Truck Time in the Rockies — Part Three: Fuel Pump and Tonneau Covers

Post by blogger | July 17, 2007      

Loyal blog readers may recall my sad tale of woe of a few days ago, about my Silverado Pickup being towed home like a worn our party boy stumbling across town after a harsh night out. Sure enough, the problem was a failed fuel pump. That’s huge. Swapping the fuel pump in most modern vehicles requires dropping the gas tank, with associated issues such as gasoline fumes, room to work under the truck, and more. A few years ago I had to replace the fuel pump in our Cherokee, so I simply cut a hole in the body floor over the pump, did the fix, then built the cut floor back in as an access hatch for future repairs. Why not do the same with the Silverado? Okay.

Fuel pump access hatch cut in Silverado pickup bed.
Fuel pump access hatch cut in Silverado pickup bed. The removed metal will be replaced by screwing to a solid ledger system. If cosmetic detail is necessary the area can be re-coated with bed liner. In my case, I’ll do a neat job but leave the hatch and fasteners available for future fuel pump issues. The area is covered by my bed box so aesthetics are not an issue.
Fuel pump access hatch cut in Silverado pickup bed.
New pump and access hole with ledger installed. I used aluminum bar stock and stainless fasteners, all gooped with plenty of black silicon caulk. Corrosion is a problem around here, due to all the chloride they spray on the roads in winter. We get coated with that stuff during backcountry skiing access drives.

Oh, by the way, I thought I’d start sharing about another truck project we’ve been after for a while. Last fall I built a recessed tonneau cover in the Silverado bed. It has just enough room underneath for skis and smaller packs, while being a weight bearing structure with bed-sides above. Perfect for keeping skis locked up but still accessible, while carrying a full bed of camping gear. Check out some of the project:

Home built DIY Silverado tonneau cover.
The Silverado bed has pockets on the sides the support the ends of 2×6 building material. I picked up some heavy duty 2×6 steel studs from a drywall supply company and fit them across the bed, then bolted a ledger to the bed box and another cross-member near the tailgate. Everything is lightweight but strong.

Home built DIY Silverado tonneau cover.
The superstructure is covered with 5/8 CDX plywood. Center section is hinged at the front end and is easily raised up for packing. This rig worked well over the past winter for backcountry skiing expeditions and general ventures. Only problem was weathering of the plywood. I painted the wood with three coats of exterior finish, but it still checked badly and did not weather well.


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24 Responses to “Truck Time in the Rockies — Part Three: Fuel Pump and Tonneau Covers”

  1. Andrew L July 17th, 2007 9:36 am


    I think your truck needs a sunroof also. (grin)

  2. Ken Gross July 17th, 2007 9:34 am

    Hey Lou,
    When I read your post a few days back about the truck troubles… I suspected the Fuel Pump. Chevy Fuel Pumps are notoriously bad, they seem to fail after just a few years and most dont make it to more than 50K-70K miles. I worked in a repair shop a few years ago and during the short time I was there… I replaced a lot of Chevy Fuel Pumps! You should see if a high performance aftermarket pump is available for your truck… or just buy another stock one to keep with you as a spare. Now that you have your access panel you could swap out a fuel pump on the trail without too much trouble. The Bosch fuel pump in my Audi is starting to make some noise, but it is 17 years old and has run for over 200,000 miles!! You could very likely find a Bosch Pump that will work in your truck, the only mods necessary to make it work should be the wires and terminals. Most fuel pumps are the same diameter, and you should be able to make a Bosch in Tank pump work in your application. A good Bosch Fuel Pump will cost about $150, but will probably outlast the rest of your truck!

  3. Lou July 17th, 2007 11:08 am

    Yeah Ken, we tend to keep our vehicles for a long time and gradually upgrade any parts that tend to break. I’ll definitely look at getting a better fuel pump, it’s pretty scary getting one from NAPA anyway — I’ve had very poor reliability from just about anything they sell that has moving parts (even the horn relay in my Jeep failed the other day, low mileage, NAPA…). GM Goodwrench will install the pump and guarantee for life, but the initial cost is astronomical, and I doubt their guarantee includes a motel room and rental car when the pump fails on the side of I-80 800 miles from home.

