As the fuel tank is a magnet for dirt, dust, and debris, a lot of particles accumulate on this component over time. The problem arises when these contaminants start to block the fuel filter, preventing it from working effectively. The fuel filter has some big responsibilities inside your vehicle, so the last thing you would want is for it to remain clogged like that. It can negatively affect your car’s engine’s performance. Here’s what you need to know about fuel filter replacement.
When the fuel filter is clogged, fuel cannot properly pass through the filter, eventually overworking the fuel pump. You have to perform fuel filter replacement regularly to keep it clean and functional. For that, you have to refer to the automaker’s replacement interval suggestions rather than wait for the component to run its course.
Fuel filters are pretty cheap (in comparison to most other components of a car), so you have no excuse to retain a bad fuel filter.
What Is A Fuel Filter?
The fuel filter is tasked with trapping big particles within the fuel before they can get to the engine. Air and the fuel mixture are compressed by the pistons in the engine so they can burn better, and if this fuel is contaminated by any large particles, chances are, it could seriously damage the engine.
These big particles can block fuel injectors too, preventing a cylinder from getting the required quantity of fuel. Thus, you would need to have the injector replaced soon. All these issues can be avoided by properly maintaining the fuel filter. Trust us, it’s going to save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
In most cases, the fuel filter can be found in the engine compartment. Alternatively, it can be located beside the fuel tank below the vehicle. Fuel filters vary from car to car, resulting in a variety of fuel delivery systems. Engines fueled by carburetors rely on vacuums to bring fuel inside the engine, and the fuel system has relatively low pressure.
The fuel filter is equipped with an outlet and inlet tube through which fuel is supposed to move. Fuel filters are generally made from plastic or metal. Cars featuring electronic fuel injection have the fuel squirted into the cylinder through injectors. Since we are working with a high-pressure fuel system, the fuel filter has to be constructed from metal to stop it from shattering.
Fuel injection system filters are typically attached to the fuel lines to secure them in a high-pressure environment.
7 Bad Fuel Filter Symptoms
Let’s be honest – not all of us were equipped to remember the last time we got a fuel filter replacement or how many miles our car has gone. In that case, we have to keep an eye out for the signs that the fuel filter has gone bad. The given symptoms of a clogged fuel filter will help you identify the issues quicker as the end goal is to steer clear of a damaged fuel tank.
1. Check Engine Light On
Nobody likes it when the Check Engine Light starts blinking on their car’s dashboard. It’s a telltale sign that there is a problem with your vehicle. Keep in mind that just because the light is illuminated, doesn’t mean the fuel filter has gone bad. However, you can get helpful clues regarding the origin of the problem.
Note: You might not get a bad fuel filter code even after checking with an OBD-II scanner. Nonetheless, if the error code P0171 pops up, it would signify that your car is running low on fuel. At this point, it’s clear that a clogged fuel filter would cut off the fuel supply to the engine. So, the culprit behind this problem might be the fuel filter and you have to get it checked.
2. Poor Acceleration
While several causes might lead to a significant drop in typical acceleration, a clogged fuel filter would be one of the most prominent. If inadequate fuel reaches the combustion chamber, the car’s computer reduces power output to minimize engine damage caused by operating too lean.
You will notice this the most when accelerating under large loads, like overtaking on an uphill. If the filter goes completely bad, the vehicle can also enter limp mode. However, this scenario is rare.
3. Fuel Odor
If you detect an odor that smells like you’re at a gas station after driving, your car may have a gasoline leak someplace. Did you fasten the gas cap? If yes, it’s time to look into other possibilities.
While the most typical reasons for a fuel leak are a faulty gas tank, charcoal canister, fuel line, spark plug, or fuel injector, a faulty fuel filter might also result in a pungent gasoline smell. Realistically, a symptom like this will appear alongside other signs.
4. Engine Misfire
Whether clogged partially or entirely, the engine might suddenly misfire if the fuel filter gets damaged. If you notice any erratic behaviors on your engine’s part, make sure to check the fuel filters before anything else. That being said, a misfiring engine can happen for multiple reasons. It’s hard to confirm that a bad fuel filter is behind all this without thorough investigation.
Therefore, it’s worth checking external factors to ensure you are blaming the right component.
5. Engine Doesn’t Start
A car with bad spark plugs will often be difficult to start. Similarly, if the alternator is bad or the batteries are dead, you will get the same reaction. Nevertheless, this issue might also occur if the fuel filter of the car is clogged, as the engine will receive little to no fuel to work with. In this situation, it’s best to inspect the fuel pump and ensure that it’s in good condition.
This part of the vehicle works to supply fuel to the combustion system, and if it goes bad, the engine will not start properly. If the fuel pump is completely fine, you can deduce that something is wrong with the filter and you have to do fuel filter replacement. To further confirm this problem, make sure to have a look at the fuel gauge to know how much fuel remains in the tank.
6. Engine Stalls
Under regular circumstances, a little bit of pressure applied on the gas pedal would instruct the pump to release more fuel. Through this system, the combustion system gets a continuous supply of fuel that it needs for correct acceleration. However, the engine can start stalling if the car has a clogged fuel filter as sufficient fuel will not pass through. An issue like this creates symptoms similar to that of power fluctuation.
