The lubrication system in automobiles supplies oil to the engine. But the oil picks up impurities as it circulates. These can be wear particles from the moving parts of the engine or contaminants that enter the system from outside. The pollutants need to be removed for engine protection, and the component that helps do that is the oil filter.
An automotive oil filter cleans the oil going to the engine. But then, only the right type will perform the oil filter purpose efficiently. That means obtaining the best oil filter for your car. An online oil filter lookup brings up popular oil filter brands such as the MotorCraft oil filter, Bosch oil filter, Mobil oil filter, Napa oil filter, Wix oil filter, and more. That can be confusing, especially if you haven’t used any of the brands before.
While a Mobil oil filter lookup guides you to the advantages of this particular brand, a Bosch filter review will convince you otherwise. Not to worry, though. This oil filter guide contains everything about the automotive oil filter. We wrote it to help you choose not only the right car filter, but also advise on the correct maintenance practices to apply.
In this guide, we examine the oil filter assembly, discuss the engine oil filter function, and advise you on how to ensure the oil filter efficiency. You will also find various illustrations to helps you understand this component better, such as the oil filter parts, engine oil flow diagram, and more. Read on to equip yourself with the knowledge to care for your car’s engine.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Oil Filter Definition and Function
Chapter 2: Oil Filter Specifications
The Oil Filter Specifications to Look For
Oil Filter Specifications Tests
Chapter 4: Bad Oil Filter Symptoms
Bad Oil Filter Symptoms for a Clogged, Leaking, or Wrong Filter
Chapter 5: Oil Filter Troubleshooting
Oil Filter Diagnostic and Troubleshooting Methods
Chapter 6: Oil Filter Removal and Installation
Common Questions About Replacing Oil Filters
Oil Filter Definition And Function
An oil filter is the component that sieves the oil in different machines. It can be engine oil, hydraulic oil, transmission oil, or lubricating oil. In this guide, we will confine ourselves type that cleans engine oil. This is the filter that is used in motor vehicles, both heavy and light.
There are other types of automobile filters, such as the fuel filter. These work almost the same way as the oil filter except for the type of fluid involved. There is also the engine and cabin filter whose design and operation are somewhat different.
The most common oil filters used in today’s motor vehicles feature a basic design. They come in the form of a cylindrical steel housing. Inside the housing is the filter element and various other parts. The filtration media differs across different filters and brands.
What does an oil filter look like? You can easily recognize this component. It is the blue, black, orange, or white canister under the hood of your vehicle, and that measures about four to six inches long. While car oil filters come in many different designs and working methods, the common ones are mostly identical.
A question you could be asking yourself is, where is my oil filter located?
There is no standard oil filter location, and the component can mount anywhere on the engine. Depending on the make of your vehicle, it can be at the top, bottom, or side of the engine block.
The most common oil filter is the spin-on type. As the name implies, this filter attaches to the engine using a threaded mount. You rotate the housing when you want to remove or install it, which make it easy to replace or inspect.
Oil Filter Function
The function of the oil filter is to clean the oil that passes through it. The filter does so by trapping particles so that quality of the oil coming out better than that oil entering the filter. By removing impurities from the oil, a filter helps to reduce the wear of the engine. The life of the engine then extends considerably. It also performs efficiently.
It is important for engine oil to be free of particles and other contaminants. The oil performs a number of functions. It lubricates the moving parts, helps cool the engine, and seals the piston ring. It also absorbs pollutants, removes wear particles, and suspends the soot that results from fuel combustion.
For the oil to perform these functions efficiently, it has to be free from impurities. Contaminants that need to be removed can be organic or inorganic. They include water, glycol, oxidized fuel, dirt such as ingested dust, wear particles from engine parts, and even wrong oil.
Contaminated oil has been proven to impact negatively on the engine of automobiles. The effects can be summarized into:
- Increased wear of the different parts of the engine that leads to frequent rebuilds or repairs
- Reduced life of the lubricant, which causes shorter oil change intervals
- Reduced fuel combustion efficiency and lowered engine performance
- Low fuel economy which increases vehicle operation costs, and
- Higher exhaust emissions that harm the environment
Based on these documented effects of engine oil contaminants, it is evident that the oil filter is an essential component. It helps to increase the lifespan of both the engine and lubricant, reduces maintenance costs, and ensures optimum engine performance. The filter also minimizes the environmental impact of the engine.
