Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for Best fuel filters

Fuel filters aren’t glamorous. And, compared to other auto parts, fuel filters tend to be forgotten, ignored, or overlooked — until it’s too late. Neglect your fuel filter, and you may find yourself stranded by the side of the road looking at an expensive tow and repair bill. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Some modern vehicles include the fuel filter as an integral part of the fuel tank. These filters can’t be changed without changing the fuel tank. Other vehicles have replaceable fuel filters that you can swap out yourself to improve the power and performance of your vehicle.

You shouldn’t buy just any fuel filter for your vehicle, however. Fuel filters are specific to certain vehicles or groups of vehicles. There is also the matter of which type of fuel you use and how efficient the filter is. Choosing the right fuel filter for your car, truck, or tractor can seem a bit daunting, but don’t stall. We’ll walk you through the process of finding the best fuel filter for your needs.

Changing most in-line fuel filters requires you to jack up the car or truck so you can get under it.

Key considerations

Vehicle make and model

The first thing to consider is the make and model of your vehicle. The determining factor will be the number of cylinders in the engine. The more cylinders the engine has, the larger the fuel line will be, and the larger the fuel filter required to handle the additional volume. For example, the fuel filter for a riding lawn mower will be considerably smaller (and cheaper) than the filter for a full-sized V-8 engine.

Most fuel filter manufacturers provide charts to determine whether a particular filter would fit your vehicle. Some large filters can be used on smaller vehicles if you can get the right adapter. The main advantage in such a setup is that a larger filter generally lasts longer between changes.

Gasoline vs. diesel

Fuel filters vary by the type of fuel they are designed to work with — normal gasoline or diesel. Both types of fuel are made from oil, but diesel fuel tends to absorb more moisture out of the air. Diesel filters are specially designed to remove this excess water from the fuel, as water in a car or truck engine can cause serious problems. Simply put, diesel fuel requires a stronger filter and a different design that is better at separating water from fuel than gasoline filter models.

Did You Know?
An idling engine that feels “jerky” is probably the result of a clogged fuel filter. It means fuel is getting through but in an uneven manner.



Fuel filters are primarily made from metal, plastic, rubber, and specialized paper. The outer metal shell and tube connectors on either end are made from aluminum or stainless steel. The O-ring seals are usually rubber, but occasionally, they are plastic. A fuel filter for a small engine, like that of a lawn mower, may be made entirely of plastic except for the paper filer.

The filter itself is normally made of cellulose fibers that can filter out impurities. The paper is folded and pleated to increase the amount of surface area available for filtering. For engines that run at higher temperatures up to 1,022ºF, glass microfibers are used.

Beta Ratio

The Beta Ratio (β) on a fuel filter is just as important as the micron rating but is often ignored. It shouldn’t be. The Beta Ratio or rating determines how many particles a filter will allow to pass through the filter.

  • A fuel filter with a Beta Ratio of 2 will pass one particle out of two, giving it a 50% efficiency.
  • A fuel filter with a Beta Ratio of 10 will pass one particle out of 10, giving it a 90% efficiency.
  • A fuel filter with a Beta Ratio of 20 will pass one particle out of 20, giving it a 95% efficiency.
  • A fuel filter with a Beta Ratio of 75 will pass one particle out of 75, giving it a 98.67% efficiency.

These four ratings (2, 10, 20, 75) are the main ratings you’ll need to be concerned with. There are other ratings, but the law of diminishing returns takes over, and increased ratings become prohibitively expensive for smaller and smaller increases in the efficiency.

Most filter manufacturers don’t advertise the Beta Ratio, so you’ll have to examine the box when you get it. You shouldn’t be satisfied with any Beta Ratio below 10. If the filter you get doesn’t have a Beta Ratio of 10 or above, return it for a better filter.

An engine that is difficult to start could indicate a partial blockage in the fuel filter. It needs to be taken care of before it causes worse problems.



Fuel filter tools: ARES Fuel Line Disconnect Tool
Late-model vehicles often need a disconnect tool for the fuel, heater, and AC lines. This tool from ARES handles both 3/8-inch and 5/16-inch lines, making fuel filter replacement a breeze.

Cleaning wipes: STP Cleaning & Engine Degreasing Wipe
STP is one of the most trusted names among professional mechanics. These handy degreasing wipes can clean up the messes that occur when you’re working on engines, getting rid of contaminants that could get into the fuel line when you’re changing fuel filters.

Fuel filter prices


The low price range for fuel filters is $5 to $10. These are small filters designed primarily for lawn equipment.


The medium price range is from $10 to $25. These are full-sized budget fuel filters. They do a good job but don’t last as long as the higher priced filters.


Anything over $30 is considered the high price range for fuel filters. This price range includes heavy-duty diesel filters and filters that are bound to last as long as factory-grade filters.

Did You Know?
If your vehicle suddenly dies on the road for no apparent reason, and you still have a full tank of gas, it could mean your fuel filter is completely blocked.


  • On most vehicles, the fuel filter is considered “in-line” if it is located beneath the vehicle between two sections of the fuel line. It will usually be located close to the fuel tank.
  • An unusually foul-smelling exhaust is a sign of improper or incomplete combustion and is a classic indicator of a clogged fuel filter.
  • Many fuel filters are located in the engine compartment. Aside from the location, these are also in-line filters and should look the same as the ones located under a vehicle. These are easier to change than the ones located under the vehicle.
If your vehicle runs rough at slow speeds and has difficulty accelerating, these are classic signs of a clogged fuel filter.


Q. If my vehicle runs well at highway speeds, how can my fuel filter be bad?

A. At highway speeds, there is more pressure pushing fuel through your filter, ensuring that enough fuel makes it through the filter to run your engine even if the filter is clogged or obstructed.

Q. If my vehicle runs badly at low speeds, does that mean it’s the fuel filter?

A. There could be any number of problems, and yes, a clogged fuel filter is one of the possibilities.

Q. My vehicle idles roughly. Is it because of the fuel filter?

A. Rough idles are the result of the engine not combusting correctly. This is usually the result of a fuel problem, either in the fuel itself or a clogged filter that isn’t allowing enough fuel to reach the engine.

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