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5 Signs of a Bad Fuel Filter That Needs Replacing

5 Signs of a Bad Fuel Filter That Needs Replacing

Skid steer a with bucket attachment moving dirt

5 Signs of a bad fuel filter that needs replacing

Reading time: 5 min

Whether you like it or not, nearly everything on a jobsite requires fuel. Something has to power your fleet. Unfortunately, fuel is pricey, but it’s still a very valuable resource. When machines have fuel-related issues, it can cost you a significant amount of time and energy. That doesn’t include the costs of repairing machines that experience maintenance issues. In many cases, a clogged fuel filter could be the culprit.

There are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to fuel filters, and following these rules will generally avoid bad fuel filter symptoms and damage to your machines. Each machine has different filters and intervals in which they need to be replaced. These intervals are generally based on the hours of operation. You can find when to change your filter in the owner’s manual. Luckily, changing fuel filters (or any filters, for that matter) is an easy process, given that you know the steps. You can find tutorials for changing filters online.

If you haven’t changed your filter at regular intervals, you might notice some odd behavior from your machine. There are quite a few issues a bad fuel filter can cause, and they are almost always a sign that something needs to be done.


Sometimes, you might find your engine sputtering when you turn the ignition. Although not always, a dirty fuel filter could be the cause of this issue. A clogged fuel filter can starve your engine of fuel, which causes the machine to crank longer and struggle to start. Sometimes, however, this might mean there is a deeper issue. Either way, you should consult your owner’s manual, and identify when your fuel filter next needs to be changed. If you find you’ve missed the date, you should change it immediately.


When operating at low speeds, a clogged fuel filter will cause your equipment to stutter and stall. You might even find the bounce of idling is more intense than before. This is another bad fuel filter symptom. If the filter is clogged and dirty, less fuel is given to the engine. At first, this might seem like a very small issue. Actually, you might find your machine quickly or immediately recovers from this issue. This is something that you should absolutely address in the future, before it is severe enough to cause full engine failure.


Similar to a stalling engine, a misfiring engine could be caused by a dirty fuel filter. Not only does a clogged fuel filter cause an uneven distribution of fuel, but it can create low fuel pressure in your engine. This is a surefire way to cause a misfire. Fortunately, the issue usually starts relatively small. You have time to replace the filter before something worse happens to your machine. If left ignored, you can expect trouble idling, more wasted fuel and eventually your check engine light.


You might find, one day, the speed and handling of your machine seems significantly worse. This might be even more noticeable when driving at high speeds, going up inclines or while carrying heavy loads. The engine could surge, or sputter and you might find turning to be more difficult. A dirty, clogged filter interferes with the amount of fuel put into the engine, causing a litany of problems. While poor engine performance is not an immediate issue, it can worsen until action needs to be taken. It is in your best interest to replace your fuel filter immediately when this issue arises.


If you can’t tell when a fuel filter needs to be changed, you should at least be able to identify when your fuel pump is damaged. It makes a loud, obvious sound and it struggles to properly send fuel to the engine. The damage might have been caused by a bad fuel filter. If your fuel filter is dirty, the rest of your system must compensate for it, putting it under duress. What’s worse – the fuel filter might eventually fail, if it gets dirty enough. Dirt or debris in the engine will cause serious issues. If you realize your fuel pump is broken and your fuel filter is dirty, you should take care of both as soon as possible.


Knowing when to change your machine’s fuel filter requires you to pay attention to warning signs and keep up with maintenance. A clogged fuel filter can reveal itself in a number of ways, including the ones listed above. Generally, it’s good practice to change your fuel filter at least once per year for heavy machinery like excavators and skid steers. Not every piece of equipment operates the same, though. So you should refer to the guidelines set out in your specific machine’s service manual to get an exact answer.


If you’re in need of a new fuel filter for your machine, look no further than the EquipmentShare Shop. Our collection of OEM and aftermarket fuel filters has your fleet covered. Still can’t find what you need? Reach out to one of our parts experts and get personalized assistance.

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