Oil Filter Working Principle
How does oil filter work? To understand how this component filters out particles and other contaminants, let us look at its anatomy. Here is an oil filter diagram illustrating the various parts.
Inside The Oil Filter
The major parts include:
Opens when the filter media is restricting the flow of oil, and the engine risks starving of oil. Situations that would force the valve’s spring downward include during cold starts. This is when the oil is too thick to go through the filter media in adequate amounts. Also, when the filter is clogged and not allowing enough oil through.
Oil filter pressure relief valve- a valve that opens when the system pressure exceeds normal levels, usually the manufacturer recommended. The pressure release valve system opens to send oil back to the oil sump instead of the filter.
A metal part that serves as the point of entry and exit for the oil. Concentric holes around the plate allow oil into the filter. The threaded center tube attaches to the filter head on the engine block and forms the pathway for the oil to flow from the filtration media to the engine.
Anti-Drain Back Valve
A rubber valve that prevents oil from flowing back into the filter when the engine is shut off.
Oil Filter Spring Retain
A metal leaf spring that tensions the filter medium and the end disc against the tapping plate.
This is the porous surface that provides the area and structure needed for the blocking of contaminants. The filtration media is usually impregnated with to make it sturdy and durable. Several materials can be used for the filter media such as pleated paper, micro glass, and several synthetic materials.
These are the closed parts of the filter media. Folding increases the useful surface area to ensure optimum filtration and adequate amounts of cleaned oil going to the engine. The number of pleats achievable depends on many factors, such as the thickness of the media and the folding technique. Usually, the higher the number, the better.
Center Steel Tube
The central tube that supports the filter media and prevents it from collapse. Without a center tube, the filter media would not withstand cold starts and the increased pressure difference. The tube is usually perforated to allow free movement of oil from the filtration media.
The Oil Filter Housing
Usually made of steel, the oil filter housing encloses the filter element and provides protection from external damage. It also helps send the oil to the filtration media.
Oil Filter Operation
When a vehicle’s engine is running, the oil pump forces oil from the oil sump into the filter. The oil enters the filter under pressure, through the concentric openings on the top. From here, the oil flows to the filtration media where it forces its way through and into the center tube. The oil then travels through the central tube, out of the filter, and into the engine.
Most filters utilize this oil filter flow direction. Should this oil circuit break as a result of clogged filter or thick oil, a bypass valve opens and sends unfiltered oil to the engine. This ensures the engine is not starved of oil at any one time. The bypass only opens temporarily in most cases, and normal filtration resumes when conditions allow.
For the different parts of the oil filter to work efficiently and ensure optimum performance of the filter, they have to meet specific requirements. Oil filter manufacturers have to ensure that when manufacturing their filters, while users need to check if these specifications are met. On the next chapter, we take a look at the various requirements for the automotive oil filter.
Oil Filter Specifications
Quality oil filters are manufactured according to certain specifications and standards. Automakers demand that for the filters to use on their vehicles, and companies that produce oil filters have to conform. Understanding theses specs ensure you obtain the right filter for your vehicle. You will know the oil filter brands to avoid, and the ones to go for. That is because not every oil filter brand will satisfy these requirements.
A quality filter is desirable for maximum protection of your engine, optimum performance of the vehicle, and minimal impact on the environment. The best oil filter is also bound to be durable, which means lowered maintenance costs. Before we look at the oil filter specifications, something about the process to make these components.
Oil Filter Manufacturing
How are oil filters made? The process to manufacture oil filters usually starts with fabricating the different parts as per the manufacturer’s design. It involves embossing and cutting the housing, tapping plate, and other pieces from a steel metal sheet. Another steel sheet is perforated and cut to make the center tubes.
After that, the carious parts proceed to the extrusion and welding stage. Meanwhile, the filter media is pleated in readiness for insertion into the filter housing. The process ends with the assembly of the various parts, inspection, painting, and packing the finished oil filters.
During the manufacturing process, a lot of care is taken in the selection of the materials to use. Also, in the design. Manufacturers conduct various tests to confirm specific values for the oil filter’s efficiency, capability, endurance levels, and so on. Some of these values are indicated for the user, while others remain with the manufacturer.
The Oil Filter Specifications To Look For
These indicate a filters ability to perform its function, the expected lifespan and other features. They include:
Design And Fabric Integrity
Automotive oil filters need to be made from materials that are sturdy and to specific levels of stress and impact resistance. The design and fabrication integrity requirements can be divided into several categories.
