches.

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