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Replacing Fuel Filters in 6.0L Powerstroke Engines

In the first of our “Learning to Diesel” articles, Area Diesel helps a know-nothing newbie replace the fuel filters on a 2005 F-250, using instructions for any ’03 - ’07 Ford 6.0L Powerstroke engine in Excursions or F250 - F550 trucks.

First things first. Just want to get to work? Skip down to the step-by-step instructions: 
How to Change Fuel Filters on ’03 - ’07 Ford 6.0L Powerstroke Engines

Up for the story behind my first diesel project? Read on.

I’m Joe, a writer who works and plays in the American Midwest. Much to the chagrin of my old man, I never learned a damn thing about diesels. It’s time I picked up the skills to work on my own engine and save some cash on mechanic bills. That’s why I’m leaning on my friends at Area Diesel Service for help on this educational series, “Learning to Diesel,” available on the Well Revved blog.

For these articles, I’m partnering with Area Diesel’s Iowa Branch Manager Corey Stallings. He’ll be the brains behind the work, and I’ll be the hapless schmuck testing his patience while he walks me through various projects to fix problems, generally improve performance, and handle basic diesel maintenance. Penning the experiences is intended to entertain readers a bit while you learn to tackle your own diesel projects. If nothing else, this series should help others avoid any of the embarrassing or expensive mistakes I’m bound to make.

Alright, off we go.

Learning to Replace Fuel Filters

When I asked Corey which task I should take on first, he didn’t take long to respond. “Lets start with replacing the fuel filters,” he said. “It’s not too complicated or intimidating, and it’s vital upkeep to hit at least twice a year or every 10,000 miles for the health of the fuel system. Getting a handle on this chore can save you some decent money over the next couple years.” He also urged me to pay close attention, because failing to follow the procedure can cause broken or damaged injectors.

Supplies for Replacing Fuel Filters

Before we headed to the garage, my Area Diesel guide sent me shopping. Here’s the list of supplies Corey put on my list:

  • Fuel Filter Kit
    
NOTE: He recommended using only Motorcraft fuel filters or Racor replacement fuel filters.
  • Paper Towels
  • Bucket or Tub—for draining the fuel
  • Coffee Can or Other Leak-Proof Container—to transport the old filter for disposal

The Racor fuel filter kit for 6.0L Powerstroke work well for replacing fuel filters.










To save a few bucks right off the bat, I ordered my fuel filter kit online, from Area Diesel of course: Racor 6.0L Powerstroke Fuel Filter Kit—Part No. PFF4616.

Required Tools for Replacing Fuel Filters

Here’s the list of tools Corey told me to grab:

  • 36mm Socket 6mm Allen Wrench
  • 24mm Sock or ½" Drive Ratchet
  • Turkey Baster

Just four tools? Maybe I can swing this little diesel project after all.

Down to Business

With my tools and supplies at the ready, I popped the hood and Corey put me to work.

Here is the primary diesel fuel filter on the frame rail.“Your primary fuel filter is located under the driver’s side door, on the frame rail,” Corey said, pointing under the truck.

“The long steel rail that runs the length of the truck, right?” I asked, recalling the days I’d eagerly repeat just about every word my father said while teaching me the simplest of so-called “man’s jobs.”

“Yeah,” Corey answered, not nearly as impressed by my grasp of the obvious as I had hoped he would be.

 

See the secondary fuel filter for replacement.“Now, your secondary filter is going to be back up here on the engine, sitting just between the CAC tube and the air intake tube,” he said, calling my attention to the most prominent—as in fattest—aluminum tube in the engine. “See the two lids there? Those are to keep any extra crap from clogging the filters. You can ignore this bigger one today; it’s for the oil filter. You want to remove the smaller lid, the one for the secondary fuel filter,” he said.

“Got it. Watching you do the first one should give me a pretty good feel for this,” I told him.

“Yeah, I’m sure it would,” Corey said, laughing as he handed me a hand-written set of instructions. “But unless you sprung for ‘practice filters’ [sardonic finger quotes flying high], you’re jumping in now, champ. Don’t worry. I’ll be here for backup.”

