We’ve got good news—most vehicles built within the last 10 to 20 years do not have a serviceable fuel filter. Instead, the filter is part of the fuel pump module located in the fuel tank. This type of fuel filter should (in theory) last the life of the vehicle, which means you shouldn’t have to replace it on a regular basis (yay!).
But if you have an older car, it probably has an external fuel filter that requires routine service. You can determine when and if your car’s fuel filter requires replacement by consulting the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. You’ll find the schedule in the back of your owner’s manual.
Okay, let’s say you checked and your car does have a serviceable fuel filter. And according to the maintenance schedule, the filter is due for replacement.
Is the job something you can do yourself? Let’s find out.
Fuel Filter Replacement: How-To
The fuel filter does what its name implies: It filters fuel coming from the fuel tank to prevent contaminants from reaching the fuel injectors. Some serviceable fuel filters are located underneath the vehicle, in series with the fuel line, while others are located in the engine compartment.
Different automakers use different methods to secure the fuel filter to the fuel line. Examples include (but are not limited to): flare nuts, quick-connect fittings, and hose clamps.
It’s also worth noting that diesel fuel filters (and the methods for replacing them) are quite different from the filters on gas-powered vehicles.
In this article, we’re only going to discuss fuel filter replacement in a gasoline fuel system.
Tools Needed to Replace a Fuel Filter
The tools needed to replace a fuel filter will vary, depending on what type of car you have.
In general, however, you’ll need:
- Fluid catch pan
- Fuel pressure gauge (optional)
- Protective gloves
- Jack and jack stands (some vehicles)
- Ratchet set (ratchet, sockets, and extensions)
- Repair manual or access to a repair database
- Safety glasses
- Wheel chocks
Because the method of securing the fuel filter to the fuel line varies by vehicle, usually, you will also need one or more of the following:
- Flare nut wrenches
- Fuel line disconnect tool
- Pick or small screwdriver
Fuel Filter Replacement Instructions
Before we begin, keep in mind—all vehicles are different. The information below is generic and for entertainment and educational purposes only. Be sure to follow the repair information for your specific application.
Repair manuals, such as those from Chilton, are useful, but a subscription to a repair database is even better. ALLDATA and Mitchell 1 both have single-vehicle subscriptions for DIYers that provide detailed factory repair information.
You can learn more about accessing quality repair information in this article.
Warning: Fuel is flammable. If you decide to tackle this job yourself, make sure to take the necessary precautions. It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand.
Fuel Filter Removal:
- Put on your safety glasses and protective gloves.
- Locate the fuel filter.
- If the filter is located somewhere on the undercarriage, safely raise and support the vehicle using a jack and jack stands. Set the parking brake and chock the wheels.
- Relieve the fuel system pressure.
In many cases, you can do this by removing the fuel pump fuse or relay, then running the vehicle until it dies from a lack of fuel.
Another method involves attaching a fuel pressure gauge to the test port on the fuel rail (on vehicles so equipped). Use the gauge to vent fuel from the rail into a fuel catch pan. Make sure the engine is off when performing this procedure.
It’s a good idea to consult a repair manual or a repair database to determine the correct pressure relief method for your application.
Warning: You must relieve the fuel system pressure before servicing any part of the fuel system, including the fuel filter. Failure to do so can result in personal injury.
- Place a fluid catch pan under the fuel filter. Fuel will come out, so be prepared.
- The fuel filter may be secured to the line/hose by flare nuts, quick-connect fittings, or clamps. Here are the methods for undoing each of these types of couplings:
Flare nuts: Hold the nut on the fuel filter with one flare nut wrench. Then, turn the nut on the fuel line (counterclockwise) with the other flare nut wrench. Repeat this step on both sides of the fuel filter.
Quick-connect fittings: First, use a pick or small screwdriver to remove any clip (s) or retainer (s) as needed. Then use the special disconnect tool to remove the fuel lines on each side of the filter.
Rubber hoses and clamps: As was mentioned, some fuel filters have a rubber hose (rather than a metal line) attached to both ends. With this design, simply use a screwdriver to loosen the hose clamp, then wiggle the hose off of the filter by hand.
- Use a ratchet and socket to remove any fasteners holding the fuel filter bracket or retaining clamp in place.
- Remove the fuel filter from the vehicle.
Fuel Filter Installation:
- Compare the new fuel filter to the old fuel filter to ensure that both are the same design.
- Mount the fuel filter in the vehicle. Use a ratchet and socket to tighten down any fasteners holding the fuel filter bracket or retaining clamp in place.
- Reinstall the lines or hoses onto the fuel filter by hand.
Note: If the new filter has an arrow on it, make sure that the arrow is pointing toward the front of the vehicle.
- Secure the fuel filter to the fuel lines by doing one of the following:
Flare nuts: Hold the nut on the fuel filter with one flare nut wrench. Then, turn the nut on the fuel line (clockwise) with the other wrench. Repeat this step on both sides of the fuel filter.
Quick-connect fittings: Push the end of the fuel filter into the quick connect fitting. You’ll know the filter is secure when you hear it click into place. Reinstall any clip (s) and or retainer (s) as needed. Repeat the process on the other end of the filter.
Rubber hoses and clamps: Push the rubber hose down on to the filter, then secure it in place with the clamp. Repeat this step on both sides of the fuel filter.
- Restore fuel pressure by reinstalling the fuse or relay as needed.
- Safely remove the jack stands and lower the vehicle.
- Start the engine and make sure that there aren’t any fuel leaks. If any leaks are seen, shut the vehicle off immediately. Do not drive it until the leaks are fixed.
Helpful Fuel Pump Replacement Videos
To give you a better idea of the steps outlined above, we’ve included some helpful videos that demonstrate fuel filter replacement.
How to Remove a Fuel Filter (Flare Nuts)
How to Remove a Fuel Filter (Quick-Connect Fittings)
How to Remove a Fuel Filter (Rubber Hose and Clamps)
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic.