If your old fuel filter is clogged or damaged, replacing it is a quick way to restore your engine’s fuel efficiency to normal.
In fact, most people should replace their fuel filter about every 2 years, or a maximum of every 30,000 miles at most.
Luckily, this job is fast and easy, whether you do it yourself or have a mechanic do it.
In fact, the average cost of replacing a fuel filter is just $70-$150. That works out to $10-$100 for the fuel filter and about an hour of labor for a mechanic, which averages to $60. However, that can be as much as $220 or as little as $15 depending on where you go.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of fuel filter replacement cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Labor||Ignition Coil Cost|
Fuel Filter Replacement Costs*
In most cases, the largest aspect of replacing a fuel filter is the cost of labor. Fuel filters themselves often range from as little as $10 to around $100 – however, most are a middle ground of $20-$40.
Here, vehicle brand is a large factor, as the make and model impact the total cost of the replacement. In addition, you’ll have other factors, like how difficult it is to access and remove the filter to impact costs.
The following includes cost estimates for replacing the fuel filter in different vehicles.
|Vehicle||Fuel Filter Cost||Labor Cost|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (March 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
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Fuel Filter Replacement Price Factors
In most cases, the most important factor in replacing your fuel filter is the cost of labor. That’s because most mechanics will charge an hour of labor for it and possibly a shop fee as well. In addition, fuel filters can range significantly in price.
For example, a universal fuel pump filter will likely cost as little as $5-$20. An OEM filter designed specifically for your vehicle could cost as much as $100. These differences will greatly impact your total bill.
Make and Model
The make and model of your vehicle will impact the direct cost of filters as replacements. This relates to several factors.
For example, if you have a common vehicle, then your mechanic knows exactly how long the job will take. They can very easily offer a quote with little margin for error because they know what the job involves.
If you have a less common vehicle, they might give you a higher quote, in case the job ends up taking longer because, for example, the filter is harder to access than expected.
On the other hand, the vehicle also impacts the direct cost of the filter.
For example, if you buy an original equipment manufacturer filter (OEM), you’ll normally pay a higher rate for the filter than a generic or universal filter. Here, the difference can be as much as $85-$90 per filter.
E.g., if you buy an OEM Honda filter, you’ll usually pay around $90 for it, especially from a dealer. Opting for made-to-fit or universal parts will normally save you money, however, it’s not always the best call, as there can be differences in performance.
Therefore, if you drive a performance car, you’ll want to assess the filter and why it’s cheaper before choosing a made-to-fit part.
Finally, if your car is less common, your mechanic might not have the parts in stock. This can add to the cost, for example, by forcing them to order and wait for the part to come in.
Fuel Filter Type
Your vehicle might use an inline filter or a screw-on filter.
Inline filters are usually more affordable because they simply slot into the filter cartridge. However, they cost more to replace because it takes more time to take the filter out.
Screw-in filters screw out and screw back in, which means you can sometimes replace the filter more quickly. However, the cartridge costs more to purchase, because it requires a fitting.
Cost of Labor
The largest cost of replacing your fuel filter is usually the cost of labor. Here, most mechanics charge roughly $60 per hour.
However, you might also have to pay a shop fee, which is 5-20% of the total bill depending on where you go. Here, you can also expect chain repair shops to charge an average of $94+ per hour.
Nationally, mechanics rates can also range from $15-$205 or sometimes even higher. So, the total rate you pay will depend a lot on where you live.
Location of Filter
Fuel filters are either located inside the fuel tank or externally between the tank and the fuel pump. If you have a car that’s newer than about 10 years, the filter is almost always inside the fuel tank.
This means you’ll have to take the fuel tank out in order to service the filter. That can be a significant amount of work, although a trained person will normally be able to do the work in about an hour.
If you have a filter on the fuel line, you’ll have a much easier time doing the work. However, it might not save you money, because your mechanic might still charge a minimum of one hour of work for the job to make it worth their while.
Symptoms of a Bad Fuel Filter
If your fuel filter is going out, you’ll usually notice it in your engine’s performance.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of a bad fuel filter will overlap with the symptoms of anything else going wrong with. the fuel, injection, or ignition system. That means you might need a diagnostic or a checkup to decide if something is wrong.
Therefore, it’s usually a good idea to simply perform preventive maintenance.
Making sure you change your fuel filter every 2 years or 30,000 miles, whichever comes sooner, can save you a lot more than the cost of the filter in saved fuel and damage to the rest of the engine.
Therefore, you ideally replace the filter before you start seeing problems.
1. Hard starts
If your engine is having difficulty starting, it usually means something is wrong with the fuel or ignition system. Here, you normally have issues with the engine getting enough power during ignition.
However, it might also mean the filter is clogged and your fuel injectors literally are not getting enough fuel to cause the engine to start. When you do start, you might have a bit of rough idling or even backfiring, as air goes into the cylinders.
Unfortunately, these sorts of issues are very difficult to tell from issues in other parts of the fuel or ignition system. You’ll see very similar problems with the ignition system, starter, and spark plugs going bad.
If your car is stalling while running it either means that the engine isn’t getting enough power or that it isn’t getting enough fuel.