They include steel, plastic, and even stiff cardboard. An oil filter is usually subjected to vibrations, temperature fluctuations, pressure differences, and other conditions. The ability of the materials to withstand these extremes is what extends the specific oil filter lifespan.
The Filtration Media Used
The filtration media can be of many types. Each has its own up and downsides. A majority of low-cost oil filters today use cellulose for the filtration media. Cellulose is inexpensive, less restrictive to oil flow, and capable of absorbing water from oil.
Filter media can also be synthetic. These offer better dirt-holding capacities and particle capture efficiencies. They have pores that are smaller and more uniform, which makes them more efficient when compared to cellulose.
Of notable mention is micro-glass. This filtration media consists of very fine glass fibers and offers higher efficiency rates under different conditions. As a result, the material is often used in high-end oil filters.
It is worth mentioning that the earlier filters utilized steel wire mesh as the filter media. Usually in the form of woven steel wire mesh, this filter media type can be cleaned and reused. That makes it an economical option. But it has its downsides as well. Due to the wire mesh size and the challenges of weaving them close together, wire mesh filters cannot filter very small particles.
Filtration Media Side Seam
This is the seam where the pleated material ends join. It should be tight with no cracks or openings. Gaps in the seam would allow contaminants to pass through and affect the performance of the filter.
Pleat Density And Firmness
The pleats can be supported by a wrap or adhesive beads. Regardless of the mode of support, filtration media pleads should be firm and tight. Loose ones would give in under pressure, and prevent the free flow of the oil. Because the pleats undergo many instances of high differential pressures, it is absolutely necessary that they be firm.
These can be metal or an elastomer such as nitrile. A metal valve seat may not be efficient at preventing the continuous flow of oil, a situation that would compromise the overall efficiency of the filter. The use of plastic material for the bypass valve spring may also be undesirable. The material used for the valve seats, therefore, forms the borderline between the best and the worst oil filters.
End Cap Adhesive
The adhesive should fill the end cap for structural integrity of the pleated media. It should not have gone into the filtration media, as that would compromise the seal it forms. The end cap adhesive may appear to be an insignificant consideration. However, it is one of the most essential of oil filter specifications. It determines the structural strength of the media and the performance and lifespan of the whole filter.
Dirt Holding Capacity
This indicates the amount of dirt a filter can hold before it totally clogs and initiates the bypass mode. The dirt holding capacity is, therefore, a measure of the lifespan of the oil filter. It is an important consideration, especially for vehicles used in extremely dusty conditions. It can help you find the best filter for your car, or the maximum mileage before you replace the filter.
Oil filter manufacturers do not make filters with similar values for dirt holding capacities. It is the reason for the extended life of some oil filter brands and the short lifespan of others. Unfortunately, companies usually do not indicate the values for this specification. Only a test can reveal that, as we will see shortly. Alternatively, you can contact the particular company for the exact values since these are determined at the factory.
The pressure-flow characteristics show how an oil filter would behave in extreme pressures when the oil flow is restricted. This is important as differential pressures are a normal occurrence, especially when conditions lead to high contaminant levels in the oil. It is also a common scenario during cold starts when the engine oil viscosity increases. Under these conditions, an oil filter would go into the bypass mode to avoid starving the engine of oil.
Particle Capture Efficiency
This refers to how effective the filter is at retaining impurities. It all boils down to the filtration media- it is where the actual filtration occurs. More pores per square inch of the filter media increase efficiency, the same with tiny pores.
What Is Oil Filter Ratings?
Manufacturers usually provide ratings for the oil filters they make some of these ratings are useful while others are not. During the process to choose the right oil filter, these ratings are necessary. They are.
Nominal and Absolute Ratings
A nominal rating shows the smallest particle that can pass through the filter. When selecting an oil filter, this rating may not be useful. There have been cases where 10-micron filters allowed through particles ten to twenty times larger. The absolute rating indicates the largest particle that a filter can allow. Again, this may not be useful since no test can verify that.
This is by far the most useful rating for an oil filter. To determine the beta rating, the SAE J1858 test is used. Oil is passed through the filter and particle counters used to determine both the size and quantity of the particles in the fluid going into and exiting the filter. To get the beta ratio, the number of particles upstream is divided by the count of the particles downstream at specific particle size. The formula used is:
Beta ratio = number of particles upstream/ number of particles downstream
% capture efficiency = beta ratio-1×100/ beta ratio
According to the ISO 16889:19999 standard, absolute rated filters must have a beta ratio of 75 or higher. That translates to 98.7 percent efficiency. If lower than this, the filter is taken to be nominally rated.
