Don’t Get Stranded: How Often to Change Fuel Filter

Don’t Get Stranded: How Often to Change Fuel Filter
This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

There are many contaminants in the air that might pose a risk to the fuel system. And this is why the fuel filter is a crucial part of the fuel system. It protects the fuel injectors and engine by screening the debris present in gasoline or diesel fuel.

The fuel filter serves as a barrier to the countless particles in the air.  If these impurities get to the engine, they can adversely affect the performance of your engine and cause severe problems like clogging the nozzles. Here we will take a look at how often to change fuel filter in your vehicle to ensure it runs smoothly and properly.

Where is the fuel filter located? 

The location of the fuel filter depends on the model of the car. The fuel filter of most car models is located between the fuel pump and the engine. Most modern vehicles have their fuel filters in the fuel tank. They usually have some fuel pump assemblies integrating the filter inside them.

Older vehicles have fuel filters underneath the body, connected to the fuel line. Some have their fuel filter in the engine bay, where it removes impurities just before the fuel enters the engine’s components.

The fuel filter location depends on the vehicle’s year of manufacture, make, model, and fuel system type. Regardless, locating your fuel filter is easy. You only need to follow the fuel supply line. If it does not lead you to the fuel filter, your filter is in the fuel tank.

Types of Fuel Filters

The type of fuel filter in a vehicle depends on the vehicle’s make, model, type of fuel system, and year of manufacture. Here are the types of fuel filters.

  1. Primary fuel filter. This filter is common in diesel systems. It is found on the fuel pump’s vacuum side. The primary fuel filters out most impurities and protects the pump from particles that may damage or wear out the pump.

Primary fuel filters are less restrictive. They precede secondary fuel filters, and they only filter relatively larger impurities.

  1. Secondary fuel filter. They are also frequently used in diesel systems. Unlike primary fuel filters, these filters are more restrictive. They filter the finer particles in the fuel. They are located on the fuel pump’s pressure side.

Some fuel systems, mainly diesel fuel systems, use primary and secondary fuel filters. Gasoline fuel systems usually use one filter. Gasoline is cleaner than diesel, so it does not need the double filtration process diesel does.

  1. Inline fuel filter. They are located along the fuel lines, between the engine and the gas tank. Because of their location, they are usually found underneath vehicles. The filters have an inlet and an outlet. The two openings are connected to the tubes or hoses that make the fuel line.
  2. In-tank fuel filter. These modern fuel filters are found in the fuel tank, and most modern vehicles have this type of fuel filter. The filter may be separated or integrated into the in-tank fuel system. However, this type of filter is inaccessible, making it difficult to service.
  3. Cartridge fuel filter. These filters have a cartridge comprising the structural components, filtration media, and other vital filter parts. These filters do not have an outer shell. The plastic or metal housing that is often a part of filters is a different component in this filter.
  4. Spin-on fuel filter. These filters are usually found in the engine compartment of the motor vehicle, and they are effortless to replace.
Car mechanic replace the fuel filter

How to Know When You Need to Replace Your Fuel Filter

  1. Hard Starting. A dirty fuel filter can increase fuel flow resulting in prolonged cranking before your engine starts. If the filter isn’t changed soon, it will result in a reduced fuel efficiency. Your car may not start and you may need to visit a repair shop.
  2. Stalling. One of the warning signs you’ll get when you have a clogged fuel filter and inefficient fuel delivery is the stalling of your vehicle. Depending on the severity of the clog, your vehicle may start right up. As the clog worsens and fuel flow becomes erratic, stalling increases and worsens on acceleration.
  3. Misfire or rough idle. A fuel filter that needs to be replaced will prevent the engine from getting enough fuel. This implies that your engine will be getting less amounts of fuel, and the low fuel pressure will lead to an engine misfire. This will also result in rough idling and might cause the check engine light to come on.
  4. Noises from the fuel pump. Sudden, loud, unusual noises are an indication that something is wrong, and that you probably have a clogged fuel filter.
  5. Failure of the components of the fuel system. Trying to push fuel through a bad fuel filter could result in the premature failure of electric fuel pumps, inhibiting vehicle performance.

How Often Should You Change Your Fuel Filter?

The fuel filter is a vital part of your car. It bars impurities in the gasoline or diesel from entering the engine. Keeping your fuel filter clean ensures the excellent performance of the engine. However, many car owners do not know when to change their fuel filters. How often you should change your fuel filter depends on the age of your vehicle.

