There are several symptoms to look for that might indicate a fuel pump is not functioning properly and is the main cause of engine sputtering or difficulty in starting a vehicle. First of all, it's always best to check out a few "quick fixes" in case it's not actually the fuel pump that is the main culprit. After eliminating some of the other possibilities of a cars malfunctioning the search can be narrowed down considerably.
For instance if a fuel filter is slowly becoming clogged, it will eventually cause an engine to sputter and die. In any case, it sure doesn't hurt to replace the fuel filter just to be on the safe side. It's less expensive and just might solve your problem.
When the vehicle is first started, the sound of the fuel pump operating should be easily heard. If there's no sound from the fuel pump, then most likely it's the fuel pump that is the center of the problem.
In most cases there are two main symptoms that could possibly indicate a fuel pump that is not working properly or not working at all. If you cannot start your car when you turn the engine over, then the engine is not getting any fuel. Either your fuel filter is completely blocked or your fuel pump has failed and needs to be replaced before your car will be able to start. In some cases when you accelerate, the vehicle will not respond or is very sluggish. This also indicates that the engine is not getting enough fuel and a faulty fuel pump could be to blame.
Sometimes a faulty fuel pump dies a slow death and it can trick you. You might be driving down the road and everything seems fine and suddenly your vehicle just quits and won't start back up. You might have your vehicle towed to a service station and the first time they try your ignition, the car starts. So two things happen as a result of this experience. You feel foolish because your car is obviously okay, and you're relieved because it doesn't need fixing. At least that's the case until the next day when it happens all over again.
Often this is how a faulty fuel pump will behave and should be replaced if the fuel filter is checked out and looks fine. It just happens that every once in a while a fuel pump will working intermittently until it finally dies. So if you are sitting on the side of the road and your car quits in this manner and won't start though the engine turns over, wait a few minutes and try again. If it eventually starts, make your way to a service station and have the fuel pump checked out.
Most likely that will be your problem.
Some motorists have even reported giving their fuel pump a few taps with a hammer and then it works fine, however this might be something you try when all else has failed. If you are not handy with tools, your best bet is to have a mechanic check out the fuel pump for you and replace it if necessary and your problem will most likely be solved.