Your car’s fuel filter isn’t a component you deal with regularly. In fact, it’s easy to ignore.
It’s hidden within your vehicle’s fuel supply system. It’s one of the easiest to overlook, yet also one of the least expensive parts you can maintain.
Most modern day vehicles have two fuel filters. The first is located in the fuel tank, often referred to as a strainer. The other is in the fuel line.
These fuel filters are made from plastic, metal, or coated pleated paper. Fuel filters are designed to trap dirt, debris, rust, and other impurities from the fuel supply, straining it out before moving to the rest of the fuel system. It protects the engine and fuel injectors from harmful particles.
These fuel filters are built with incredibly tight materials to block impurities from moving into the fuel supply. This is critical because modern engines are fine-tuned and can be damaged by even minor intolerances. Any foreign particles that do make their way past the fuel filter have the potential to cause blockages and damage to the engine.
The cost of the fuel filter is minimal compared with the potential damage it can cause.
How do I know if my fuel filter is clogged?
Like other parts and systems on your vehicle, a clogged fuel filter will give our warning signs when it’s compromised. This is where paying attention can help save time and money on potential repairs.
Poor engine performance – poor engine performance is especially noticeable when you push your vehicle while accelerating, or when you add more weight to your load. Do you notice hesitations, surges, or sputtering? This is often caused by fuel restriction. If the fuel supply can’t get through the fuel filter as designed, it will impact every aspect of the way your engine performs.
Trouble starting the car – a clogged fuel filter rarely makes it to the point where it causes problems when starting the car, but if you leave it unchecked, it could be part of the problem. A clogged fuel filter causes erratic flow of gasoline, which results in poor engine performance.
Misfire or rough idle – when driving on a clogged fuel filter, it can lower fuel pressure enough to cause the engine to misfire. You may also notice this in poor gas mileage. If you leave your car idling, it may feel a bit rough, or even cause the check engine light to pop on. If it gets to the point of triggering the sensor, it’s time for a visit to the local repair shop.
Stalling – if your car repeatedly stalls out while you’re moving throughout the day, it’s a sign of a clogged fuel filter. As a clog worsens, it impacts the delivery system of fuel. When fuel can’t make it through the system as desired, it impacts the way your car handles.
How long will fuel filters last?
In general, manufacturers recommend changing out a fuel filter about every 30,000 miles. Of course, it depends on your vehicle. Check your owner’s manual for more details.
This is where maintaining a log can help you with early maintenance. As you get closer to the 30,000 mark, you can start watching for potential problems. Or simply bring your vehicle in for inspection and replace the fuel filter at the first sign of a problem. Being proactive will always benefit you, and prevent problems while driving down the road.
Can you clean a fuel filter?
Many different appliances you use in your daily life have filters that can be cleaned instead of replaced. With a fuel filter, they are made from a thin plastic or paper material that is easily compromised as it’s used. While you will find search results online that direct you how to clean it. For optimal results, it’s better to replace it.
Some fuel filters have metal elements that will direct you in ways to clean it. But the majority of fuel filters are designed to be used once and then replaced.
Changing a fuel filter will impact fuel efficiency
Today’s gas prices are climbing higher and higher. If you’re tired of watching your gas payment take a bigger bite out of your budget, fuel efficiency may be something to think about.
A clogged fuel figure equates to poor fuel efficiency.
A clogged fuel filter allows impurities to flow from the gasoline you pump at the station to all of the various components in the engine compartment. Clogged fuel filters eventually cause engine damage, prevent smooth drivability, and decrease fuel efficiency.
When trying to make the most of every dollar you put into the tank, servicing your fuel filter first will keep the costs down overall.
While manufacturers suggest replacing it every 30,000 miles, you can make it a part of your regular maintenance schedule, replacing it every other year.
Pay attention to how you drive. The more strenuous your drive is on the engine, the more maintenance visits you should schedule. If you do a lot of hauling, drive gravel or dirt roads frequently, or push your vehicle more in your daily commute, staying proactive will ensure the fuel filter stays cleaner and your engine stays healthier.
What fuel filter is best for your vehicle?
Not every vehicle uses the same type of fuel filter. Using your manufacturer’s information will point you in the right direction.
Fuel filters include:
- Primary fuel filter – used commonly in diesel fuel systems
- Canister fuel filter – shaped like a canister with a filtration system inside
- Cartridge fuel filter – they include a cartridge containing the filtration media, structural components, and the fuel filtering parts
- Spin-on fuel filter – uses threads to attach to the engine compartment
- Inline fuel filter – mounted on the fuel line between the gas tank and the engine
- In-tank fuel filter – mounted inside the gas tank
That’s why most vehicle owners leave it to the experts.
If you’re having problems with your vehicle’s performance and you suspect it may be a clogged fuel filter, your best course of action is to schedule a maintenance visit.
We can assess the situation, find the problem, and help get you back on the road as quickly as possible.
What other questions can we answer for you?