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I'm a mechanic-in-progress, learning as I go along. Thanks to this site, ERTDOnline, and a lot of misc. information via Google, I've learned to do quite a lot. Oh, and my Uncle who helped me on my first oil change. All images courtesy myself, using a 1997 Escort LX 4-door sedan and an LG Banter (UX-265) camera phone. Sorry for the rough pictures, they were taken in the dark using a drop-light and Mag-Lite.

Disclaimer: By reading this document you acknowledge there are risks associated with maintenance issues including personal injury or damage to property and the potential for fatalities. The author makes no claim(s) that any of the following are safe nor recommended ways of performing automotive tasks despite what may be written below.

Objective
To disconnect a used fuel filter and install a new one on a 1997 or similar Ford Escort (3rd generation).

Parts
Fuel Filter (i.e. FF-601, etc.)

Tools
Safety glasses, old rag(s), gloves, Abzorbit / Spill Magic or catch pan / bucket for spilled fuel
Open wrenches: 1/2", 7/16", 10mm, 12mm
Ratchet and sockets: 1/4", 10mm, 12mm, and extension
Adjustable pliers
Flathead screwdriver, short-handle preferably
Fuse puller tool (Optional)

Preparation
Release fuel pressure! This is critical as an explosion or fire could occur. Fuel injection systems rely on pressure and relieving the pressure is simple, so do not skip this 30-second process.

As far as I know, there are two ways to do this and the best way is to locate the Fuel Pump fuse (should be about 20 amp fuse) in the fuse box under the hood, clearly labeled. Start the car and pull the fuse using a plastic fuse puller...if the car dies out, you pulled the correct fuse and are ready to begin work when the engine cools.

The other way is to open the gas cap slowly and poke the tab inside (for measure). This is not the safest way to relieve pressure.

Step-By-Step

Figure A - Left to right: Battery, plastic cover with stabilizer rod on top.

Safety disconnect the battery and clear the terminals. Remove any plastic housing or covers and use a 1/4" socket or wrench to remove the stabilizer rod securing the battery housing to the bottom plate.


Figure B - Bottom plate of the battery compartment.

Remove the bottom plate which acts as a platform for the battery. It is held by four 10mm bolts with washers.


Figure C - Battery and bottom plate removed from vehicle.

This is what you should see from the front of your vehicle when the battery and bottom plate are removed.


Figure D - Identifying location of the fuel filter.

The fuel filter is against the back firewall, between and below the windshield wipers. It sits approx. twelve to twenty-four inches deep, above the connection for the intake hose and manifold. Starting at the PCV valve, follow the PCV hose to the firewall. In figure D, it can be seen as a golden rim cylinder with a hose connecting on both the top and bottom, immediately left of the brake fluid reservoir.


Figure E/F/G - Three-in-One image of the two plastic retaining clips on the IN and OUT fuel hoses.

To remove these clips, push the tips of the "U" shape outward to make more of a "\_/" shape. Then, push the tips toward the hose so the clip slides out backward. Careful -- my fuel filter (FF-601, AutoZone) did not come with the plastic clips.

Note: Make sure to use the top clip with the top hose, etc. They seem slightly different, and orient them correct as seen in the above pictures. Using the FF-601 filter, everything should look stock when finished. Pay attention to detail.


Figure H - Short-handled screwdriver used for removing the metal clamp.

Using a short-handled screwdriver works best for this step, but regardless the metal clamp (worm clamp?) must be loosened to pull the filter straight up. This is the easiest route, in my opinion. See the next two steps for a better picture (Figure J).


Figure I - Tilted picture of the fuel filter with the OUT hose being on top.

Gather a rag and wrap up the battery connection(s) and another to immediately wipe your hands -- there will be fuel spilled today.


Figure J - A good side-view of the fuel filter, clamp, and plastic retaining clips.


Figure K - Bottom side-view of the fuel filter and IN hose with plastic retaining clip.

Once both plastic retaining clips are removed, see Figure E/F/G, and the clamp has been loosened so that the fuel filter freely slides up and down, grab the fuel filter with one hand and with the other hand pull the OUT hose (the top of the filter's hose) firmly to disconnect it. Fuel should leak soon. Switch hands and hold the filter while pulling the bottom IN hose off the filter. Lift the filter straight up next to the brake fluid reservoir and out of the vehicle.

Note: If your filter came with rubber caps on the replacement filter, putting those on the used filter could limit the fuel spillage on other parts or hoses and the ground beneath your car. Having rags and the replacement filter readily available will also help.

Firmly push the correct hoses, OUT on top of filter, IN on bottom, and replace the plastic retaining clips oriented as in the above pictures.


Figure L - Re-inserting the bottom plate for the battery.

Slide the bottom battery plate in a backwards "C" shape, under the intake. Re-bolt and replace battery, battery covers, stabilizer rod, and wait for any fuel vapor or fumes to dissipate the area. Make sure any spilled fuel is dry and reconnect the battery safely. When all is finished, start the car and move it -- note any leaking, otherwise you're done!

Reassembly is the reverse.
 

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Great write-up! The only thing I would add/modify is:

Relieve fuel-pressure by triggering inertia switch (in trunk or in cabin by left foot kick-panel) with engine running. Crank over a few times after the engine dies. I've never heard of the gas cap method, and I'm not too sure it would relieve any pressure built up in the fuel lines after the fuel pump.
 

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The nylon clips become brittle and yellow with age, and may break when you try to remove them. Motorcraft fuel filters come with replacement clips. There's no difference between the top & bottom clips.
 
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