How to Change a Fuel Filter in 4 Easy Steps

Dirt is the number one enemy of your engine's fuel system. A clean fuel filter is one of the best ways to ensure dependable, trouble-free performance. Here's how to change yours.

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How to change a fuel filter - car driving road
Photo: Shutterstock

How to change a fuel filter, step by step

Even the smallest piece of dirt can damage a fuel injector, resulting in erratic performance, poor gas mileage and, in some cases, complete engine shutdown. That’s why most car-care experts recommend replacing the fuel filter in your vehicle approximately every 16,000 kilometres—or once a year—for peak performance.

Most fuel-injected vehicles use a stainless steel in-line fuel filter located either ahead of the rear wheels on the underside of the vehicle or in the engine compartment. Since the majority of newer cars use electronic fuel-injection systems, this guide covers how to change a fuel filter in a fuel-injection system.

To change a fuel filter, you’ll need:

  • Drive-on car ramps or jack stands (with sufficient capacity for vehicle weight). Depending on the location of your fuel filter, these may not be required
  • Open-end wrenches designed for use with filter connections and pliers
  • The correct replacement fuel filter for your specified vehicle and engine
  • A supply of clean rags
  • Safety glasses
  • An approved container to catch spilled fuel

Find out more essential car maintenance tools no home mechanic should be without.

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How to change a fuel filter
Photo: NAPA Canada

Before you begin

Locate the fuel filter (refer to your vehicle’s service manual or contact your NAPA Auto Parts store for more information about the exact location on your vehicle). The filter has two hose connections: the fuel inlet, which runs in from the fuel tank, and the fuel outlet, which runs out to the engine. Make sure to note the orientation of the filter for proper installation of the new filter. Let your engine and exhaust system sit for at least three hours, or until cold. If necessary, raise the vehicle using drive-on car ramps or jack stands.

Step 1

  • Place an approved container under the filter
  • Remove any bolts attaching the fuel filter bracket to the vehicle
  • Place a clean rag near the end of the fuel inlet hose to catch spilled fuel

Step 2

  • Wearing safety glasses, carefully remove the inlet hose from the filter. Caution: The fuel system is charged with 15-60 pounds of pressure, and the fuel will flow out of the hose forcefully! Wear safety glasses and be prepared to catch the fuel as it spurts out.
  • Carefully remove the outlet hose from the filter

Step 3

  • Remove the filter
  • Install the new filter, and reattach the inlet and outlet hoses
  • Reattach the filter and fuel filter bracket to the vehicle

Step 4

  • Start the engine and check for leaks immediately
  • Properly dispose of the old filter, spilled fuel and rags

Now that you know how to change a fuel filter, check out 100 more car maintenance jobs you can do yourself.

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