Oil Filter Specifications Tests
Oil filters are tested for various capabilities, using standard methods and procedures. The results of these tests give a hint of the expected performance of the filter as well as its lifespan. The two most used tests are the SAE HS 806, and SAE J1858. These tests evaluate a filter’s:
- Ability to hold dirt
- Ability to capture particles of a given size or particulate filtration ability
- Burst pressures
- Hot oil durability, and more.
The SAE HS 806 test measures a filter’s efficiency using the weight of the particles and not size or number.
An oil filter’s dirt holding capacity and particle capture efficiency (beta rating) are best determined using the SAE J1858 test. In the dirt-holding capacity test, the amount of debris the filter can collect before it clogs is measured in grams.
For the particle capture test, particles are introduced in the oil and measured for both upstream and downstream fluids. The differences represent the efficiency levels of the filter to capture particles of a given size.
The pressure-flow profile test measures the properties of a filter under different levels of differential pressures. The values obtained indicate the ability of the filter to stand up to different conditions such as cold starts of total clogging.
Oil filter specific indications is a wide topic but essential when selecting the filter to use in your vehicle. Another consideration when choosing the oil filter for your car is the filtration material. Learn about that in the next chapter.
Oil Filter Types
Oil filters come in different types, some common and others not so common. The type used in a vehicle depends on the manufacturer, vehicle type, and application. Also, on vehicle owner preference when they choose to replace an old filter with a different type. Oil filters are generally categorized according to the filtration technique, method of flow, and design. In this part of the oil filter guide, we will look at the most used filter types in modern automobiles.
7 Common Oil Filter Types
Cartridge Oil Filter
It is among the earliest type of oil filter. Also known as an eco oil filter for its environmental friendliness, a cartridge filter consists of a filter media that can be replaced. Instead of the permanent steel housing used in the regular spin-on filter, a cartridge oil filter housing is not discarded when changing the cartridge.
How do cartridge oil filters work? Save for the difference in the filter housing, the cartridge filters are mostly similar to the canister or spin-on type. They work the same way, forcing oil through a filtration media that traps contaminants. For a clearer understanding of what this type of filter represents, here is a short canister and cartridge oil filter comparison.
Cartridge Vs. Canister Oil Filter
Canister or spin-on filters are easy to install, unlike the cartridge type that would be a challenge for the DIY car owners. On the other side, cartridge filters are more environmentally friendly due to the fact that they do not need to be disposed of. A few notable vehicle brands such as Mercedes-Benz use cartridge oil filters, while the canisters are the typical kind of filter and the most used.
Full Flow Oil Filter
The full flow filter is also called a primary oil filter. It is the most installed in today’s motor vehicles. As the name implies, full flow filters clean 100% of the engine oil when operating normally. Because these filters have to keep up with the oil requirements of the engine, they use less restrictive media. If they blocked almost everything, that would starve the engine, especially in cold starts.
To avoid situations where the engine lacks oil, full flow filters are fitted with a bypass valve. The valve allows the oil to avoid the filter media when flow is completely resisted. That can be when starting the engine in extremely cold conditions, and the oil has become overly viscous. The bypass valve would also open the filtration media clogged and prevented the free flow of oil.
Secondary Oil Filter
Also called a bypass oil filter, the secondary filter differs from the full flow filter in terms of operation. While the full flow filter cleans a hundred percent of the oil, the bypass type only cleans a small portion. These filters take between 1% and 10% percent of the filtered oil and clean it further to remove the finer materials.
Usually, new vehicles come equipped with primary filters but you can add the secondary oil filter depending on your preferences or driving conditions. Because secondary oil filters are added to help filter the smaller particles, they help extend the engine lifespan. These filter also prolong oil change intervals. They are a necessary addition for the vehicles driven in severe environments.
Bypass filters mount on the engine, but can also be installed in a remote location with hoses to convey the oil to the engine. These filters are commonly installed in diesel engines where they work alongside the primary filter to deliver optimum oil filtration. They also come in different types, each with its benefits and drawbacks. Note that these type of filters work independently from the primary filters, and are in no way related to the bypass valve that full flow filters use.
Conventional Oil Filter
These filters are a variation of the bypass or secondary oil filter. The reason they are called conventional filters is that they use conventional filtration media- the kind used in primary oil filters. Examples of such media include cellulose, fiberglass, and others.
