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.
There are two main kinds of fuel filters; inline and in-tank.
Cost of Inline Fuel Filter Replacement
Inline fuel 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.
On average for most vehicles using this kind of system, it costs about $75 to replace an inline fuel filter.
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.
Some specific examples of the cost of replacing inline fuel filter for some common vehicles using $100 an hour as a labor rate are as follows:
|Car Model||Labor Time & Cost||Aftermarket Fuel Filter Cost (Excl. Labor)||Factory Fuel Filter Cost (Excl. Labor)
|2004 Subaru Legacy with a 2.5-liter engine||$80 (0.8 hrs)||a Wix part costs about $17||$64|
|2006 Volkswagen Golf with a 2.0-liter engine||$40 (0.4 hrs)||a Bosch part costs about $8||$17|
|2003 Ford F150 with a 5.4-liter engine||$60 (0.6 hrs)||a Fram filter costs about $8||$17|
Cost of In-Tank Fuel Filters
In-tank fuel filters are more common on newer passenger vehicles. It’s placed 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 involves removing the fuel pump. In many cases it’s necessary to remove the fuel tank in order to access the fuel pump. 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.
On average, if the filter is replaced with the fuel pump, the cost for most vehicles is about $450.
For some specific examples, using $100 as a labor rate:
- 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.
On the less expensive side are vehicles where there is an access port for the pump, so the tank doesn’t need to be removed, and the in-tank filter can be replaced by itself. For one example of that:
- 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.
Most manufacturers say about every 30,000 to 60,000 miles for an inline fuel filter. That can also vary depending on the quality of fuel used; whether it is well filtered at the pump, for instance.
The first symptom is often a feeling of low power on acceleration or on the highway. It can usually be confirmed with a fuel pressure gauge.
It depends. On some vehicles the fuel filter is in the engine bay, and pretty simple to replace. More often it is either tucked underneath the vehicle and requires special tools, or is in the fuel tank.