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Fuel Filters

by Had Robinson

If the best is desired, purchase the WIX #33001.  Both the WIX and original OEM filters are available from Miniplane-USA.  The WIX has a much larger filtering area and is better quality.  The OEM, however, is smaller and fits better.  The inline fuel filters at auto parts stores are of inferior quality unless you can find the WIX.

Filter quality & capacity

Why bother with a high quality filter?  It must be able to trap all of the grit and other contaminants in the fuel and lubricating oil.  This will prevent the carburetor from getting clogged, especially the pump inlet fuel filter screen that is inside the carburetor.  A clogged carburetor cannot deliver the correct amount of fuel to the engine.  The lubricating oil also needs to be filtered in order to prevent premature wear of engine parts.

A CLOGGED FUEL SYSTEM IN ANY HIGH PERFORMANCE ENGINE IS A POTENTIAL DISASTER.  FUEL STARVATION IS THE #1 CAUSE OF ENGINE DAMAGE IN PARAMOTORS.

Aviation engine forums (ROTAX) note that paper filters are the best because they have the finest filtration media – around 10 microns vs. 40+ micros for sintered bronze or the pickup tube filters sitting at the bottom of fuel tanks.  The non-paper filters do not trap the very small particles which will clog the pump inlet fuel filter screen and other tiny openings in the carburetor.  A clear filter housing must be used because pilots need to be able to periodically check that the filter is not clogged or has a leak.

Here is a clogged pump inlet fuel filter screen from a Walbro carburetor.  Instead of using a quality filter, the pilot used a sintered bronze filter which allowed contaminants to reach the carburetor.  This engine experienced fuel starvation and overheated.  Fortunately, it was not damaged because the lack of fuel was so severe the engine shut down before damage could occur.

fuel inlet filter clogged with debris

Here is a sintered bronze filter.  The dirt-bike guys derisively refer to these as "lawnmower filters" because of their inability to filter well.  The media is just not fine enough to stop small particles from passing through.

sintered bronze fuel filter 

Fuel pump diaphragm from the carburetor above showing signs of water contamination in the fuel, probably from using ethanol blends.

WG-8 fuel pump diaphragm with water contamination

Below is a photo of the WIX #33001 inline fuel filter (L) and a similar filter (R) sold by the auto parts stores.  Note that the size of the WIX filtering media is probably 20X that of the other.  The filter media of the WIX is a nominal 12 microns which is more than sufficient.  Who knows what it is of the filter on the right?  Most inline filters are rated at 40 or more microns which is not enough to keep the pump inlet fuel filter screen from clogging up.  The absence of barbs on the hose connections guarantees that the filter on the right will leak or come loose at some point -- which could be hazardous.  Why put a cheap fuel filter on a $3,000 engine?  The WIX costs around $5 (2017) and is worth every penny.

WIX fuel filter and a poor quality inline fuel filter

Depending on use, fuel filters should be replaced yearly.  Ethanol and fuel that is contaminated by water hasten the deterioration of paper fuel filters.  The in-tank filter on the end of the fuel pickup hose should be checked to be sure it is not clogged.  This can be easily done by removing the fuel line to the carburetor and pressurizing the fuel tank using the primer tube and a hefty breath.  Fuel/air should come easily out of the tube.  There should be restrictions on the fuel/air movement.  This quick test will also assure you that the fuel pickup tube filter is also clear

Ethanol fuel blends can form gelatinous globs from contaminants which will quickly clog the fuel pickup tube filter in the tank.  Be sure to check it often using the quick fuel system test.

Installation tips

To easily remove the fuel filter from the tubing, heat the tubing with a hot air gun or a hair dryer until it is almost too hot to touch.  The tubing will easily slip right off of the fittings without damaging anything.

When connecting the filter, put a small amount of pure silicone grease on the outlets and inside the tubing.  This will greatly ease the installation of the tubing.  It will also keep it from splitting.

If the WIX filter is used, its large size has to be considered.  The best location is just to the outside of the upper engine mount, between it and air box.  It fits in here nicely.  The downside is that the fuel line tubing will have to be longer.  If the WIX is placed in the same location as the OEM filter, it is tight and will rub on things.  I am seeing if there are other quality filters that are smaller in diameter compared to the WIX.  As of August 1, 2017, I've not found a smaller, efficient filter.  The filter must have barbed ends, as well.

WIX fuel filter location on the Top 80 paramator 

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