What Happens When a Fuel Filter Gets Clogged?

by Christopher John

A fuel filter performs an indispensable function: It traps rust, dirt and other impurities before those impurities reach the engine. A clogged fuel filter will provide inconsistent fuel flow to the engine, which reveals itself through noticeable symptoms in the vehicle's performance.

Difficulty Starting

The engine turns over and over, taking longer to start, which could signal a partially-clogged fuel filter. If there are no problems with the battery or starter and the engine won't start at all, your filter could be totally clogged.

Stalling While Driving

If your engine suddenly cuts off--as you sit at red lights, for example--a clogged fuel injector may be restricting the fuel supply to the engine, which in turn, stalls because of the disrupted fuel flow.

Hesitation During Acceleration

A clear sign of a clogged fuel filter is the lack of vehicle acceleration when you press your foot on the gas pedal. If you step on the gas and the engine just does not cooperate and respond, a clogged fuel filter is the likely culprit. Another tell-tale sign is reduced power and stalling when climbing hills, due to the vehicle's reduced fuel pressure.

Reduced Fuel Efficiency

If you notice your vehicle is burning more gas than normal, it's likely time for a new fuel filter. With your fuel stuck like a car in rush-hour traffic, engine performance is hindered and fuel efficiency is noticeably reduced.

Engine Misfiring

A partially clogged fuel filter may cause your engine to miss and grab while you're maintaining a steady driving speed. Has the sound of your vehicle changed? This could often signal the need for a fuel filter change.

About the Author

Christopher John has been a freelance journalist since 2003. He has written for regional newspapers such as "The Metro Forum" and the "West Tennessee Examiner." John has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Memphis State University.