    The NAPA pump (it’s a Carter) required splicing in a different electrical connector, but one of my automotive mentors suggested splicing in the old connector as well so I can use a dealer pump if necessary. So that’s done as well. With the access hatch and dual connectors, an away-from-home repair should be fairly easy compared to other things.

  4. Lou July 17th, 2007 11:21 am

    Andrew, I’ve got the Sawzall if you’ve got the time (grin).

  5. Milt July 17th, 2007 1:03 pm

    What did you use to cut access hole? Were you concerned about cutting into fuel line, etc?

  6. Lou July 17th, 2007 1:35 pm

    Milt, a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade. I measured everything with care and found I had plenty of clearance for the cut. It was trivial. The one on the Cherokee was tougher, had to cut about 1/4 inch off the jigsaw blade and proceed with much care.

    If one had limited clearance, they could do the cut with a small cutoff wheel on a die grinder or something like that.

  7. Eric July 17th, 2007 1:38 pm

    Just a note on Bosch fuel pumps: owners of 99.5-2006 Dodge Cummins trucks will very likely not share your enthusiasm regarding Bosch pumps. The VP-44 pump is a known failure, and costs over $2000 to replace. Just do a Google on it and you will see what I mean.

  8. Ken Gross July 17th, 2007 2:09 pm

    Eric, You are reffering to a Diesel Truck. I was not aware that they had issues, but they are completly different Pumps from the Electric Bosch Gas Pumps. I assume that you are reffering to the Injection Pump, which is very expensive to replace on any Diesel.

    The Bosh Motorsports 044 Pump is legendary in the racing world. And Bosch fuel Pumps in a variety of European cars are all very long lived and reliable. I have driven three quattros well past 200K miles and never had a pump fail on me. Mine is just starting to make some noise.

  9. Eric July 18th, 2007 6:32 am


    Yes I am referring to the diesel injection pump, and I am sure that they are completely different pumps from your electric gas pumps. The problem is that it is still a Bosch pump, and Bosch’s response to the problem was far from what MANY people would expect from such a company. Botttom line is that their response was quite poor, and for that reason I could never support them regardless of the quality of their other products. I’ve had one replaced under Dodge warranty, and paid to have two more replaced myself in a truck that is otherwise great. As I mentioned, if you are seriously interested there is a plethora of information on the various diesel sites and forums.

  10. rkpatt July 27th, 2007 8:24 am

    Lou – I have to replace both fuel sending units ( front and rear tanks ) in my 1994 F250 diesel which means tedious tank or bed removal. I have contemplated the the access hole example here because it appears to be easier and certainly makes much simpler if I have sender / fuel pickup problems common to Fords in the future . This is a work truck and has a bedliner so cosmetics are not a big issue as long but I do not want the access cover bolt heads to puncture the bedliner .

    Thanks – Pete

  11. Lou July 27th, 2007 8:32 am

    rkpatt, If you’ve got to do two access holes, I’d say a bed removal would be a better way to go. With a truck that old be ready to replace all the bed bolts/bushings, but that’ll be a good additional refurb if your truck is a keeper. That said, if you go the access hole route, it’s easy to seal the fastener heads with some silicone, or just re-coat everything with bed liner. I used round-head fasteners and they’re below the level of the bed liner surface.

  12. Jeff July 1st, 2008 12:56 pm

    I am replacing my fuel pump on Silverado Z71. Pump is in exact location as your pictures. I have a bedliner and have already drilled access holes to scope where the pump is located and the clearance I will need.

    Great idea, and I have a better way of covering, so when Im done maybe I will put some pictures up.

    Thanks for the pictures and info!

  13. Lou July 1st, 2008 1:44 pm

    Jeff, just remember that you can’t flush the tank when you do it this way, so if your tank is contaminated, you’ll still need to drop it, or figure out a way to clean it out by sticking a suction hose in there or something like that. My tank was clean, so cutting the access door worked great. Email me with photos of your cover method, and I’ll add to this post of they look good. Thanks for the comment.

  14. Richard December 27th, 2009 4:12 pm

    An access whole is a great idea! I have a 2000 model extended cab, it looks like your might be extended cab as well. If it is, would you mind giving me some rough measurements for your cuts? (i.e., distance from the front and side of the bed along with dimensions of the whole…) Sorry if this seem trivial, I would rather error on the side caution. Thanks in advance!

  15. College Dating February 25th, 2010 11:28 pm

    Thanks a lot for the post!

