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Clogged Fuel Filter: How to Know its Time for a New Filter

The fuel system in your vehicle is made up of several components, and if any single part of the system is disrupted your car may not start. The car’s fuel filter prevents debris and dirt from entering the fuel system. Over time, however, the fuel filter will become clogged, according to eHow. Damage can be done to your fuel pump if a clogged fuel filter is left for too long before being replaced. Here’s a look at a fuel filter’s lifespan and how to diagnose a clogged fuel filter.

Lifespan of a Fuel Filter

Clogged Fuel Filter

This is a clogged fuel filter from a 2005 Mini Cooper S.

There are two types of fuel filters—filters that are outside of the fuel tank and filters that are in the tank. Putting the fuel filter in the fuel tank is the common practice on new vehicles, according to AGCO Automotive. Vehicles manufactured prior to 2004 typically have the filters external to the tank. The in-tank filters typically last 100,000 miles and the in-line filters have a lifespan between 45,000 to 60,000 miles. AGCO Automotive suggests using quality fuels in your vehicle to prolong the life of the fuel filter. Quality fuels are fuels that “contain two to three times the minimum required detergent [by the EPA],” according to the AGCO website. These fuels are found at brand-name gas stations.

Diagnosing a Clogged Fuel Filter

  • Engine sputters or hesitates while driving at low speeds This symptom of a clogged fuel filter will occur during the early stages of a clogged fuel filter, according to eHow.
  • Vehicle struggles when accelerating from a stop When a clogged fuel filter becomes worse the car will have trouble accelerating because it will be increasingly hard for the fuel to get to the engine.
  • Engine is difficult to start, or won’t start at all If the fuel filter is severely clogged your car might not even start at all. If it does start, the gas pedal has to stay pressed so fuel is consistently trying to make it to the engine, according to eHow.
  • Engine stalls while driving When a fuel filter is severely clogged, the fuel is not able to reach the engine. In this case the fuel doesn’t consistently flow to the engine and is more sporadic.
  • The check engine light is on Sometimes the check engine light will come on if a fuel filter is severely clogged, according to AGCO Automotive.

Potential Fuel Pump Damage

There is risk for the fuel pump to become damaged if a fuel pump becomes too clogged. AGCO Automotive explains that vehicles with a clogged fuel filter will generally lose power as they are driving up a hill. This happens because the engine needs more fuel to power the vehicle up an incline. The increased amount of fuel is not received by the engine because of the blockage, so the fuel pump works even harder to get the needed fuel to the engine. This extra work is what will damage the fuel pump.

Call Fisher Auto in Boulder, Colo., at 303-245-6414 to have your fuel filter examined and changed, or if you have any questions.


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