Cutting an access panel to replace fuel pump.
Hey everyone, I did some searching and wasn't able to find any good info on cutting this panel. I decided to do a little write up, hope it can help someone. First I will give a little explaination as to why I went this route. I have a 1997 Tahoe 4x4 with 5.7 Vortec.
I had just filled my tank up the morning that the pump went out, so the thought of siphoning nearly 30 gallons of fuel was not very enticing. Further complicating my situation is the fact that I don't really have anyone to count on for help in dropping the tank. So I arrived at the conclusion that a hole in the floor was the way to go.
I picked up an air nibbler from harbor freight for about $25 on sale. I chose the nibbler because I wasn't really sure about how much clearance I had between the tank and floor of the truck. The nibbler requires very little depth, produces no sparks, cuts clean and quick, and it does not distort the metal.
I started by flipping the rear driver's side seat forward and cutting the carpet right along the seat supports on both sides. Then folded the carpet forward, the front and rear carpets meet here, so I also cut the rear section and folded it back. Now with the floor pan exposed it was pretty easy to determine where the pump was. There is a raised square area in the floor.
Next I carefully drilled a 1/2 inch hole in the floor pan at the front left corner of the raised area to insert the nibbler. There was only an inch and a half at best between tank and body so be cautious with the drill. I made the first cut from front to rear all the way back. Here I could pry it up a bit and see where I was. I decided to drill a second hole in the forward passenger side of the raised area because the nibbler isn't so good at 90 deg turns. I made the second cut from driver to passenger side, the ribs that are stamped into the floor were a bit of a pin to get over but not too bad. Third cut front to rear on pass side. Now just pull the panel back exposing the pump with plenty of space to work.
At this point remove and reinstall pump according to mfr instructions (Thanks guys for the tips on getting the pump gasket to stay in place). After replacing the pump and wire harness as recomended, I bent the panel back down and sealed the seams with metal duct tape. I probably could have done something better but it works. Put the carpet back in place and there is no real trace that anything was done.
All in all it should take about an hour for the whole job which is much more efficient than the alternative. Plus if it ever goes bad again it could be done on the roadside. Don't forget to change your filter as well.
Pics left to right 1. Cutting the panel 2. Open and ready to remove old pump 3. In with the new 4. Closed and sealed.
Greetings from the Florida Panhandle
Great post, Scott. I have printed a copy for future reference. I would hope that i could do a similar access on my Suburbans.