7. Reduced Fuel Economy
Has the fuel economy of your car gone down drastically? Well, while it might seem like the fuel filter getting blocked would improve the car’s fuel economy, that’s not the case. Even though the fuel is not passing through properly and the combustion system is thirsty for fuel, there is a noticeable decrease in the fuel economy.
The problem starts when the engine needs more gas than what you would usually need for power generation.
Reasons Behind A Clogged Fuel Filter
Car experts claim that a regular fuel filter should serve a car for five years. In summary, a fuel filter can be expected to last for around 50,000 miles. Keep this in mind while getting a fuel filter replacement. A quick change would make sure your vehicle’s combustion system remains healthy. But the time carries from car to car, depending on make, model, and year.
It’s simple: the more you use your car, the quicker you have to get the fuel filter replacement. After all, the fuel filter is constantly coming in contact with a variety of contaminants which take a toll on its lifespan. As it must remove all the pollutants from the fuel before it reaches the combustion system, the filter gets clogged more frequently than we would like.
Leaving it in such a condition for an extended period could cause catastrophic damages to your vehicle. Thus, it might not last the expected five years if it has to pass through more first. Once the debris is accumulated on the fuel filter, the amount of fuel that can pass through it is decreased sharply.
New car models are vastly different from the ones made in the past – they feature newer technology and modifications. Still, you can rely on a conventional fuel pressure test to understand if the filter requires replacement or not. A test like this would calculate the PSI output around the fuel lines from the fuel pump.
You can either clean the filter or replace it entirely. We suggest the latter if the case of dirt accumulation is extreme. Include checking the fuel filter in your daily car maintenance schedule and you can detect this problem earlier than most people.
How To Clean Clogged Fuel Filter
A clean fuel filter would serve you for longer and improve the fuel flow in the combustion system. The first step to cleaning a blocked fuel filter is checking the component. Once you find the filter, you would have to remove it. You have to relieve the pressure in the fuel system. Refer to your car’s owner’s manual to locate the fuel pump fuse. Then, remove it and let the engine run for 1 to 2 minutes.
Take out the negative terminal of the battery and make sure there is no connection when you clean the filter. After that, find the fuel filter in the locations mentioned in the previous section. If needed, you can use a jack to raise your car so you can have better access.
Once raised, keep a bucket below the fuel filter. Doing this will prevent unintentional spills during the repair process. Remove the clips attaching the fuel line to the filter.
Moreover, take out the fuel line and unfasten the bolts securing the fuel filter in position. Check for remaining fuel in the filter and bleed it dry. Using the right cleaner, clean the area properly. Different kinds of fuel filter cleaners are available in local auto stores as well as Amazon. Buy one that can work for your car.
Knock the filter gently against the side of the container and flush – this should remove all the debris. Next, air-dry the fuel filter for an hour. Then, reassemble the fuel filter, position it in the correct spot, and tighten the bolts. Reattach the fuel lines along with other parts you removed when accessing the filter. Last but not the least, reposition the battery terminal and turn on the engine.
When Should You Replace The Fuel Filter?
Check for potential fuel leakages just to be on the safe side, and work on them if you find any. In summary, you will need the given tools:
- Flathead screwdriver
- Hose clamps
- Adjustable wrench
Fuel filter replacement interval is defined by 2 factors: time and mileage. Changing the fuel filter at a designated mileage is the generic way to consider when to replace the fuel filter. For older trucks and cars, the recommended interval between fuel filter replacement is 20,000 to 40,000 miles. Even if the car doesn’t get driven as often, it’s best to replace this part every two to three years.
For modern vehicles, the wait time between fuel filter replacements can be extended. Most automakers ask the owners to have the filter replaced around 40,000 to 80,000 miles. But others don’t mention an interval, specify a rather high interval (for Mercedes Benz it’s 150,000 miles), or even claim the fuel filter doesn’t have to be replaced (like Toyota).
The owner’s manual will be your best friend. Stick to what the manufacturer recommends – they know the best. If you don’t have access to the manual for some reason, ring up your local dealership. Or, you can set 60,000 miles as the standard change intervals if the vehicle was manufactured within the last 15 years or so. Diesel engines will require fuel filter replacements faster than other engines.
Advantages Of Fuel Filter Replacement
Why should you invest in replacing the fuel filter? For starters, changing the fuel filter often is important to protect the engine from foreign pollutants and keep it running smoothly. Most mechanics generally recommend you replace the filter one every year. If you reside in a high-pollution zone or get more mileage on your vehicle than most people, the filter will have to be replaced more often.
There are many ways in which debris and dirt can pollute the fuel line, so a functional fuel filter is essential for reducing damage to the engine. Changing the fuel filter will not cost you a lot and can end up saving you a pretty penny shortly.
What Is Done During Fuel Filter Replacement?
- The fuel line’s pressure has to be relieved before any work is done. For that, disable the electric fuel pump before starting the engine.
