The simplest way to determine if a fuel filter needs replacing is to locate the filter and look for signs of damage and wear. A dirty fuel filter appears brown, sometimes even black, and could also appear brittle and oily. A few simple tools are needed to access the fuel filter, and many vehicle owners manage to maintain and replace their fuel filters without professional aid.
The engine of an automobile may be slow to respond while in drive, sputter or idle roughly when a fuel filter is dirty. When the gas pedal is depressed, but the car hesitates to accelerate or responds gradually rather than sharply, there is a good chance that the fuel filter is to blame for the delay. The fuel filter is responsible for keeping dirt and debris from running through the fuel line into the engine, so a dirty or clogged filter can drastically affect engine performance .
According to DMV.org, fuel filters need to be changed annually. Fuel filters in automobiles that are driven on gravel or have high mileage should be changed more often. DMV.org reports that even those that own new vehicles should change the fuel filter at least every 30,000 miles.