While the issue can stem from bad spark plugs, clogs in the fuel line, clogged fuel injectors, or even a poorly timed engine, the fuel filter is also a likely culprit.
Here, you can run a diagnostic on your engine, physically inspect the lines, and try to gauge what the issue is. Engine diagnostics can also give you insight, but won’t always recognize filter issues.
If your engine is misfiring, it normally means you’re getting the wrong fuel/air mixture in the cylinders. Again, this can result from numerous issues relating to the fuel and ignition system.
Checking everything and running an engine diagnostic check are important. However, the fuel filter is a very likely cause.
4. Fuel system failure
If other parts of the fuel system are failing, it can cause issues with the filter.
For example, if the fuel filter is damaged, it can cause issues with the filter. If the fuel lines are clogged, it can result in issues with the filter.
And, if your tank is corroded and full of rust, it can result in clogs to the filter. And, the filter can function the other way around as well.
A clogged filter can cause the pump to work too hard and fail. Or, a bad filter can cause too much contaminant to get into the fuel lines, causing them to clog.
In general, if you have issues in one part of the fuel system, you’ll have issues in the rest of the fuel system. It’s always a good idea to inspect everything at once to determine if you should be replacing more than just the filter.
5. Engine and fuel performance go down
If your fuel economy is going down or your engine has less power, it’s usually a good sign that something is wrong.
While both symptoms can be a sign that you’re getting too much air in the cylinders, that the engine isn’t getting enough power, or that the battery is bad, it can also mean the engine isn’t getting enough fuel.
A clogged filter can cause engine performance to drop dramatically, meaning it has to work harder – which increases the total amount of fuel used.
Eventually, you’ll notice that when you go to fill up, and chances are, it will cost a lot more than just replacing the filter.
How To Change a Fuel Filter
If you want to change your fuel filter, you can often do so yourself, and with a minimum number of extra tools. Here, you do have to check if your vehicle has a replaceable fuel filter.
For example, if the fuel filter is permanent and non-serviceable, you’ll have to take it to a mechanic who might recommend that you replace the full fuel tank.
Note: Check your owner’s manual before proceeding. Depending on your fuel filter, you’ll either need a flare-nut line wrench or a custom tool. In some cases, you can use a normal wrench. However, you can always buy these tools for a few dollars online.
In addition, this guide assumes that you have a fuel injection system with the fuel filter on the high-pressure fuel line, under the vehicle near the fuel tank.
Alternatively, your fuel filter may be located under the hood in the fuel line where it runs to the valve cover.
This guide does not cover fuel filters installed inside the fuel pump in the gas tank. Because those are rare, chances are, you don’t have to worry about it anyway.
Things You’ll Need:
- A line wrench for your specific make and model of vehicle. Flare-nut line wrenches work with threaded fittings. If you have a quick-connect system, you’ll need the manufacturer’s special tool for it.
- Drain pan
- Owner/Operator’s manual for your vehicle
- Wrench set
- Ratchet set
- Replacement fuel filter
- Park your vehicle on a flat and level space, set the parking brake.
- Find your fuse box and remove the fuse for the fuel pump. This depressurizes the fuel pump, so you can work on the vehicle without draining the fuel.
- Make sure the parking brake is set. Then, turn the engine on and let it run until it stalls. Turn the ignition off and remove the key from the ignition.
- Find your fuel filter. In fuel injection engines (most vehicles produced after about 1992) the pump is located either under the car next to the fuel tank or at the valve cover next to the engine. It’s always on the high-pressure fuel line. If you’re accessing the fuel filter under the vehicle, you might want to jack up the car. Here, you should be sure to use jack stands to stabilize the vehicle.
- Place a drain pan under the fuel filter to catch any drain off.
- Disconnect the fuel lines from the filter. You may need a specialty tool as discussed above.
- Check which direction the arrows on the side of the old filter point and then remove it. Otherwise, try to match the old filter to the new one when installing it.
- Remove the bolts holding the filter in place. Sometimes, filters just snap in.
- Put the new filter in the same place as the old one.
- Replace the brackets or snaps.
- Screw on the fuel lines.
- Replace the fuse in the fuel pump fuse box.
- Start your engine, with the parking brake set, and run the engine.
From there, you should be able to leave the engine to idle for a few minutes.
Then, check that there are no leaks around the newly installed fuel filter.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions about replacing your fuel filter, these answers cover commonly asked questions.
How often should a fuel filter be replaced?
Every 20,000-30,000 miles or about every 2 years, whichever comes sooner.
Here, it’s always better to do preventive maintenance, so if your fuel filter is still good after 2 years, you’ll want to replace it anyway.
Can you drive with a bad fuel filter?
Sometimes. However, your fuel filter will increase fuel usage and will reduce the performance of the engine.
In addition, it could result in fuel pump failure. It’s always better and cheaper to simply replace the fuel filter.
How long does it take to change a fuel filter?
In most cases, you can change a fuel filter in about an hour.
If you have a fuel filter inside the gas tank, it might take a bit longer.
Replacing your fuel filter is a simple and affordable process. Doing so on a regular basis is an important part of maintenance.
However, if you’re starting to have problems with the system, it might be time for an early fuel filter change.
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