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​How Often Should You Change Your Diesel Fuel Filter

Mar 4th 2022

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Diesel fuel isn’t exactly clean. Diesel engines produce higher levels of particulates, microscopic bits of soot left over from the combustion process, than traditional gas-powered vehicles. These particulates harm human health and pollute the environment, but they can also damage your fuel system. That’s why it’s important to change your diesel fuel filters more often than you would if you were driving a passenger car.

Replacing your fuel filters is an important part of diesel maintenance. Learn when to replace your filters and what happens if you don’t.

What Are Diesel Fuel Filters?

Let’s start with the basics. All diesel fuel filters are designed to filter particulate matter, including soot, dirt, and other debris, out of the fuel your engine consumes. Removing this debris protects your diesel parts and the fuel system from wear and tear, including your fuel injectors as well as the combustion chamber. If they get exposed to dirty fuel, they will wear down that much faster and you will need to replace your diesel parts more often.

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Unlike traditional fuel filters, diesel filters are shaped like a bowl with a drain for getting rid of excess water, so it doesn’t come in contact with your parts. The extra water can lead to oxidation and rust. The filter curves down as water collects at the bottom of the bowl. The water will then get drained out of the fuel as it makes its way to the water separator.

Most diesel filters also come with built-in heaters that increase the temperature of the fuel to reduce paraffin, which are caused by low temperatures. Paraffins will clog your filter and make it less effective over time.

fuel filter

Most diesel vehicles have two fuel filters, including a "primary" filter located between the fuel tank and the engine, which cleans the fuel before it gets to the fuel transfer pump; and a "secondary" filter near the engine, which gives the fuel a final cleaning before it gets to the fuel injectors.

How Often Should You Replace Your Diesel Fuel Filters?

It’s best to replace your diesel fuel filter every 10,000 to 25,000 miles. That’s quite a wide range and the timeframe all depends on how you use your diesel vehicle. Carrying heavy loads and using poor quality fuel will only put added pressure on your fuel filter. Check your owner’s manual for more information on how and when to change your diesel fuel filters. Don’t forget to drain the water separator as well to get rid of excess water.

You can reuse some high-quality fuel filters by cleaning them and putting them through an industrial blower, but most filters are designed to be replaced once they get dirty.

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What Happens If You Don’t Change Your Diesel Fuel Filters?

If you decide to keep using the same diesel fuel filters past the recommended timeframe, they will eventually fill up with all kinds of dirt and debris. As more materials stick to the filter, the heater is less able to properly heat the fuel, which leads to more paraffins that only make the problem worse.

fuel gun in a tank

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Once the filter is full, less fuel will be able to flow through the filter, which means less fuel will reach the engine. You will notice a gradual decline in fuel efficiency as well as a sudden loss of power behind the wheel. This can cause a stoppage in your fuel system. The built-up fuel will continue to put pressure on the various components of your fuel system, including the injectors and the injection pressure regulator valve. You’ll need to find replacement parts for diesel fuel systems to resolve the issue.

If you notice some of these symptoms, don’t assume your diesel fuel filters are causing the problem. Some diesel fuel systems work better than others. For example, the IPR valve on the Powerstroke 6.0L engine is known to be faulty. Consider testing and replacing your 6.0 IPR valves before replacing your fuel filters.

Your diesel fuel filters are here to protect your engine from long-term wear and tear. Keep this information in mind to keep your vehicle going strong.


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