What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Fuel Filter? - 5 Signs That You Need a New Fuel Filter

 

  • Fuel filters typically have a lifespan of 30,000 miles for older cars, while newer models may offer a longer lifespan.
  • It’s important to know what to look for to identify a bad fuel filter because eventually if left unchanged, it can result in the car being unable to start. 
  • If you have a late-model vehicle, the fuel filter might be located in the gas tank and require professional replacement. 

 

If your car isn’t running correctly, it might be time for a new fuel filter. Over time, this filter becomes clogged with dirt and debris and can restrict how much fuel reaches your car’s engine. As a result, the engine may run roughly or your vehicle may lose power when you put it under extreme pressure, such as going up a steep hill. You may also experience random engine issues or quirks, depending on how badly the filter needs to be replaced. 

Before you start tearing apart your vehicle and spending a small fortune on replacement parts, get to know the symptoms of a bad fuel filter because this is a much cheaper and easier replacement to make. If you’ve never changed your fuel filter, it’s probably a good place to start. Keep reading to learn everything that you need to know. 

What Is the Fuel Filter?

The fuel filter is a small part that is constructed of permeable material that is pleated to catch dirt and debris. The material is designed specifically to allow fuel to flow through the filter under high pressure but to prevent dirt and other particles from getting into the engine. Over time, the filter can become clogged with residue or dirt and debris build-up, which results in a loss of fuel getting to the engine, and therefore leads to poor performance and other issues. 

In newer vehicles, the fuel filter may be much larger, and it may be housed inside the gas tank. These newer filter styles are supposed to be designed to last the life of the vehicle but typically could stand to be changed around 100,000 miles. This is one situation where you might need to consult with a trusted local mechanic to determine whether your filter requires replacement. 

How Often Should I Change My Fuel Filter?

You will want to keep the maintenance-recommended fuel filter changing schedule in mind. For older vehicles that have a standard fuel filter, that schedule is typically around 30,000 miles, or 50,000 kilometres. Diesel engines and vehicles driven in extreme conditions may need more frequent changes. As mentioned, late-model vehicles can often go much longer between fuel filter changes when they are located in the gas tank, although most will require at least one change around 100,000 miles or so (approx. 160,000 kilometres). 

Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Fuel Filter

Many symptoms might occur that point to a bad fuel filter. To save yourself some hassle, here are some things to look for:

  • Check Engine Light: The list of reasons why your check engine light could be on is nearly endless. However, it could be a fuel filter warning if your system has a fuel pressure monitoring system. As always, when your check engine light comes on, you should take your vehicle to be scanned for an accurate diagnosis. 
  • Decreased Power: As the engine isn’t getting enough fuel when the fuel filter is dirty or clogged, you will usually notice an overall lack of power. That could increase with acceleration or when driving in extreme conditions and even lead to a total stall out as fuel flow cannot reach the engine adequately. 
  • Engine Misfires: Shaking, sputtering, or hesitation could all be signs of a clogged fuel filter. Again, this is a situation where the engine isn’t getting enough fuel, and it may misfire, stutter, or hesitate during acceleration as a result. 
  • Difficulty Starting: A hard start is often one of the first indicators that there is an issue with your filter. When the fuel flow is inconsistent or restricted, the vehicle cannot get the fuel that it needs to start. If yours has never been changed, this could be the culprit. In severe cases, a dirty fuel filter could eventually lead to no-starts. 
  • Fuel Pump Damage: If you’ve waited entirely too long to change the fuel filter, there may be damage caused to your fuel pump. This happens because the clogged filter results in a lot of pressure being put on the pump unnecessarily, and that pressure can lead to damage over time. 

Can I Do the Job Myself?

Many people appreciate being able to handle simple vehicle maintenance on their own. The fuel filter is something that you can change yourself, provided that it is in an accessible location. Just remember that the fuel system is under pressure and you’ll want to take extra care when removing your fuel lines to change the filter. 

Some fuel filters are located under the car along the fuel line between the engine and the gas tank. These are relatively simple to get to and require little effort to change. In some vehicles, the filter may be housed in the engine compartment, and again should be relatively easy to access. If your car has a fuel filter located in the petrol tank, you’ll need to enlist the help of a professional mechanic to get the job done. 

If you do replace your fuel filter, you might find that you have to bleed the system or prime your engine to regenerate the fuel flow. This isn’t the case for every vehicle, and some will require a hand pump while others will have an automated sequence in place. Check your owner’s manual or watch a quick video online to see where your filter is and how to get the fuel flow back to adequate levels after it is changed. 

The Bottom Line

A fuel filter is a relatively simple, inexpensive part to replace on your car. Late-model vehicles will not require as many replacements, so the hassle and expense of having to see a mechanic for the work is not too daunting for vehicle owners. If you are going to change your fuel filter (and you should regularly), keep the information here in mind. That way, you can guarantee that the work is done right and that your car is running at its best condition at all times. Sometimes, people jump to expensive repair conclusions when their car is acting up when the answer is a simple solution like replacing the fuel filter.

When you need OEM replacement fuel filters, count on Autofixa for all of your needs. We have a selection of replacement parts and maintenance accessories to take care of your car with genuine products.

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