Conventional oil filters are only different in the level of flow restriction. Being a form of bypass filters, they are designed to clean only a part of the oil going to the engine and remove the smaller particles. You can, therefore, expect them to have a corresponding micron rating. These filters can block particles as small as 1 micron.
Spinner Oil Filter
This type is also known as a centrifugal type of oil filter. The spinner filter uses centrifugal forces to separate contaminants from the oil. A cylinder rotates, and particles get slung out. The vehicle’s compressed air system usually drives these filters. To maintain a spinner oil filter, you need to inspect and clean it from time to time.
Thermal Chamber Oil Filter
A thermal oil filter is just a regular filter, but with the ability to heat up the oil. The filter works in two stages. First, it cleans the oil of particles. The clean oil is then heated to destroy the remaining contaminants that may be a risk to the normal working of the engine and the various components. Thermal oil filters use electricity to heat up the oil, the power which comes from the vehicle’s electrical system.
Magnetic Oil Filter
These utilize a magnetic field to attract metal particles from the oil. Their effectiveness is a controversial topic, with some professionals arguing that most of the particles in the oil are not ferrous and cannot be picked by these filters. Nevertheless, they are a common type of automotive filters. An advantage of the magnetic oil filter is that it does not require to be replaced. Cleaning it regularly keeps it operating efficiently.
Oil Filter Media Types
While on the topic of filter types, it would be good if we talked about the different types of media or membranes used in the filters.
Most replaceable oil filters use this media. Cellulose can trap contaminants between 20 and 40 microns in size. One of the benefits of this oil filter media is the low-cost, which makes it suitable for the filters that are to be disposed of. Cellulose also offers little resistance to the flow of oil. Its ability to hold dirt is also limited and cellulose filters need replacing every 3000 miles or so.
Filtration media of this type is more effective at holding back contaminants. With pores that are more consistent, synthetic media removes 24% of the 8-10 micron contaminants in oil. Because of the enhanced particle holding capacity, oil filters that use synthetic media require changing after a period of 5000-7000 miles. However, it may earlier or later than the timeframe given here depending on the driving conditions and the oil condition.
Consists of very fine metal or glass fibers. Besides offering less resistance to the oil flow, micro glass can hold more contaminants. This makes it a highly effective and long-lasting filter media. Oil filters that use micro glass are often installed on high-end cars. These filters need replacing after 10 000 miles average.
Bad Oil Filter Symptoms
The oil filter in your car can lose its ability to clean oil at any time. It can be as a result of damage, or it could be that the filter has served its life. Damage could have been caused by a build-up of dirt and debris in the filtration media that blocked the pores. Clogging is not the only cause of a bad oil filter.
Several other reasons could be the cause of a filter’s ability to sieve engine oil. These include broken filter media, gaps in the seams, and other forms of damage. It could also be that you installed the wrong filter for your vehicle and it is unable to cope.
Bad Oil Filter Symptoms For A Clogged, Leaking, Or Wrong Filter
A faulty oil filter either starves the engine of oil or delivers contaminated oil. When that happens, several signs of filter failure start to show. In this section, we will look at the most common symptoms. Let us start straight away.
Low Oil Pressure
A clogged filter causes a sudden and sharp drop in the oil pressure levels. In the older vehicles, the pressure drop can be seen on the oil pressure gauge. Usually, the needle remains in one place when the filter is working properly. A drop in the oil pressure moves the needle down to the red zone. If this happens, the culprit could be a bad oil filter.
In most modern vehicles, the oil pressure gauge has been replaced by a dashboard warning light. It comes on whenever the oil pressure has dropped below the recommended 5 to 7 psi. Low oil pressure symptoms should not be taken lightly. If they happen, it is advisable to fix the problem and protect the engine from damage.
An Overheated Engine
When the oil filter is clogged, the engine does not receive enough lubricant. In severe case, no oil is actually delivered. Now, oil prevents the metal parts from grinding against each other and prevents the friction that would produce heat. Oil also acts coolant and prevents engine temperature levels from rising.
When there is no oil entering the engine due to a clogged filter, heat build up quickly in the engine. This causes the readings of the temperature gauge on the dashboard to change. An overheated engine causes a vehicle to stall or idle briefly. Using the clogged filter, low oil pressure, and hot engine relation, you can easily tell a failed filter.
