Fuel Filter Buyer's Guide
- A fuel filter acts as a screen in the fuel line, protecting your car’s engine from contamination due to dirt, debris, and rust particles.
- Fuel filter location: between the fuel tank and the engine (inside the fuel tank, underneath the vehicle, or both). In some cases, it is part of the fuel pump assembly.
- There are several ways your fuel may get contaminated without you knowing. It could be a result of using a contaminated jerry can or because of a faulty filter system at your gas station.
- Clean fuel is important because any kind of contamination can significantly reduce its combustibility, resulting in poor fuel economy.
- There are two types of fuel filters according to design: spin-on and cartridge filters.
- Fuel filter costs will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, model, and make. OE replacement filters will typically cost you anywhere between $4 to $312. They are sold individually, in sets of two to six, or as part of a kit.
- On average, this part is changed every 40,000 to 80,000 miles. Vehicles running on diesel will require fuel filter replacement more frequently, approximately every 20,000 miles.
- Signs of a bad fuel filter: difficulty starting the vehicle, loss of power, poor idling, engine stalling under strain, and random engine misfires.
What is a fuel filter?
A fuel filter acts as a screen in the fuel line, protecting your car’s engine from contamination due to dirt, debris, and rust particles. Most internal combustion engines come with one or two fuel filters in the form of a cartridge that contains pleated and permeable filter paper. The filter medium is designed to be porous enough to let fuel through under pressure, yet dense enough to block harmful contaminants.
Fuel filter location
The fuel filter is located between your car’s fuel tank and engine. It may be located under the car (connected to the fuel lines coming from the fuel tank), but it is typically found near or inside the fuel tank, right by the opening of the fuel feed line.
Some vehicle models have two filters: a pre-filter and the main filter. The pre-filter is installed nearer to the fuel tank and screens for large foreign matter. The main filter is found closer to the feed pump where it captures fine contaminants.
There are some vehicles with fuel filters that are integrated into the fuel pump assembly. These are considered non-serviceable and are not the type that requires periodic replacement. These are only replaced when a new pump is installed.
How does a fuel filter work?
The fuel filter protects critical engine components from foreign substances like dirt, debris, and rust that may have found their way into the fuel tank.
The filtration process starts when the fuel pump produces suction that pushes fuel through the filter inlet and into the filter case. Inside the case is filter paper where foreign matter such as dust and moisture are trapped. The filtered fuel exits through the filter outlet and goes straight into the feed & supply pump which delivers clean fuel to the engine via the fuel injection nozzle.
There are several ways your fuel may get contaminated without you knowing. It could be a result of using a contaminated jerry can or because of a faulty filter system at your gas station. Clean fuel is important because any kind of contamination can significantly reduce its combustibility, resulting in poor fuel economy. A fuel filter that’s in good working condition is critical to maintaining the health of your vehicle’s fuel injection system.
Types of fuel filters
There are two types of fuel filters according to design: spin-on and cartridge filters.
Spin-on fuel filter
A spin-on fuel filter features a full metal case with thread at the bottom which allows the entire thing to be screwed into place. Replacing this type of filter requires the entire component to be swapped out.
A cartridge filter is a more environmentally-friendly alternative because instead of a full case, only the filter medium needs to be changed during replacement.
How long do fuel filters last?
Over time, the fuel filter will become less permeable and will need to be changed. You may refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for the recommended schedule of a fuel filter replacement. On average, this part is changed every 40,000 to 80,000 miles. Vehicles running on diesel will require fuel filter replacement more frequently, approximately every 20,000 miles, because this type of fuel is less refined compared to gasoline. Replacing the fuel filter at the recommended intervals can help you avoid common problems with this component in the long run.
Bad fuel filter symptoms
So, how do you know if your fuel filter needs changing? Here are the signs of a bad fuel filter that you should look for.
Difficulty starting the vehicle
A fuel filter that’s partially or completely clogged can make it more difficult to start your engine or it may stall immediately after starting.
An engine that’s starved of fuel because of a clogged filter will cause your vehicle to feel shaky during idling. This is because the pump is attempting to draw more fuel from the tank and through the fuel lines to no avail.
