How to Clean a Fuel Tank Without Removing it?

Post by 
Tom Schaffer
Last updated on 
February 17, 2021

The fuel tank is one of the most essential components of a vehicle. Hence, it is important for the fuel tank to work efficiently, without any clogging inside. The three essential components of a fuel system of a vehicle are the fuel tank, fuel pump, and filter. In this article, we have laid down steps in detail to clean all of these components by yourself. The following are some of the warning signs which shall tell you if your fuel system requires cleaning: 

  1. Your vehicle will be sputtering at high speeds. This is because the fuel pump is struggling to supply fuel to the engine. This is one of the most evident signs of a faulty fuel tank.  
  2. There might be a rise in the temperature of your car, leading to its stall. This will tell you that your fuel pump is starting to deteriorate and it needs to be cleaned. 
  3. Check the owner’s manual for the optimal operating pressure of the vehicle’s fuel pump. Key a tab on the fuel pressure gauge of your vehicle. If the pressure is less than what is specified by the owner’s manual, it is a clear sign that your pump needs to be cleaned properly. 
  4. A vehicle under stress is bound to show symptoms. For instance, while driving up a hill, or while trying to accelerate fast, if your car engine turns off, it is an indicator of a faulty fuel pump. 
  5. Besides, keep a tab on the fuel consumption of your car. A faulty fuel pump will require more fuel to pump it into the engine system. Thus, if you notice a difference in mileage, it is a sign that your fuel pump requires to be cleaned. 
  6. Lastly, if your car engine does not start, and you are sure that your ignition and battery are perfectly fine, it shall mean that your fuel pump requires to be cleaned urgently. 


In the event of any such symptom being displayed, you need to urgently clean the fuel pump. The first major step in this regard is to remove the filter. This is how you do it -

  1. Your fuel pump comes with a fuse. Find the fuse and remove it. Following this, start your engine and let it run for two to three minutes. If your car shuts down within this time period, do not worry. It just means that the pressure from the pump is relieved. 
  2. The next step is to turn the engine off and remove the negative terminal of your vehicle’s battery. Also, secure the cable so that it does not touch the terminal by accident. Otherwise, it might damage the battery.
  3. Next, you need to locate the fuel filter. The location of the fuel filter is determined by the make and model of the car. It differs across different vehicles. You need to consult the owner’s manual for finding its exact location in your car. It should ideally be anywhere between the engine and the fuel tank. 
  4. Jack up your car and detach the fuel lines from the fuel filter. Get a bucket and place it under the filter to collect the draining fuel. Using a wrench, after this, remove the fuel lines and remove the filter from the bracket. 

After removing the filter, for the remainder of the task of cleaning the fuel pump, pour out any extra fuel which is left in the filter. Get a pressurized carburetor cleaner for performing the next steps. The cleaner needs to be sprayed on the filter and left for two hours to let it sit. Tap any debris out and then leave the filter to dry for about an hour. Following this, the filter needs to be put back into the bracket. The final step is to reconnect the fuel lines and lower the jack. The battery must then be reconnected. 

Start the engine and do a test run. Your car should run smoothly. And if there is a fuel spill, you need to check your fuel lines properly and secure them. 

Cleaning the Fuel Tank: Step by Step Process

So far, we have laid out detailed steps for cleaning the fuel filter and the fuel pump of your vehicle. However, from time to time, the fuel tank itself requires cleaning for the vehicle to run smoothly and efficiently. In this section, we will provide detailed steps for cleaning the fuel tank of your car, without removing it. 

1. Read the Instruction Manual 

The owner’s manual serves as a handy guide to your car. It tells you where the different components are located. You need to consult it thoroughly before making any repair. Go through the instruction manual to find out how to disconnect the fuel tank lines. These lines vary across make and model of the cars. It is important to disconnect the fuel lines as otherwise, your vehicle might suffer damages. Follow the safety instructions very carefully. 

2. Drain the Fuel Tank

This is the most important step that needs to be performed while cleaning the fuel tank of any vehicle. Cleaning a fuel tank with fuel still inside it can be extremely risky. Therefore, you need to drain the fuel tank in a proper way. An easy way to do this is to keep your car running, until it runs out of the last drop of fuel. Also, it is better to jack your car from one side, so that the fuel drains faster and in a better way. In this way, you can also save a lot of time in cleaning your fuel tank. 

3. De-Greasing the fuel tank

Even after draining your fuel tank, it will smell of gasoline. Hence, you need to de-grease the tank. It will result in a more effective cleaning, as well. There are two ways in which you can do this. You can either use some home detergent by mixing it with hot water, or you can buy a proper, commercial degreaser for this purpose. You will need to leave the degreaser/mixture in the tank for 24 hours. If the tank still smells of gasoline, you will have to perform this step once again. 

4. Pressure-washing of Fuel tank

Upon completing the degreasing process, you need to wash the fuel tank with water very properly. In doing so, it is best to use a pressure washer. This will wash out all the debris, rust and dirt from the tank. The sprayer should be pointed at various angles so that the dirt is also removed from the walls of the fuel tank. You need to be extremely careful during this process, as debris might get into your eyes. We would advise you to wear safety goggles for your own safety. 

5. Use a cleaning solution

Fuel tanks rust over time. Thus, it is likely that your fuel tank will have grim or rust on it. For removing them, you need to use a cleaning solution. This is because the chemicals from the solution will break down the rust. Following the application of the cleaning solution, it will be possible for you to wash off the dirt and debris easily. It is advisable to use professional grade acid solutions for cleaning. 

6. Leave the tank

After applying the cleaning solution, do not directly proceed to wash the tank. You need to allow the solution to settle on the walls of the tank for a couple of hours. For best results, let the solution sit for a minimum of 5 hours. After this, you can easily remove the rust and sludge from the tank. In case you do not have much free time, leave it for at least two hours. 

7. Rinse the fuel tank

This is a crucial step. Upon completing all the steps, you will be required to rinse the fuel tank properly with clean water. Without rinsing, the residue from cleaning can mix with the fuel, thus affecting the performance of your car engine. 

10. Dry the fuel tank

The final step in the process of cleaning the fuel tank is to let it dry properly. After you are done with cleaning, you will be required to leave the tank for 36 to 48 hours for drying it. Make sure that there is no water or cleaning solution inside the fuel tank. Once it has dried properly, make sure that the tank does not smell of gasoline. 


The fuel tank, along with components like fuel pump and fuel filter are the most essential components of any vehicle. They need to be maintained well, and they require cleaning from time to time. In this article, we have laid down detailed steps for cleaning not just the fuel pump and filter, but the fuel tank itself. You can perform all these steps yourself, without going to the mechanic. Go through our do-it-yourself article properly. Make sure that you follow the safety precautions carefully while performing these steps. A properly functioning fuel tank can keep your car running for years. It will deliver a great mileage, and hence, will also lead to savings on fuel expenses in the long run. 

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