The fuel filter is an important part of any vehicle and one that drivers will likely have to replace every so often to avoid losing performance. The filter is installed in the fuel system and functions as a trap to catch any dirt, debris or other contaminants that would get into the engine. Essentially, it functions like any screen or sieve that allows liquid to pass through and keeps solid particles out.

The problem with filters of this kind is they simply don't last forever. Over time, particles will become attached to the filter and eventually begin to clog the passageway. This in turn can possibly prevent fuel from getting through if the filter gets dirty enough. If not enough fuel is getting to the engine, it will result in a lean mixture, meaning that the engine takes in a higher concentration of oxygen. In extreme circumstances, the flow of gasoline can be stopped completely, which would prevent an engine from starting or cause the car to stop running if it's in motion.

Thus, it's important that drivers pay close attention to the fuel filter. Fortunately, replacing the fuel filter is a relatively easy project that an amateur mechanic can do on their own. That being said, it's a bit more complex than changing radiator coolant or performing an oil change. You will be working around fuel, so safety is paramount. Make sure you have a good set of goggles and gloves and never have any time of open flame around, including cigarettes.

It's best to do this procedure when you're low on gas - you might want to plan in advance and fill up a gasoline can so you can refill the tank later. You first need to relieve the fuel pressure in the lines. Start by loosening the gas cap. Then, use your owner's manual to locate the fuse for the fuel pump and remove it, shutting that part down.

Turn on your car and let the engine run until you're out of gas and the engine stops. Once stopped, crank the engine a bit by turning the key to take care of any remaining pressure.

Next, disconnect the negative battery cable under the hood. Using your owner's manual, locate the fuel filter - it's probably underneath the rear of your vehicle. It varies depending on the model, but you may need jack stands to get the car up enough to get under there comfortably. Make sure you're parked on a smooth, level surface and the wheels are blocked off anytime you get under a vehicle.

Disconnect the fuel lines from the filter, which is safe to do now that you've relieved the pressure. You'll also have to remove the mounting bolts, then take off the old filter. Your new filter should ideally be the same type as the old one - the experts at your local auto parts store can help ensure you get the right one. Insert the new fuel filter and bolt it on tightly. Most filters have an arrow on it to show which way the fuel is going to flow - obviously, you want to make sure this arrow points toward the engine.

Now reattach the fuel lines, install the fuse for the pump again, and connect the negative battery cable. Start the engine and be sure you check for any leaks as you refill the fuel tank. You should now be able to take a car for a test drive and should notice an increase in performance if your filter was especially dirty.