Your car's fuel filter is more important than you'd think given its size. It's a small, cylinder-shaped metal part that's attached to your fuel line just before the fuel pump. As the fuel passes through the filter to the pump, any particles or contaminants that might be in the fuel will get caught in the filter. Over time, this can lead to a clogged and inefficient fuel filter. Here are a few common symptoms of a clogged fuel filter to help you determine when it's time to call the mechanic.

Early Warning: Erratic Engine Behavior

When a fuel filter starts to clog, the effect it has on the fuel flow will cause your car's engine to respond unpredictably. This unpredictability is the result of the fluctuations in the amount of fuel reaching the engine. You may find that your engine gets sluggish and hesitates when you accelerate hard as well. These are all indications of a clogged fuel filter.

Persistent Symptoms: Acceleration Hesitation

When you step on the gas pedal to accelerate, it increases the amount of fuel sent to the engine so that it can respond accordingly. However, a clogged fuel filter won't allow enough fuel to flow through the system for the engine to respond appropriately. This results in hesitation when you accelerate, because the engine doesn't get the fuel it needs to accelerate as quickly as normal.

Long-Term Issues: Starting Trouble and Engine Failure

Left unaddressed, the clog will worsen. Eventually, you won't be able to get enough fuel through the system to even start the engine or maintain idle. If your car isn't starting or it repeatedly stalls, it may be the result of insufficient fuel from a clogged filter. This is particularly true if the problem follows the previous two symptoms. You'll have to replace the filter to restore the proper engine operation.

While these problems are most commonly the result of a clogged fuel filter, it's important to note that it isn't the only cause. Fuel pump problems and other combustion-cycle issues can also cause these symptoms in some less frequent cases. That's why it's important to have a mechanic evaluate the engine before you self-diagnose and spend money on a part that may not actually help with the problem. Your mechanic can disconnect the fuel filter and examine it. Cleaning the ports may help resolve the problem, but in most cases, you'll need to have the filter replaced. 

For more information, contact local professionals like Malibu Motors Service.