Depending on the year of manufacture, your fuel filter may need to be changed every 25,000 to 30,000 miles. Or once every year and a half to two years. Modern vehicles have fuel filters that can last up to 60,000 miles.

If you use your car a great deal on unpaved roads, the dust and debris may clog up your fuel filter more often. Using your car under such conditions may require you to change your filter about once every year. When minor problems like a bad fuel filter are caught early, they won’t escalate into major problems needing expensive repairs.

You can find the recommended mileage for your fuel filter in your vehicle owner’s manual. You may consult it to see how often you should replace your fuel filter. Unless you have replaced a fuel filter before, having a repair manual you can consult helps.

What is The Lifespan of a Fuel Filter?

Your vehicle’s fuel filter serves the essential purpose of ensuring that the fuel transmitted to the engine is clean. It also protects your vehicle’s fuel injectors. Thanks to the action of the fuel filters in removing debris and contaminants from fuel, the fuel injectors do not get clogged with time. When you have a clogged filter, the correct fuel amount cannot get to your engine for seamless operation.

A vehicle’s fuel system is more vital than you would think. Without a well-functional fuel system, the vehicle would be able to run. Fuel is necessary to operate, and correct maintenance is needed to ensure the fuel system continues serving you to its full potential. The filter is among the components you should regularly inspect and replace if necessary.

Therefore, how long will your fuel filter last? There is no definite answer as to when your fuel filter should be replaced since it varies from one make and model of vehicle to another, your driving habits, and the vehicle’s age. A great rule of thumb is at least once in two years or after 30,000 miles. However, mechanics have a way of telling if your fuel filter requires replacement. They do this by carrying out a fuel system pressure examination. The test can tell whether or not your system is operating at the right pressure. If the pressure is not right, the advice is to replace your fuel filter.

After you have established that the fuel filter is faulty, seek a mechanic’s help in replacing it. Also, ensure you check with your mechanic to establish the ideal fuel filter for the vehicle.

Primary Indicators to Lookout For

  • You experience challenges trying to start the vehicle

This can be due to the clogging up of the filter. Eventually, the vehicle might start, but if it takes some time, it indicates that fuel is having a problem trying to get into the engine via the filter.

  • Your truck, SUV, or car cannot start entirely

However, the fuel filters are not always to blame for this, as there could be secondary triggers such as a malfunctioning fuel pump.

  • Excessive idling vibration

Some moderate vibration is common with many vehicles. However, as you wait at a stoplight or are in a stop-and-go rush hour traffic and the idling is rough, or you feel the SUV lurching, it could mean that the fuel line has a clog, probably at the fuel filter.

  • Rough cruising at slow speeds

Professionals say that a steady cruise on the highway followed by challenges at reduced speeds is usually an indicator of fuel filter clogs. Highway speeds need a heightened fuel flow rate, which could conceal the issue. Reduced speed uses less, though clogged filters reveal themselves at a slow rate.

  • Car shutting down as you drive

Ignoring the signs listed here could lead to shutting off your vehicle, more so when you require it the most. Neglecting the symptoms could also lead to injury or damage to your vehicle.

If you realize these signs, it would be best to seek the assistance of your mechanic in changing the old filter. How easy the process flows will depend on the location of the fuel filter in the vehicle. For older models, you will find the engine and gas tank filter. You can easily identify it by following the fuel supply line. Typically, it is fixed to your vehicle’s firewall or below the rear side of the vehicle near the fuel tank. Newer vehicle models often have fuel filters in the fuel tank, making them difficult to replace.

A malfunctioning fuel filter damages the engine and may leave the vehicle unusable. An expert mechanic can easily replace the fuel filter though you still have the option of doing it yourself.

Fuel Filter Self-Servicing

It can be challenging to get to the fuel filter in the hood of your car and check its state. Additionally, a visual inspection does not provide details of the filter’s internal condition. They would be better off replacing the filter when it requires servicing. Nonetheless, you may require a replacement more frequently if your vehicle has little to no service history.

Most manufacturers recommend changing the filter after intervals of between 20,000 and 150,000 miles. However, the recommendation varies from manufacturer to manufacturer – check the owner’s handbook for your model’s recommendation. Through a pressure test, you see the amount of PSI your fuel pump produces at the fuel rail. Faulty filters reduce this pressure.

Final Thoughts

We highly suggest you constantly carry out preventive maintenance checks on your vehicle. Don’t hesitate to have a professional mechanic look at your vehicle if you notice unusual signs. Many vehicles have sensors to let you know when something is wrong with your fuel system. Watch out for the Malfunction Indicator Lamp or Check Engine Light.


Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox every month.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.