- How to disable the fuel pump: Take out the fuel pump fuse. Make sure the car’s parking brake has been engaged and start the engine. Your vehicle will run for a brief period before the engine is disconnected, meaning the fuel lines’ pressure has been reduced.
- Power down the engine and detach the filter and fuel lines.
- Compare the new filter with the existing one before detaching. The filters must have an arrow showing which direction the fuel moves along.
- If there are no arrows on the new filter, take a mental picture of the direction in which the old filter is fitted and try to replicate that.
- Take out the existing filter and change it with the new one, making sure everything is secured.
- Reconnect the fuel lines and change the fuel pump fuse.
- Turn on the engine and observe for any signs of leakage.
Fuel Filter Replacement Cost
The average cost of fuel filter replacement depends on the make, model, and year of the vehicle, whether it’s an in-tank or in-line filter if the component is aftermarket or OEM, and the repair shop you choose.
Most of the time, a fuel filter is a pretty low-cost component. In most situations, the fuel filter alone costs between $10 to $40, while OEM components may easily increase that by $50 or more. You might also get the fuel filter with the fuel pump, and a whole assembly like this can cost between $200 and $500.
Typically, the labor cost exceeds the cost of the part. Most filters can be changed in 1 hour, so budget $60 to $120 for labor. A few in-tank filters plus the ones that are included in the fuel pump system may need additional effort.
The average total cost of fuel filter replacement stands at about $70 to $160 – labor and parts included. As mentioned above, many factors can contribute to the increase of this estimate. And don’t forget to count the fees and taxes.
Most Popular Service Stations Estimates
On average, Pep Boys charges between $79 and $199 for fuel filter replacement. Therefore, you may have to look for one of their outlets and bring your car to one of their experts who would get it fixed for you.
For labor and the part, Midas asks for approximately $64 to $188. That is a fair price, and you can be assured that the replacement will be done by experts.
At Your Mechanic, you can expect to spend between $83 to $209 to get a blocked fuel filter changed.
Mr. Tire can help rid you of this bad fuel filter situation for a price range of $70 and $210. If it looks a little steep that’s because this price covers the price of the new fuel filter and the labor costs to have it changed.
At Walmart, the experts will give your car a fuel filter replacement for anywhere between $6 to $45. This is only the price of the parts, however, and you might have to confirm with the shop to know how much they ask for labor.
How much does a fuel filter go for AutoZone? Interestingly enough, you can get a filter at AutoZone for as low as $4. There is a wide range of options to choose from as well!
How To Save Money On Fuel Filter Replacement
Replacing the gasoline filter is a comparatively simple job, and most auto stores won’t ask for much for this service. If you want to save cash on the filter change, it’s a task that most individuals can handle on their own. It doesn’t require any specialized equipment, and you can buy the required parts for very cheap online.
If you were looking for a sign to do some sort of work on your car by yourself, this is it! Check out this video tutorial on how to replace a fuel filter at home.
Consult your owner’s handbook to ensure you’re getting the correct item for your vehicle. You may typically save more by using aftermarket filters in place of OEM components, so check for the greatest bargain on a reputable product.
Have it changed as a part of your yearly servicing and save a few bucks here. Most car owners will have this work done during this time, and there are often discounts available if multiple repairs are being done to a car.
The last option is to look around your neighborhood for attractive offers. Because a filter change is a straightforward and common service, many garages offer deals on oil changes and fuel filter replacement to attract new clients.
Fuel Filter Replacement Facts:
- A fuel filter cleans fuel of impurities, sediment, contaminants, and rust before they can get into the engine.
- Fuel filters can be cartridge-style with filtering material made of paper inside, and most technicians replace them during scheduled maintenance intervals.
- Signs that a fuel filter needs replacement include difficulty starting the vehicle, excessive vibration while idling, rough and slow speed cruising, and the car shutting off while driving.
- Fuel filters can be located in different places depending on the vehicle, such as in the fuel tank or on the vehicle frame outside the tank.
- It’s recommended to replace the fuel filter within regular intervals as suggested by the vehicle manufacturer or owner’s manual, with intervals varying according to the car.
- Heavy-duty towing or off-road driving may require more frequent fuel filter replacement.
- Fuel filter replacement involves depressurizing the fuel system, removing the fuel inlet line, replacing the filter, checking for leaks, and ensuring all lines fit correctly.
- The cost for fuel filter replacement by a mechanic is between $50 and $175 for most cars, and it can be done by an individual for between $10 and $70.
- Fuel filter replacement is often performed during a vehicle’s annual service as a proactive move to prevent future issues.
- Ignoring symptoms of a clogged fuel filter could lead to the vehicle shutting off, resulting in potential injury to the vehicle and the driver.
Fuel filters are an indispensable part of cars as they effectively remove the contaminants from the fuel. A car with a bad fuel filter will jerk suddenly, suffer from fuel economy issues, and more. Thus, it’s recommended that you get the component replaced as soon as you realize something is wrong with it. Use this article as your guide to fuel filters and keep your car running for a long time
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.