  16. kevin potter October 5th, 2010 9:46 pm

    Here are the dimensions of a recent fuel pump access opening I just completed in my 2001 gmc sierra 1/2 ton 4×4. Taking that tank down is an option–if you like the dirt and hassle. Pulling the bed is also an option, if you don’t have a canopy in place (heavy!), and have help on hand to handle the lift and rearward movement of the bed, so as not to ding the flimsy lower side panels. This access opening was done very quickly, using a jig saw, after some careful measurements, made from below, and transfered to the inside of the bed. These dimensions result in a dead-center opening over the pump ring, and provide clearance between the lateral joists under the bed floor, for the installation of framing material, to support the reinstallation of the cut-out piece.
    Mark a line on the floor inside the bed, 5 inches back from the front wall, starting at a point 12 inches from the left side wall, and extending to a point 25 1/2 inches from the left side wall. Make this line paralell to the front wall. Mark a n identical line, 16 1/2 inches from the front wall, also beginning at a point 12 inches from the left side wall, and also ending at a point 25 1/2 inches from the left side wall. Mark two connecting lines, forming the left, and right sides of the
    rectangle. The left side should be in the center of a “low” floor rib, as well as the right side. This will leave ample flat area for attachment of support framing, with rivets, or screws. Across the front and back edges, I fabricated strips to match the bed floor contours, out of 12 gauge x 2 inch stock, because the bed floor ribs are rather flimsy without support. I used this same 12 gauge around the entire opening, riveting it in place. After changing the pump, the cut-out piece was screwed back in place, with a little silicone sealant. Since all the rivets and screws are in the “low” areas, the is no protrusion into the bed floor.
    I chose the Bosch pump; little more money, but GM wanted $460, and NAPA offerd the Bosch for about $150 less. Came with new wire harness and full set of how-to. Hope this is helpful!

  17. Lou October 6th, 2010 5:29 am

    Thanks Kevin! Folks do land on this post pretty often so your information will get used.

  18. Ted September 14th, 2011 7:45 am

    Kevin I think that the best way to save some money, is to change your car, why don’t you buy a low consumption one? or maybe a electric car.

  19. bobbing February 20th, 2012 12:45 pm

    I am thinking of doing this. Many vehicles have fuel pumps that fail. Its not specific to one vehicle, its just the fact of electronics.
    I recommend AC Delco (Delphi) or Walbro fuel pumps.

  20. Okie not from Muskogee July 8th, 2012 7:18 pm

    Ted, I hope you get back to this page an read this someday… That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Electric and hybrid vehicles have some of the highest costs of ownership of any vehicles in the world. Keeping our old Junkers running is way cheaper that electric even though they use a bit more fuel than a brand new one. Thanks for all the helpful info everybody else!

  21. Scott September 13th, 2014 10:14 pm

    I have a 1994 1500 straight cab Chevy with 4.3 v6.. 4×4 and need to change the fuel lines. When I cut the old lines behind the factory crimped metal to insert new metal lines into the rubber that’s remains….will gas still flow out of tank on its own even if I loosen the gas cap. Should I siphon the gas out of the tank first?

  22. Lou Dawson 2 September 14th, 2014 7:18 am

    Scott, you probably won’t have any trouble so cut the lines the way you need to. If gas does flow and lines come out top of tank you can probably just lightly pinch the rubber line, and sure, drain out the tank if necessary. Lou

  23. Jack September 23rd, 2014 10:03 am


    I bought a silverado a little bit ago and thinking of access panels in the bed to get to the fuel pumps (dual tanks). I like your idea of lining the opening with aluminum but one question I have is:… give the way the bed in the truck is ( not continuously flat but ribbed), how do you get an even or smooth attachment with the aluminum? I mean the space between the ribs need to be filled in with something to allow one to attach via screws to the bed with out bending the aluminum lining. The second question, the bed panel is the same size of the hole in the bed, so do you attach an extension to the aluminum linings to allow the panel to be re-attached via screws or what? Just trying to think out side the box before I do anything. Any comment would be appreciative.


  24. Lou Dawson 2 September 23rd, 2014 10:21 am

    Hi Jack, please don’t leave email addresses in comments, it just attracts spambots and email harvesters.

    The aluminum I used was to form a ledge that the panel cut-out sits on and is screwed into. Look closely at the photos.


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