6 Common Fuel Filter Problems

The fuel filter in a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Some of the most common automobile problems are fuel filter issues. The fuel filter is the cartridge in the fuel line that serves to remove any dirt from the fuel as it enters the engine. In screening out various impurities, the fuel filter can often get so soiled and even clogged so that it won't carry out its functions efficiently. This in turn will have its bearing on the general performance of the car, causing a variety of unpleasant and often dangerous problems.

1. No Vehicle Start-up

If the fuel filter is so clogged that it completely blocks the fuel from flowing into the engine, the car will simply refuse to start. Remember, the car will start only if fuel is supplied and ignited inside the engine.

2. Difficult Vehicle Start-up

When the filter is not completely blocked, it will permit a small amount of fuel to pass through that will eventually ignite the engine, but it will still have difficulties starting. This is a problem that should be addressed as soon as possible, or it may lead to rather expensive consequences.

3. Engine Hesitation

Engine hesitation is another problem that is frequently caused by a dirty filter, which does not allow a sufficient inflow of fuel into the engine. The problem is most conspicuous when the car is accelerated from a stop.

4. Erratic Low Speed Performance

It is quite typical for a car with a soiled filter to operate perfectly well at high speeds but hesitate at lower speeds. This is due to the different levels of fuel flow pressure from the fuel pump. With higher speeds, the fuel pump exerts greater pressure on the flowing fuel, and it can pass through the obstructed filter and into engine, which ensures the proper operation of the vehicle. However, at lower speeds, the fuel pump pressure is not strong enough to feed the necessary amount of fuel into the engine, thus causing disturbances in its performance.

5. Die-out of an Operating Engine

Sometimes, a dirty filter will make the engine stall while the car is still being driven. This is often the result of an uneven flow of fuel through the filter. At times there will be enough fuel to maintain the smooth running of the engine, and other times it will be blocked to such an extent that the vehicle cuts out.

The severity of this problem can vary depending on the type of debris that has stuck in the filter and the strength of the fuel pump.

6. Rough Idling of the Engine

The rough engine operation at idle speed can also stem from obstruction of the fuel filter. A rough idle is often caused by fuel starvation due to a damaged or severely soiled filter blocking the normal fuel flow and hampering the proper mixture of fuel and air in the engine.