A fuel pump is a frequently (but not always) essential component on a car or other internal combusion engined device. Many engines (older motorcycle engines in particular) do not require any fuel pump at all, requiring only gravity to feed fuel from the fuel tank or under high pressure to the fuel injection system. Often, carbureted engines use low pressure mechanical pumps that are mounted outside the fuel tank, whereas fuel injected engines often use electric fuel pumps that are mounted inside the fuel tank (and 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). Fuel pressure needs to be within certain specifications for the engine to run correctly. If the fuel pressure is too high, the engine will run rough and rich, not combusting all of the fuel being pumped making the engine inefficient and a pollutant. If the pressure is too low, the engine may run lean, misfire, or stall.
Prior to the widespread adoption of electronic fuel injection, most carbureted automobile engines used mechanical fuel pumps to transfer fuel from the fuel tank into the fuel bowls of the carburetor. The two most widely used fuel feed pumps are diaphragm and plunger-type mechanical pumps. Diaphragm pumps are a type of positive displacement pump. Diaphragm pumps contain a pump chamber whose volume is increased or decreased by the flexing of a flexible diaphragm, similar to the action of a piston pump. A check valve is located at both the inlet and outlet ports of the pump chamber to force the fuel to flow in one direction only. Specific designs vary, but in the most common configuration, these pumps are typically bolted onto the engine block or head, and the engine's camshaft has an extra eccentric lobe that operates a lever on the pump, either directly or via a pushrod, by pulling the diaphragm to bottom dead center. In doing so, the volume inside the pump chamber increased, causing pressure to decrease. This allows fuel to be pushed into the pump from the tank (caused by atmospheric pressure acting on the fuel in the tank). The return motion of the diaphragm to top dead center is accomplished by a diaphragm spring, during which the fuel in the pump chamber is squeezed through the outlet port and into the carburetor. The pressure at which the fuel is expelled from the pump is thus limited (and therefore regulated) by the force applied by the diaphragm spring.