Changing a fuel filter is one of those tiny bits of engine maintenance that's easy to forget, but it's essential to the health of your vehicle's engine. The fuel filter keeps deposits and impurities from getting into carburetors and fuel injectors, where dirt can build up and lead to expensive repairs.
When Should I Change the Filter?
Fuel filters should be replaced every 30,000 miles. If your vehicle's fuel tank is contaminated, the fuel filter should be changed when the fuel tank is cleaned or replaced.
If you notice a lack of power or hesitation when you press on the gas pedal, check to see when you last replaced your fuel filter. Over time, filters clog up with debris. This keeps gas from getting to the engine and slows your vehicle's performance.
Changing the Filter
Most fuel filters use spring-clip fittings. Most fuel filters are also directional, though there are some bi-directional filters on the market. Directional fuel filters have an arrow printed on the side. The arrow must point toward the front of the vehicle, following the flow of fuel.
You will need a floor jack, jack stands, a ¼-inch fuel-filter remover tool, a ratchet and a set of ¼-inch sockets to change the fuel filter. If your vehicle's fuel filter is located in the engine compartment, you will not need a floor jack and jack stands, unless the filter is located near the bottom of the firewall.
Jack up the vehicle with the floor jack. Place the jack stands under the vehicle. This is done for safety purposes. In the event that the hydraulic jack leaks down, the jack stands will prevent the vehicle from coming down on you.
If the fuel filter has a heat shield, which most do, remove the heat shield using the ratchet and an appropriate size socket. The size of the socket is dependent upon the year, make and model of the vehicle. Remove the fuel pump shield with the ratchet and socket to expose the fuel filter.
If the fuel filter has spring clips, simply squeeze the plastic spring clips and pull the fuel line away from the filter. Do this on both sides of the filter. If the fuel filter does not have spring clips, clip the fuel-filter removal tool over the fuel line. Push the fuel-filter tool toward the filter to release the clamps between the filter and the fuel lines. Do this on both sides.
To install the new fuel filter, simply line it up, remembering to face the arrow forward. If the filter is the type that uses spring clips, slide the new spring clips into either side of the hose. Insert the nozzle of the fuel filter into the hose and push firmly until you hear it click into place.
For fuel filters that requires the filter-removal tool, simply orient the new filter in the proper direction by lining up the arrow. Then push the fuel filter into the lines until it clicks into place. Replace the heat shield, if any, and start the car. Let it run for a few minutes to check for leaks before taking it off the jacks.