Lack of engine power
A clogged fuel filter can deprive the engine of its fuel supply, resulting in a noticeable loss of power. Engine output will be restricted by the ECU to protect the engine, and the Check Engine Light will be illuminated.
Engine stalling under strain
A bad fuel filter can make it difficult for your car to accelerate under heavy load. A good example of this is engine stuttering or hesitation while driving uphill.
Clogging in the fuel filter can restrict the amount of fuel that is delivered to the fuel injectors. It can also lead to inconsistent fuel pressure, resulting in random engine misfires.
Fuel filter replacement
A dirty or clogged fuel filter is one of the most common problems in the fuel delivery system. It is also one of the first things that a mechanic checks when your car is experiencing performance issues. Thankfully, it’s a part that won’t take much time or money to replace.
A mechanic typically checks for a faulty fuel filter by doing a fuel pressure test near the fuel injectors. These pressure readings are compared to factory specs for the vehicle model. Lower pressure readings are a strong sign of a dirty or clogged fuel filter.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Fuel Filter
10 to 20 bucks is enough to get you a reliable fuel filter; a small price to pay for superb vehicle performance. Try not to exceed this price range as not to overpay.
For diesel engines, you have the option of getting a filter with a bowl-like design that collects water at its bottom. You may also want to get a fuel filter with a water sensor that signals the engine control unit (ECU) if the water reaches its warning level. Your standard OEM filter would certainly do the trick, but we recommend this filter type for diesel engines.
How much does a fuel filter replacement cost?
Fuel filter costs will vary depending on your vehicle’s specific year, model, and make. OE replacement filters will typically cost you anywhere between $4 to $312. These are sold individually, in sets of two to six, or as part of a kit. You have the option to get a direct-fit replacement or a universal-fit fuel filter that may require minor modifications.
Finding the right fit
Use our website’s built-in vehicle selector to find the right fuel filter for your vehicle. Just plug in your vehicle’s year, make, and model to narrow down the results to all compatible parts.
Quick Steps to Fixing your Filter
Remember: you must replace your fuel filter at least every 30,000 miles to provide your internal combustion engine with the proper maintenance it deserves. However, your stock fuel filter can become clogged even before you ride hits 30,000 miles.
If you experience stalling and poor acceleration, then you probably have a clogged fuel filter. The best way to check if your filter needs a replacement is by taking it out and blowing through it. If there’s resistance when you do so, then it’s probably dirty and in need of a substitute. An aftermarket fuel filter is sure to get your engine back into fighting form. Installing one shouldn’t be very difficult, most especially if you follow these easy steps.
Difficulty level: Moderate
- Protective Gloves and Glasses
- Small Screwdriver
- Floor Jack and Stand
- Wrench Set
Step 1: Safety first, guys. Be sure to wear some protective gloves and glasses to ensure that you’re safe throughout your DIY job.
Step 2: Elevate your vehicle using your floor jack and stands. It’s recommended not to rely on a single jack as this can be very dangerous.
Step 3: Locate your fuel filter. Filter location depends on the vehicle’s make and model, but one common location is near the fuel tank underneath the chassis. If you have trouble finding the fuel filter, consult your vehicle’s manual or your local repair shop.
Step 4: Most fuel filters have plastic covering them to prevent damage; use a screwdriver or wrench to remove this covering.
Step 5: Remove the fuel line connected to the fuel filter. If you fuel line makes use of links or brackets, then use your screwdrivers or wrenches to disconnect them.
Step 6: Remove the fuel filter from the assembly; be sure to keep track of its orientation.
Step 7: Install your new fuel filter and make sure it’s in the same position as your previous filter.
Step 8: Reattach your fuel line and protective covers.
- Do not over-tighten your fuel filter because this could cause damage and leakage. Instead, tighten it by hand and leave it as is.
- When it comes to certain makes and models, they may require special tools for fuel filter installation. If you do not have these tools, consult with your vehicle’s manufacturing brand.
- Make sure the engine is cool when you do your repairs. This is to guarantee your utmost safety.