How Often to Change Fuel Filter

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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.

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.

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