Your fuel filter works to remove impurities and contaminants which may be in your vehicle's fuel before they have the chance to gum up and damage your engine. Having an improperly functioning fuel filter can have a significantly negative effect on the performance of your vehicle, and can cause other, more expensive malfunctions in your engine. This makes it extremely important to understand the early warning signs associated with a clogged fuel filter, so you are able to determine when you should talk to a mechanic about cleaning or replacing your current filter.
Lack of Responsiveness
One of the first signs associated with a clogged fuel filter is a hesitating engine. This will take the form of your engine failing to respond immediately when you press the gas pedal down, as the clog in your fuel filter prevents an adequate amount of fuel reaching the engine. You may also notice that your acceleration is somewhat slow and jerky until you get up to a high speed, as your fuel filter may not struggle at low pressure levels to pass fuel along to the engine.
Another common sign that your vehicle's fuel filter needs to be cleaned out or replaced is if you find that you have trouble starting your vehicle. If the electric systems within your car are functioning properly, but your engine still won't turn over or will only catch after multiple tries, the issue is likely to lie with your fuel filter instead of your battery, ignition system or alternator. While a professional inspect of all of these systems is still a good idea to make sure that they are in good condition, cleaning or replacing your fuel filter is likely the best course of action.
In a very similar vein as the above point, an engine that is attempting to work through a clogged fuel filter may stall and turn off when idling or traveling at low speeds. This is a particularly bad clog that is letting little to no fuel pass through unless traveling at high speeds, when more pressure and more fuel are being forced through the filter. If this is the case, not only will your engine be unreliable and your entire vehicle at greater risk of experiencing a collision, but you will also suffer from massively reduced fuel efficiency, which can quickly become a more expensive problem than simply replacing the fuel filter.
Contact a shop, like Olson's Auto Body, for more help.