The fuel pump in a vehicle moves fuel under pressure from the gas tank to the engine, where it is atomized by the fuel injectors. The fuel pump impeller can become worn by sediments or contamination in the fuel system, and the fine passages in the fuel injector’s spray ports are easily clogged or worn by any foreign material in the fuel.
Because of this, a filter is used to make sure the fuel is as clean as possible. Over time, a fuel filter can pick up enough material to become clogged and restrict the flow of fuel, which then leads to problems with fuel pressure and normal engine operation.
If a fuel filter is clogged, a vehicle can often idle normally, as the least fuel flow is required then. More commonly, the first signs of a fuel filter issue would be symptoms of hesitation, low power, or poor fuel mileage under heavy loads or acceleration. It can also be at highway speeds when fuel consumption and higher flow rates are necessary.
Cost of Inline Fuel Filter Replacement
Some examples of the cost of replacing inline fuel filter for some common vehicles using $100 an hour as a labor rate are as follows:
- 2004 Subaru Legacy with a 2.5-liter engine
The labor time to replace the fuel filter is estimated 0.8 of an hour. A factory filter costs about $64, and a Wix part costs about $17. The total cost to complete the job would be about $144 using OE parts, and about $97 using aftermarket parts.
- 2006 Volkswagen Golf with a 2.0-liter engine
The labor time to replace the fuel filter is around 0.4 of an hour. A factory fuel filter costs about $17, and a Bosch part costs about $8. The total cost for this job would be around $57 using OE parts, and about $48 using aftermarket parts.
- 2003 Ford F150 with a 5.4-liter engine
The labor time to replace the fuel filter is estimated at around 0.6 of an hour. A factory filter costs about $17, and a Fram filter costs about $8. The total cost to complete the job would be about $77 using OE parts, or about $68 using aftermarket parts.
Cost of In-Tank Fuel Filters
On the other hand, the in-tank fuel filter replacement costs are as follows:
- 2002 Toyota Camry with a 2.4-liter engine
The labor time to replace the fuel filter is estimated at 0.8 of an hour. It’s in the fuel tank but is reached through an access panel under the rear seat. A factory filter costs about $16, and a Beck/Arnley part costs about $20. This makes the job cost about $96 using OE parts, or about $100 using aftermarket parts.
- 2011 Chevrolet Cruze with a 1.8-liter engine
The fuel filter is a part of and replaced with the fuel pump module. The labor time for that is 2.1 hours, which includes removing the fuel tank. A factory fuel pump assembly costs about $383, and a Carter replacement part costs about $213. The total cost to complete the job would be about $593 using OE parts, or about $423 using aftermarket parts.
- 2008 Nissan Altima with a 2.5-liter engine
The fuel filter is also a part of and replaced with the fuel pump. It is accessed through an opening under the rear seat, and the labor time is around 0.8 of an hour. A factory assembly costs about $401, and a Delphi part costs about $238. This makes the job cost about $481 using OE parts, or about $318 using aftermarket parts.
Fuel Filter Replacement Maintenance Intervals
There are two main kinds of fuel filters. Inline filters are located somewhere along the fuel lines; after the fuel is pumped from the tank and before it reaches the injectors. This kind of filter is usually considered a maintenance item and has a specific replacement interval.
The average recommendations run from 30,000 miles to 60,000 miles. An exception would be on some diesel engines such as the Cummins turbodiesel used in Ram trucks, which has a 15,000-mile service interval. Inline fuel filters are usually located where they can be relatively easily accessed.
The other type of fuel filter is more common on newer passenger vehicles, and that’s a filter on the fuel pump intake inside the fuel tank. One of the reasons to have the filter before the pump is to protect the pump itself from contaminants.
The drawback, of course, is the difficulty in replacing the filter, which, in many cases, involves removing the fuel pump and the fuel tank. For that reason, in-tank fuel filters have no service or maintenance interval.
In most cases, if an in-tank filter is suspect due to a fuel pressure problem, there’s no practical way to tell before removal whether it is the fuel pump or the filter that is to blame. As with many things where labor is significant or if diagnosis involves the removal of the part, in practice, the fuel pump and fuel filter are usually replaced at the same time if either one is suspected.