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I almost ran out of gas last week, going into the reserve and getting down to the last 2 quarts or so.

About 5 days laters I started to experience power loss. The car will lose power and slow down to a crawl for a few seconds, then gradually return to full power.

My guess is that the fuel filter probably got clogged and needs to be replaced.

Any other issues I should consider?

  • What is the year/make/model of the vehicle? Transmission? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jan 10 '17 at 17:16
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I am looking for generic answers that are agnostic to the quirks of individual vehicle types. The transmission in my case is automatic, but I don't see how that would affect an answer. – Cooter Davenport Jan 10 '17 at 17:19
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    The problem is, diagnosing without this information becomes a guessing game. You are assuming it's the fuel filter. If I were to get the information requested, I can do a cross search to see if there's any other pertinent data which can be attributed to your issues. While you may not want it to be specific to your vehicle, it could very well be that is the crucial bit of information we need to help you solve your overall issue. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jan 10 '17 at 17:23
  • @Paulster2 At this point I am going to assume it is a dirty fuel issue, and not worry about other possible causes until the dirty fuel issue is excluded by experimentation. Due to the timing of the problem, I think it is extremely likely the problem is that dirt at the bottom of the tank got sucked into the fuel line, so I want to figure out how to deal with that specific problem before worrying about the 1% chance it is something else. – Cooter Davenport Jan 10 '17 at 17:27
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    @CooterDavenport if you are operating on the assumption that it's the fuel filter, and don't intend to consider other possibilities until you have ruled that out, I don't understand the point of asking this question. – barbecue Jan 10 '17 at 20:25
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All cars do not have the same fuel systems, so we'll take a very generalised stab at this.

Running the car very low on gas could damage the fuel pump on many modern vehicles which have an in-tank fuel pump. The fuel acts as lubrication for the pump, and running it too low can cause the pump to burn out. Older carbureted designs tend to have mechanical pumps that operate at much lower pressures than new electric ones. These are typically less likely to be damaged by a low fuel level.

Many modern cars have internal fuel filters. Instead of replacing these filters every so often as you would an oil filter, they are "cleaned" (for lack of a better word) by the unused fuel returning back through the filter. If this is a newer vehichle, I would not expect this system to fail easily. from personal experience, it tends to be fairly robust. If it is 7 or 8 years old and the filter has never been touched, it is certainly more likely to have failed. If you have been putting sketchy gas into the vehicle, it is certainly more likely to have failed. If it is an old cannister type filter, might as well just slap a new one on; they are very inexpensive.

Not all of the generalizations here apply to all cars in the "modern" and "older" categories.

Certain makes and models of vechicles are more likely to have an issue. As an example only (you'll have to look into recalls for you make and model), here is a recall from 3 months ago for BMW's with failing fuel pumps. I have a 3 series that is on its 3rd, thankfully warrantied, fuel pump.

Given that the issue did not start until 5 days after almost running dry, I don't think it is safe to say that they are definitively related. Many other factors could be affecting the situation and giving you similar symptoms.

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