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Your car has many components to keep the engine running efficiently. Parts like the fuel pump deliver dinosaur juice to the engine, and the injectors spray the stuff into it. However, that liquid gold has contaminants and dirt in it, which can eventually clog up the engine’s injectors. In that case, it’s a good idea to change your car’s fuel filter when needed.

When should I replace my car’s fuel filter?

A black gas pump where they have not ban the sale of gasoline cars.
Gas pump | Getty Images

According to Family Handyman, your car’s fuel filter “is designed to keep dirt, rust, paint chips and other fuel contaminants from entering the fuel injectors and ultimately harming the engine; experts recommend replacing the fuel filter every 30,000 miles.” If you’re unsure when to change your car’s fuel filter, check the owner’s manual, as it should have the proper maintenance intervals for that part.

Where is the fuel filter located?

In most modern cars, the fuel filter is located in the fuel tank, and it may be integrated into the fuel pump itself. However, its location can vary depending on the make and model of the car. In some vehicles, the pump may be located on the car’s frame and protected by a shield near the fuel tank. Some cars even have two fuel filters, one inside the tank and another along the fuel line.

Symptoms of a failing fuel filter

If your car is showing one of these symptoms, it may be time to replace its fuel filter:

  • The engine doesn’t start: If the filter is filled with debris and dirt, the fuel won’t be able to pass through it, and the engine won’t start.
  • The engine idles roughly: If the filter is clogged up, then the engine could run roughly, especially at lower speeds.
  • The engine stalls when driving
  • The check engine light comes on
  • Poor gas mileage
  • The car produces smoke

Replacing the fuel filter

In some cars, replacing the fuel filter is an easy task with the proper tools since it’s located outside of the tank. If your car’s fuel filter is located inside the tank, then you may want to seek a mechanic’s assistance to replace it. If it is not, here is a brief rundown of the process:

  • Relieve the fuel pressure: Locate the fuse or relay to the car’s fuel pump and disconnect it. Try to start the car; if it doesn’t start or dies suddenly, the fuel pressure is relieved.
  • Find the fuel filter: Consort your car’s owner’s manual or a repair guide to locate the fuel filter.
  • Disconnect the fuel pump: After locating the pump, wear your safety glasses, put the car on ramps (or jack it up), and then disconnect the clamp on one side of the fuel pump.
  • Tilt the pump to one side so that the excess fuel can leak out into a drain pan.
  • Disconnect the other fuel line
  • Install the new fuel pump by connecting the fuel lines and tightening the clamps
  • Reinstall the fuse or relay
  • Start the vehicle and check for leaks and ensure the car is running smoothly

Your car’s fuel pump does need to be changed, but the intervals can vary depending on the make and model. If the owner’s manual says to replace it, then have it done. If not, you could end up stranded or needing to replace other engine parts in the future.


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