How to Change Your Fuel Filter
A clogged fuel filter is as bad as a clogged artery.
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Your car’s engine is sputtering, stalling, or hesitating. After a thorough inspection, you’ve determined the fuel filter is the little bugger screwing it up. Want to replace it? You’ve come to the right place.
The fuel filter plays a vital role in your engine’s operation and longevity ensuring no contaminants and particulate matter, like rust and dirt, enter the fuel system. Most fuel filters are enclosed in outer steel shells with inner paper filters, similar to the design of your car’s air filter.
Replacing a fuel filter isn’t as complicated as it may seem, though like most DIY maintenance jobs, following the right steps is critical to your success and safety. To make things easier, The Drive’s crack How-To team is here to help you change your fuel filter, and get back on the road. Ready?
Estimated Time Needed: One hour
Skill Level: Intermediate
Vehicle System: Fuel
Working on your car can be messy. It can also be dangerous as liquids can be flammable—bye, bye eyebrows, or worse. Here’s what you’ll need to ensure you keep your jeans, shirt, and skin spotless, and your bones fully intact.
- Nitrile gloves (to repel gasoline).
- Long-sleeve shirt to protect your arms.
- Safety glasses.
Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)
You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking, that’s also well-ventilated. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street.
Everything You’ll Need
We’re not psychic, nor are we snooping through your toolbox or garage, so here’s what you’ll need to get the job done.
- Work light
- Drain pan to catch fuel spillage
- Jack stands
- Wheel chock
- Class B fire extinguisher
- New fuel filter
Here’s How To Change Your Fuel Filter
Let’s do this!
- For better clearance, lift the front end of your car with a floor jack, if needed.
- Locate the fuel filter. Check your car’s repair manual if you are unsure where it is.
- Remove fuel pump relay in the fuse box, this will allow you to depressurize the fuel system. The fuse box will be either under the hood or on the firewall inside the cabin. Check your owner’s manual.
- Start the engine and let idle until it stalls. (This may trigger the check engine light.)
- After the engine stalls, crank it for 5 more seconds to release fuel pressure.
- Turn ignition off.
- Disconnect the cable from the car battery's negative terminal. To be extra safe, disconnect the positive terminal as well.
- Place a drain pan under the fuel filter; some vehicles will leak continually until everything is reconnected.
- Use a screwdriver to detach fuel line hose clips; don't kink fuel lines as it could cause leaks later.
- Loosen fuel filter clamp.
- Disconnect fuel line fittings.
- Remove the fuel filter.
- Replace the old filter with the new fuel filter, making sure you install it with the arrow pointed in the correct direction. Check your car’s repair manual if you are unsure.
- Reattach clips.
- Secure clamp.
- Reinstall fuel pump relay fuse.
- Reattach negative terminal.
- Lower the vehicle, if needed.
- Turn ignition to accessory, NOT ON.
- Turn ignition off.
- Turn ignition to accessory again, NOT ON, to bring pressure to the filter and system.
- Check for leaks under the car.
- Start engine. Expect rough idle at first.
- Check for more leaks.
- Take a test drive.
- If everything is a-ok, you’re done.
What Could Cause a Clogged Fuel Filter?
There are a few things that can clog a fuel filter, including rust from somewhere in the fuel system, poorly refined gasoline, dust and debris from the gas pump entering the fuel system, or a faulty fuel filter.
Tips From a Pro
Here are our top pro tips to help you replace your oil filter.
- Make depressurizing the fuel system easier by changing your fuel filter while the gas tank is below ¼ full. The almost-empty system won’t have as much pressure.
- To dispose of the leaked fuel, locate the nearest hazardous waste disposal center.
Since you may not have access to the right tools, we also compiled a list of our best hacks to make your life easier and drain your pocket less.
- Fuel filters aren’t created equal, look through the reviews of filters before buying one.
- Don’t use anything that could cause a spark and ignite fuel vapors (e.g., a garage light with a frayed cable).
How Often Do You Need To Replace Your Fuel Filter?
For new cars, check the owner’s manual for the recommended service interval. Generally, older cars require a new filter every two years or 30,000 miles.
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