Fair enough. I glanced over the instructions he’d written for me, fumbled around for a moment, and started with the Primary Fuel Filter:

  1. Place the tub or bucket beneath the fuel pump—under the driver’s door on the frame rail.
    
Check. “Hey, look at me mechanic-ing so easily,” I thought.
  2. On the side of the fuel pump, locate the allen plug—the small, brass plug.
    2a. Using the 6mm allen wrench, remove the allen plug.
    “Righty tighty; lefty loosey” swam through my mind, like every other time I use a wrench.

    2b. With the catch bucket directly in place, drain the fuel / water completely.

    “Woah. So that's what diesel fuel smells like. How does anyone huff this?” I wondered.
  3. Using the 36mm socket, remove the large black end cap—on the end that’s nearer to the engine.
    
Note: The fuel filter will slide out along with the cap.
  4. Pull the old filter and the o-ring from the cap, properly disposing of both.
    
Note: After draining the filter for a full 24 hours, you can place it in a lidded coffee can or leak-proof plastic bag to safely take it to a recycling center that accepts scrap metal.
  5. Install the new primary fuel filter into the cap.
    
Note: Once seated properly in the cap, the new filter will snap into place. Install the supplied o-ring into position on the end cap.

    “Ha. O-Ring. That sounds a little dirty,” my 14-year-old inner voice called out.
  6. Insert the new filter and cap section into the fuel pump, using the 36mm socket to tighten the cap securely—torque to 19lb. per ft.
  7. Being mindful not to over tighten or cross thread it, reinstall the allen plug—the brass plug removed during step 2 above.
    
“Do not strip this thread. Do not strip this thread. Do not stri… Holy hell! I just changed a fuel filter,” I thought.

“So I just replaced a fuel filter with my own two hands, Corey. When do I get my master mechanic’s certificate?” I joked.

“Ha. Not just yet, sir. But nicely done,” he said. “Before you break out the champagne, let’s move onto the secondary filter.”

To replace the Secondary Fuel Filter, I crawled from under the truck and turned my attention to the engine compartment with Corey’s instructions in hand:

  1. Using the 24mm socket or ½" square drive ratchet, remove the black top cap.
  2. Remove the fuel filter from the housing and the o-ring from the lid.
    
“O-Ring. Still funny,” I thought, hoping the grownup next to me wouldn’t ask why I was smirking.
  3. Using the turkey baster, drain the excess fuel from the housing.

    Note: Again, remember to properly dispose of the fuel.
    
“Yeah, I get it. Safety and Mother Earth and all that,” I thought.
  4. Insert the new secondary filter into the housing.
  5. Install the new o-ring onto the lid.
  6. Reinstall the black top cap, using the 24mm socket or ½" square drive ratchet to torque the bolt to 124lb. per in. (or approximately 10 – 11lb. per ft.).
    
“I’m done,” I said to myself. “Didn’t even take that long.”

I turned to face Corey. “That it? I already nailed our first diesel project?” I asked.

“Just about,” he said. “You still have one critically important task before we fire up the engine. You must remember this every time you replace your filters: After you have both new filters properly installed, you need to prime the fuel system and bleed out any air. To do that, turn the ignition to the Run position three separate times—for 30 seconds each time.”

Corey gave me a heavy warning: “If you fail to properly prime the fuel system, it can cause serious damage to the injectors, and that damage might not be immediately detectable.” He said damaged injectors can run—seemingly as normal—for a short time after the failure has occurred, so it’s not always apparent there’s something wrong. I committed that warning to memory for next time, and hopped into the cab to prime the system. A couple minutes later, I started her up.

Victory Lap

While I packed up my tools and the dead fuel filters, Corey took a closer look at my work and then drove a couple laps around the block just to be certain the truck wasn’t about to fall apart. When he got back, I made my way over for the final verdict. “Alright, man, she’s in good shape,” he said and handed me a beer. “Here’s to a job well done.” Indeed.

Look, I’m aware that in reality, changing fuel filters just isn’t all that impressive. Still, I have to admit that beer had the extra-satisfying taste of one that’s well earned. It’s safe to say this newbie is looking forward to round 2 of our “Learning to Diesel” series.