Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Fuel Filter

Fuel filters are a common service component found on virtually all vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines. Their purpose is to filter out any particles that may be present in the fuel, keeping them from entering the vehicle’s fuel system, such as its fuel injectors and fuel line, and potentially damaging them or the engine. As is the case with most automotive filters, over time the fuel filter can become excessively dirty — to the point where it can no longer filter out particles efficiently, or even restrict flow. Usually, a faulty fuel filter will produce any of the following 4 symptoms that can alert the driver of an issue with the vehicle.

1. Car is Hard to Start

One of the first symptoms commonly associated with a bad or failing fuel filter is hard starting. A dirty fuel filter may restrict the fuel system flow, or at least make it inconsistent, which can cause the vehicle to experience hard starting. This is more likely if the filter on the vehicle has never been changed.

2. Engine Performance Problems

Other symptoms of a bad fuel filter fall under the category of engine performance issues. Sometimes the fuel filter can become clogged to the point where it negatively affects engine performance. A severely dirty or clogged fuel filter can cause the vehicle to experience several engine problems:

  • Misfires or Hesitation: Under heavier loads, the clogged fuel filter may cause the engine to randomly hesitate or misfire. This occurs as particles clog the filter and deplete the fuel supply going to the engine. It tends to be more notable when accelerating. The engine may also shake or stutter at different speeds, as the amount of fuel varies due to the dirty filter.

  • Stalling: If a clogged fuel filter goes unaddressed for too long, it may eventually cause the engine to stall as ideal fuel flow dwindles. Extra stress and heavy loads placed on the engine may instigate the stalling or, if you wait to focus on earlier warning signs, the engine could stall shortly after starting the car.

  • Decrease in Power and Acceleration: An overall lack of engine power, especially noticeable when accelerating, can be caused by a dirty fuel filter. The engine’s computer ends up restricting the output to protect the engine from potentially damaging particles. The car may feel sluggish, or even go into limp mode and illuminate the Check Engine light.

3. Check Engine Light Comes On

Fuel filter problems can also cause the Check Engine Light to come on. Some vehicles come equipped with fuel pressure sensors that monitor the pressure of the overall fuel system. A clogged fuel filter may cause low pressure, which will set off the Check Engine Light to alert the driver — if detected by the sensor. The Check Engine Light can be set off by a wide variety of issues, so having the computer scanned for trouble codes is highly recommended.

4. Damaged Fuel Pump

If you notice damage to your fuel pump, it may be caused by a restricted fuel filter. The clogged fuel filter puts too much pressure on the fuel pump and prevents the proper amount of fuel in the fuel tank from reaching the engine.

Most fuel filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to change. If you suspect that your vehicle’s fuel filter may need to be replaced, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, to determine if the component should be replaced.


Next Step

Schedule Fuel System Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Fuel System Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Fuel System Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(6)

Rating Summary
5
0
0
1
0
5
0
0
1
0

Pardeep

21 years of experience
1068 reviews
Pardeep
21 years of experience
Land Rover Range Rover Sport V8-5.0L - Oil Change - San Jose, California
Great service! Very prompt and thorough. This was the second time having service done by Pradeep.
Toyota Avalon - Car is not starting - San Jose, California
Pardeep was two hours early, which was OK as I was stuck at home all day anyways, He was very plesent and found the problem very quickly.

Michael

4 years of experience
230 reviews
Michael
4 years of experience
Volkswagen Jetta L5-2.5L - Fuel System Inspection - Indianapolis, Indiana
professional ,informative and knowledgeable

Raymond

37 years of experience
402 reviews
Raymond
37 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala V6-3.4L - Fuel System - Las Vegas, Nevada
Raymond was very knowledgeable mechanic and through in his testing. I trust him for any future from your mechanic.

Kenneth

20 years of experience
775 reviews
Kenneth
20 years of experience
BMW X5 L6-3.0L - Fuel System - Rancho Palos Verdes, California
Kenneth was extremely knowledgeable. He correctly diagnosed my vehicle by actually going under the hood, removing a section and running some sort of test that told him exactly what the problem was. He also arrived 15 minutes early and had prepared for the visit by contacting me the day prior to get further clarification.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

P0472 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Pressure Sensor Low
P0472 code means there is a problem with your electrical circuit, often due to issues with the back pressure sensor.
P0298 OBD-II Trouble Code: Engine Oil Over Temperature Condition
P0298 means that the engine is or has recently overheated due to low coolant level, faulty cooling fan, thermostat, or radiator.
B1997 OBD-II Trouble Code: Passenger Side Side-Mount Air Bag Circuit Short to Ground
B1997 trouble codes means the side mount air bag has a circuit malfunction, caused by blown fuses, shorted wires, or a failed side air bag system.

Related questions

Check Engine light came on
Multiple lights may be caused by multiple problems.Your BMW has a few dozen computers which can trigger warning lights to appear on your dash. Diagnosing multiple problems may be time extensive, but can be performed by a qualified technician with...
Random misfire cylinder 123
I'm curious as to what codes are still active. Is it still a misfire code? Several other component failures can cause "misfire" issues - a clogged exhaust gas recirculation valve (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/exhaust-gas-recirculation-egr-valve-replacement), a failed diverter valve (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/air-diverter-valve-replacement), even a failed cam...
Check engine light on, engine knocking, loss of power, and coolant leaking.
Hi there. Grab a flashlight and look under the vehicle for where the coolant leak is coming from. Either there is a gasket, hose, or freeze plug that is leaking causing the coolant to leak or the engine has cracked....

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com