I have a love-hate relationship with my car. Mostly, I hate it. But it's carried me all this way, it's done better than I expected, and I feel more wholly responsible for this car. But it's red, and it's tiny, and it has horrendous decals, and it's not a pickup truck. It gets great gas mileage, even with all of my belongings weighing it down. It moves just a little more quickly than my truck (but not a whole lot).
It did okay over the summer, but when winter came around it needed new tires because the ones it had were bald. I went to replace the front two tires, because the car is front wheel drive so those should be changed first, and was told that the tires weren't even the right size for my car, and the two back tires didn't even match. That was a moment of severe hate towards my car.
Then my car picked up this really cute habit of stalling on hills. I would come to a stop at the top of a hill--very common in Ithaca--and when it was time to go again, the car would sputter and die. And a hill is obviously the best place for this to happen. When it rained I took the very, very long way home so I could avoid traffic and the steeper inclines. Another moment of severe hatred towards my car. Several times over. That caused me to get really nervous every time I was on a hill.
This cough that my car came down with has gotten worse. It doesn't die on flat ground, but it does cough a little when I need to get going. It doesn't like to accelerate around a turn. It doesn't like to move much at all, really. On the advice of several people (plus the internet) I decided to give my fuel filter a change because that can lead to sputtering and slower acceleration. It's one of the cheapest things to fix first, so it's not a bad place to start.
And today is the day that I changed my fuel filter. I did not get my fuel filter changed; I changed my fuel filter.
I went to AutoZone and had them look up which filter I needed. I bought the "quick disconnect" parts (more on those later). I bought a wrench set to get the one bolt off that would likely need to come off (it didn't really). The man helping me gave me a look and asked why I knew what those quick disconnect parts even were.
I got back and depressurized my fuel line. I shimmied under my car and started to disconnect the tubes. I covered my hands in gasoline (but don't worry, I wore my protective sunglasses to keep my eyes clean). I'm staying with family of family right now, and the man of this family came out to see how I was doing and this was also the point at which things stopped being so easy. For no particular reason. These "quick" disconnect tools are little plastic rings that are supposed to slide along the tube and into the fuel filter to release the little clips inside holding the tube in the fuel filter. They are supposed to slide right in. I wrangled the clip onto the tube and tried to slide it in. Tried to shove it in. Tried--while squeezed under my car, which is very low to the ground and not jacked up because I don't have a jack nor do I know how to safely use one--to leverage myself enough to put at least a good portion of my body weight into that tiny piece of plastic to wedge it into the fuel filter.
So the man of this family (his name is Les) says "I have a jack, let's see if more room makes it easier for you." And he jacks my car up for me. It's a little easier, but I'm still making no progress. So he decides to give it a try. 15 minutes of pushing, wrenching, etc., right as we're about to give up, the fuel filter finally comes off. There was no "sliding" and nothing "quick" about that part of the process. The old filter is off. The new filter snaps on and I reconnect the rest of the tubes. New fuel filter installed! I start my car up, re-pressurize the fuel system, check for leaks (none!) and let the car run a minute.
And that, my friends, is how one replaces a fuel filter.
I am so proud of myself. I smell like gasoline. I've washed my hands three times and they're still dirty, but I did something to my car. Something most people pay to have done. What a moment!
I haven't driven my car yet, so I don't know if this will help anything. But even if it doesn't, the fuel filter should be replaced every 50,000 miles or so, and I'm at 60,000 right now and I'm sure it wasn't done before I bought the car.
I still dislike a lot of things about that car. And if this doesn't change the sputtering, I'm still going to hate it pretty regularly. But when it comes time to sell it sometime in the future, I know I'm going to look at it and think about that tiny little fuel filter that's only there because I put it there. It wasn't very hard to do, it doesn't take special skills, but knowing that I did instead of paying someone else to do it is a really awesome feeling.
Also knowing that I sort of impressed the guy that works at AutoZone is a nice feeling, too. He had to check the size of my engine and when he saw my plates were from New York he asked if I was coming or going. I told him I was coming, and probably going to New Orleans. He asked "You drove all the way? By yourself?" (By the way, I think it's funny when people ask "By yourself?" when they're in sight of my car because the passenger seat is just as full as the backseat so it's obvious no one could ever fit in that car with me). I said yeah. He said "Whoa. You're brave." That was a nice feeling, too.