Signs you need to change your fuel filter

The job of a fuel filter is pretty self-explanatory. Its main goal is to stop all of the junk and debris that may be in your fuel from getting into the fuel pump or worse, the engine.

Changing the fuel filter is one of those basic tasks that you can do yourself but it can be frustrating and is hidden away so it’s easy to forget, “out of sight, out of mind” right?

WRONG! It doesn’t take much dirt to overwork a fuel pump or destroy an engine and the cost could be catastrophic.

For the safety of your engine and bank account it’s best you keep your fuel filter in the cleanest possible condition.

Where Is The Fuel Filter Located?

Fuel filters are found in you guessed it…the fuel line. It will be located somewhere in between your fuel tank and the engine.

Most of the time it is located inside the fuel tank, however, it can be found elsewhere in the fuel line.

To find out where your fuel filter is without exerting too much effort simply google ” Your car & Fuel filter location” or better yet, check the documentation of your car.

Clogged fuel filter symptoms

That’s enough on fuel filters and what they do, you should consider changing your fuel filter if you’re getting any symptoms listed below:

The car doesn’t start

One sign of a dirty, clogged up fuel filter is a car that struggles to start. If your car doesn’t start, be prepared to get dirty or pay a lot of money to get it towed to the garage!

A dirty filter will restrict fuel flow leading to an unusual and inconsistent “Air Fuel Ratio” which will impact the vehicles’ ability to start.

When a car struggles to start there are many different reasons, the fuel filter should not be the first port of call when your car is hard to start, unless you know everything else is 100%.

That said, a car struggling to start can definitely be a sign of a clogged fuel filter.

Check engine light comes on

Many modern cars will have a pressure sensor that monitors the pressure of the overall fuel system. A clogged filter will cause pressure issues and will set off the check engine light if detected by the sensor.

There are various different issues that can set off the check engine light. If you’re in any way serious about learning and maintaining a car yourself you’ll definitely need a code reader. Misdiagnosing the problem will result in extra work and potentially create more issues.

A decrease in overall engine power

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lack of fuel in the system would result in worse engine performance.

When the injectors aren’t getting enough fuel, the ECU will often restrict the engine output to prevent serious damage happening. This is otherwise known as limp mode and will also show the check engine light.

There are many issues which can cause limp mode, the fuel filter is the cheapest and easiest to replace, even if it doesn’t fix the main issue, you’ll relieve stress from the fuel pump and increase its lifespan.

Misfiring or Hesitation

If your engine is misfiring under heavy loads it’s often a strong indication something is wrong in your fuel line.

Under lighter loads, there is less fuel required so a dirty filter may not cause a misfire but if you’re traveling with a heavy load uphill or over uneven terrain, you may notice the engine begin to hesitate and misfire.

Poor gas mileage

There are a number of potential reasons your fuel mileage has drastically decreased, you may have an aggressive driving style, your tires could be misaligned, a brake caliper may be stuck or you could have issues in your fuel line.

A clogged fuel filter will not allow the fuel line to work as intended and as a result, will offer reduced performance and less fuel economy.

How Often Should A Fuel Filter Be Replaced?

Normally when it comes to servicing and maintaining a vehicle, the best option is to check the owners manual. However, in the case of the fuel filter, it’s not always that easy.

It’s recommended for older vehicles that you change the fuel filter every 20-30,000 miles, with some modern vehicle filters going without replacement for over 60,000 miles.

Another fact that may change the recommended service interval is the size of the filter. Smaller filters understandably need to be changed more often.

The quickest and easiest way to get an idea of whether your fuel filter is causing a problem is to perform a fuel pressure and volume test.

If the fuel pressure is dropping when the car is accelerating, it suggests that you have low fuel volume caused by a restriction such as a clogged fuel filter or faulty fuel pump.

Verify That Your Fuel Filter Is Actually The Problem

If you find that you’re getting any of the problems listed above, the first thing you should do is make sure it’s actually the filter that’s causing these issues.

So many people will replace the filter without even checking and then wonder why they’re experiencing the same issues even with a new filter.

If your fuel filter has a clear housing, you’ll be able to see the level of dirt inside.

If not, take it between your fingers, covering both ends and shake it side to side before pouring the contents out.

You’ll be able to tell that your fuel filter is a problem because the liquid on one side will come out as clean fuel, the other side will produce a horrible black, sludgy gunk.

Once you’ve confirmed it is the issue, then it makes sense to change it.

How much does a fuel filter change cost?

Getting a mechanic to change your fuel filter could cost you anywhere between $50 and $250. Yes, It’s a relatively easy job, but it still needs to be worth their time.

Many mechanics may lower the cost if you were to get it changed while paying for a routine service or are getting other costly work done at the same time.

The cheapest way to change your fuel filter would be to do it yourself. It’ll cost you $15-$30 and an hour of your time.

With wonderful resources like Google & Youtube, you can search for a tutorial on your exact car and have it changed in no time.

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