How to Clean a Fuel Filter: A 9-Step Guide

Having a vehicle isn’t only a convenience; it’s also a responsibility. In my experience, a lot of car owners don’t even know what maintenance really means. Personally, I saw many beautiful machines that were ruined because of small things. For example, the owners didn’t clean the fuel filter.

A fuel filter is there to stop waste particles from entering the engine. If you don’t clean it regularly, it will get clogged. As a result, a dirty filter won’t be able to let enough fuel into the engine (see how to check if your fuel filter is bad).

Cleaning a fuel filter is a three-step process. First, you need to disconnect the filter properly, without damaging it or anything else. Then, the filter should be cleaned thoroughly — there’s a right way to do it. Finally, the filter should go back to its place.

However, you can’t replace all filters. For instance, if your fuel filter is made out of paper or nylon, there’s no cleaning it. In this case, you will need to replace it with a brand new fuel filter. On the other hand, if your filter is a metal one, then you can clean it and put it back.

How to clean up a car fuel filter.

I have some good news — even if you don’t know much about cars, you’ll be able to replace or clean your filter. It’s simpler than it looks. In order to do it properly, just follow the instructions, and I’ll try to go into the finest of details.

Before we begin, park your car in an open space — in front of your garage if you can. This way, unpleasant smells won’t enter your home. And, as you probably know, some car smells can linger on for a while.

1. Relieve the Pressure

For starters, you need to find a safety device, otherwise known as a fuse, that controls your fuel pump. The fuse needs to go — you need to remove it so you can continue with the process.

Once the fuse is gone, it’s time to start your engine. Usually, it should run about two minutes before it’s ready. You’ll probably hear some splattering sounds coming from it — that’s how you’ll know it’s go time. But even if you don’t, make sure you turn the car off after two minutes.

With this process, you actually relieved the pressure of your fuel system.

2. The Negative Terminal

Now, you need to find the negative terminal of your battery. If that just sounded like a foreign, I suggest that you learn what battery terminals are.

For this part, you will need a wrench. When you pop the hood of your car and find the battery, you’ll see a (-) and a (+) symbol. As I mentioned, you need the negative one, so use your wrench to disconnect it. In some cases, there will be colors instead of symbols. If you can see a red and a black colored sign, go with the black one.

Once you locate the right terminal, disconnect it using a wrench. If you skip this part of the process, you could have a fire on your hands.

3. Finding the Filter

After the pressure is relieved, and once you disconnect the negative terminal, it’s time to locate the filter.

The truth is I can’t tell you where exactly to look for it. The location of the fuel filter depends on the type of the car and its manufacturer. However, it’s really not that big of a deal to find it — just use the manual.

The owner’s manual should point you to a space between the fuel line of your car and the tank. It should be relatively easy to find.

4. Jack Up the Car

To actually remove the filter, you’ll need to jack up your car. You will need to know which parts of your car can be used for jacking. Again, it depends on your vehicle. Therefore, it’s best to consult an expert before the jacking or do some research.

Once you discover which parts of your car are reliable enough to be jacked, you should do the lifting. However, you should know that it’s not safe to work with a jack alone.

To continue this process and clean the fuel filter safely, you’ll also need jack stands. Before you get under your car, make sure to position them properly.

5. Disconnect the Fuel Lines

A quick piece of advice — if you don’t want to have fuel stains on yourself and your driveway, you need a few things:

  • Container to collect the fuel
  • Gloves to keep your hands safe (and clean)
  • Protective goggles to guard your eyes

At this point, it’s time to disconnect the rest of the fuel lines. Naturally, you should place the bucket exactly below the lines. Perhaps you will need a screwdriver. Some vehicles have clips you can disconnect by hand, while others need some unscrewing.

Furthermore, fuel lines will be additionally connected with nozzles. It’s best to use a wrench to loosen them. At this moment, you need to be extra careful — as soon as you disconnect the lines, the remaining fuel will leak.

6. Disconnect the Fuel Filter

Congratulations are in order — you have finally reached the fuel filter. However, you shouldn’t allow your excitement to get the best of you. Don’t pull out the filter — it’s additionally secured in one way or the other.

Before you finally remove the filter, there’s something you need to do. Pay close attention to the position of the filter. It’s probably best to take a photo of it. If you do, you’ll know exactly how to place it back.

Therefore, try to find what holds your filter. Chances are you’ll find brackets or bolts. If you don’t know how to loosen them, you should consult your car’s manual.

7. Cleaning Time

You’ll probably find extra remaining fuel in the filter. Because of that, be very careful once you pull it out. You should have a dishcloth or a bucket in front of you. Therefore, once you tap the filter and nozzles, you can dispose of the remaining fuel.

A quick reminder in case you forgot — you can only clean and replace metal filters. In case yours is made out of paper or nylon, you need a new one.

As you go to the store, you’ll find many cleaners. The truth is all of them probably work, but the most effective ones are in pressurized cans. With a cleaner like that, you won’t have to do a lot of work by hand — they came with an attachable staw.

Keep the bucket that contains the remaining fuel close at hand. The following part can get messy as well.

You should use the straws to reach the nozzles. Otherwise, without them, it can be difficult and time-consuming to thoroughly clean the filter. Now, it’s time to spray the cleaner in nozzles.

Once the cleaner is in the nozzles, place the filter over the bucket. You can tap and knock the filter so that all the dirt comes out faster. After you see that the filter is clean, leave it dry for around an hour.

You should repeat the process for the most efficient cleaning. After an hour, you should again spray, tap and knock, and leave to dry for about the same period.

8. Put It Back Together

Now that your fuel filter is finally squeaky clean, you can put it back in its place. Let’s go through the steps in reverse, so you don’t forget anything.

First of all, make sure the filter is secured. Once you position the filter, use the brackets and bolts to secure it.

Then, you should put the fuel lines back in the nozzles. Use your tools to tighten the lines — otherwise, you will have to deal with nasty leaks. Don’t forget to reconnect the lines with clips as well.

At this moment, you should feel free to get your car back to the ground. It’s important to remember the jack stands — jack up your car some more to get them out of the way. Then, it’s safe to lower your vehicle.

After the car is safely on the ground, dedicate your attention to the battery. As you probably remember, it was necessary to disconnect the negative terminal. Now, you can connect both the terminal and the fuse.

9. Check for Leaks

You need to do just one more thing before you can call it a day — check for leaks. Safety comes first — don’t skip this part.

Have in mind that it might take a few tries before you can start the engine — you just put the filter back together. Once it’s on, leave the engine running for a minute or two.

If you have a problem with starting the engine, chances are the fuses aren’t in place. Double check if you connected them the right way.

In case the engine is knocking, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the fuel filter. If this happens, you should consult an expert. Besides, you should definitely start using additives that prevent engine knocking.

Finally, if you can see fuel leaks, you need to check if the fuel lines are firmly connected.

After you find the solutions — if you have any problems — you can finally take the gloves off and admire the job well done.



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