How to change your fuel filter

If your car’s engine sputters, stalls, or hesitates and you can’t remember the last time you replaced your fuel filter, this could be the problem. Changing a fuel filter built into a car’s gas tank can be a bit of a hassle. But if you’re dealing with one that’s further down the fuel line and can come out on its own, you’re probably looking at a fairly simple swap.

The fuel filter plays a vital role in the operation and longevity of your engine by ensuring that no contaminants and particulate matter, such as 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 sounds, although like most DIY maintenance jobs, following the right steps is critical to your success and safety. To make things easier, The reader The Crack How-To Team is here to help you change your fuel filter and get back on the road. Ready?

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  • Estimated time needed: One o’clock
  • Competence level: Intermediate or novice (depending on the car)
  • Vehicle system: Fuel


Working on your car can be messy. It can also be dangerous as liquids can be flammable – goodbye, goodbye eyebrows, or worse. Here’s what you’ll need to make sure you keep your jeans, shirt and skin spotless, and your bones perfectly intact.

  • Nitrile gloves (to repel gasoline).
  • Long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms.
  • Protective glasses.

By organizing your tools and equipment so that everything is easily accessible, you will save precious minutes waiting for your handyman child or your four-legged helper to bring you things.

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 are not violating any codes when using the street.


Everything you will need

We’re not mediums, and we’re not snooping around your toolbox or garage either, so here’s what you’ll need to get the job done.

Tool list

List of pieces

  • New fuel filter
  • New fuel lines, if used are ratty.
The fuel filter on a Nissan 300ZX Z31 is fairly easy to access. Andrew P. Collins

Here’s how to change your fuel filter

  1. For better clearance, raise the front of your car with a floor jack, if necessary.
  2. Locate the fuel filter. Check your car’s repair manual if you don’t know where it is.
  3. Remove the fuel pump relay in the fuse box, this will allow you to depressurize the fuel system. The fuse box will either be under the hood or on the firewall inside the cabin. Check your owner’s manual.
  4. Start the engine and let it idle until it stalls. (This may trigger the check engine light.)
  5. Once the engine has stalled, crank it for an additional 5 seconds to release the fuel pressure.
  6. Switch off the contact.
  7. Disconnect the cable from the negative terminal of the car battery. For added safety, also disconnect the positive terminal.
  8. Place a drain pan under the fuel filter; some vehicles will continually leak until everything is reconnected.
  9. Use a screwdriver to loosen the fuel line hose clamps; do not bend the fuel lines as this may cause leaks later.
  10. Loosen the fuel filter clamp.
  11. Disconnect the fuel line fittings.
  12. Remove the fuel filter.
  13. Replace the old filter with the new fuel filter, making sure to install it with the arrow pointing in the correct direction. Check your car’s repair manual if you’re not sure.
  14. Reattach the clips.
  15. Secure clamp.
  16. Reinstall the fuel pump relay fuse.
  17. Reconnect the negative terminal.
  18. Lower the vehicle, if necessary.
  19. Turn ignition to accessory, NOT to ON.
  20. Switch off the ignition.
  21. Turn accessory ignition back on, NOT ON, to bring pressure to filter and system.
  22. Check for leaks under the car.
  23. Start the engine. Expect a rough idle at first.
  24. Check for more leaks.
  25. Take a test drive.
  26. If everything is A-OK, you are done.

Tips and tricks

You can probably remove an inline fuel filter with any screwdriver you have and your bare hands. But you might find that a ridiculously small Phillips screwdriver (like this one) and a pipe splitter tool (like this one) can make your life easier.

Be prepared for gasoline to spill out of the old filter when you remove it – handle it with care.

As you remove the fuel lines from the filter nipples, you will want to turn and pull (not just pull) carefully to break the filter lines.

You can never have too many towels for this job. Andrew P. Collins

When it comes time to install a new filter, be sure to double check that you are placing it the right way round. Almost all should have an arrow and an indicator showing which way the fuel should flow. It is, of course, from the tank to the engine.

Finally, once everything is buttoned up and you’re sure the lines are secure, you’re going to want to prime it before you try to start the car. On my Z, this was accomplished by turning the key to the on (not starting) position about four times before throwing it. Your car probably works the same way.

If you’re lucky enough to have a buddy helping you out, make sure they’re watching the lines you just installed for leaks. If you are alone, get out right away and inspect while the car is idling. If you have any drips, check your work and make sure everything is tight.

Many people advocate replacing the fuel lines if you removed the filter. You will have to make up your own mind based on your age and appearance. But if they are suspicious, we recommend changing them. A fuel leak, especially in the engine compartment, is a serious problem that you want to avoid.

What could cause a clogged fuel filter?

Rust from somewhere in the fuel system, using poorly refined cheap gasoline from a sketchy pump, or letting a car sit for months can ultimately clog your fuel filter. . But even in perfect conditions, they have a limited lifespan and eventually need to be replaced. Generally speaking, it is common to replace them every two years.

Here’s a great visual from Youtuber Chris Fix on how much of an obstacle an old filter can be to your car’s fuel flow.

Advice from a pro

Here are our top pro tips to help you replace your oil filter.

  • Make it easier to depressurize the fuel system by changing your fuel filter when the gas tank is less than ¼ full. The nearly empty system will not have as much pressure.
  • To dispose of leaked fuel, locate the nearest hazardous waste disposal center.

Tips for everyday life

Since you might not have access to the right tools, we’ve also compiled a list of our top hacks to make your life easier and drain your pocket less.

  • Fuel filters are not created equal, check filter reviews before purchasing one.
  • Do not use anything that can cause a spark and ignite fuel vapors (for example, a garage light with a frayed wire).

How often should you replace your fuel filter?

For new cars, check the owner’s manual for the recommended maintenance interval. Generally, older cars require a new filter every two years or 30,000 miles.

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