Weak Vehicle Performance
A bad filter will allow contaminants through, either via the filtration media or the bypass valve (in the case of fill flow filters). A buildup of particles in the engine affects its ability to power the vehicle. This then appears as reduced acceleration or sputtering when you press the gas pedal.
If the contaminants are allowed to accumulate for a long time, it can even lead to no acceleration. If you experience a drop in general car performance, it is recommended to check the oil filter. It could be faulty
Dirty Exhaust Fumes And Smell Of Burning Oil
Exhaust fumes should be translucent or whitish. If they are dirty or smoke-like, it can be one of the oil filter failure symptoms. Dirty fumes are a brown or black color, an indicator of a clogged filter that is not delivering adequate amounts of oil to the engine. Apart from the visual appearance of the fumes, you may also experience the smell of burning oil while driving.
Metallic Engine Noises
Oil forms a thin film between the moving parts of the engine. This prevents them from coming into contact. When the oil filter prevents the free flow of oil, it starves the engine of lubricant. The result is the moving components touching and knocking engine sounds that signify reduced lubrication. Often, a clogged filter causes knocking or rumbling noises to come from the engine. The sounds can be audible enough to be heard from the driver’s seat.
If the filter is faulty, it may leak and cause oil to drip to the ground. Should you notice oily patches on the ground, you had better check the filter for leaks. A leaking oil filter mostly requires a new one installed. In some cases, the remedy could be as simple as tightening the filter.
Bad Oil Filter Causes
An oil filter will malfunction for various reasons. These are:
- Using the wrong filter size- using the wrong oil filter in the car can cause problems. Oil filters have different thread sizes, gaskets, and more. Each is designed to fit specific vehicle types, and the wrong size can result in weak installations. Wrong oil filter symptoms include a loose canister, car leaking oil when parked, and other signs of a failed filter. To ensure the right filter type, it is advisable to consult your car’s manual when replacing an oil filter.
- Cross threading- it is one of the causes of an oil filter leak. Cross threading during installation leaves the threads damaged, and the filter weakly mounted. After some time, the filter may loosen and leak oil. Because the filter threads are not as hard as those on the filter mounting stud, it is the filter that gets damaged. Replacing then happens to be the only option.
- Over tightening of under tightening- spin-on oil filters should not be tightened beyond the force of your hand. While the hold strength depends on how tight the oil filter on the mounting stud, tightening the canister too much could cause it to split. A split filter cannot function, and you would need to install a new one. Under tightening the filter causes it to come off after some time, with the possibility of a leak developing.
- Collapsed internal components- the filter element has to stay intact for an oil filter to work correctly. In some instances, such as failure of the valves during increasing differential pressures, some parts may collapse. The collapsible parts include the filter media center tube. Should that happen, the filter would fail and require a replacement.
- Clogging- this happens when the filter has reached its maximum capacity to hold dirt. Under normal conditions, this can be several thousand miles, but which also depends on the filter quality and brand. Clogging can be accelerated by various conditions such as driving in dusty conditions, not changing the oil on time, and heavy engine use such as driving in hilly areas or towing.
- Worn seals
How do you fix a faulty oil filter? You can either repair the damage or, in most cases, replace it with a new one. In the next chapter, we examine the ways to find out the problem with an oil filter and the ways to deal with each issue.
Oil Filter Troubleshooting
A bad oil filter can be a risk to your car’s engine. If such a filter is not sending unfiltered oil to the engine, it is delivering none at all. Both scenarios are not desirable. Contaminated oil wears off the engine quickly while lack of oil causes lubrication and engine cooling to fail. To help you fix problems with the oil filter as soon as they occur, we will take a look at the troubleshooting techniques to use.
Oil Filter Diagnostic And Troubleshooting Methods
A faulty filter requires replacing in most cases. However, some problems are slight and can be corrected easily. Depending on the type of filter installed in your car, you can conduct these procedures to ascertain and solve oil filter problems.
Observing the size, threading, and gasket size of an oil filter prevents compatibility issues
Checking Oil Filter Compatibility
Engine manufacturers expect specific oil filters to be used on their engines. That means some filters will not fit the mounting points, and will either be too big or too small. Size also affects threading. If the filter is not compatible with the engine, it can mean threads that do not tighten or a filter that fails to fit at all. Size problems cause the filter to loosen up over time, and you may find that it leaks.
To check if the failed filter is as a result of compatibility issues, verify if it is the right one for your engine. Match the car manufacturer’s information against that on the filter using the car manual as reference. If you used the wrong filter, install a new and right type.
Checking for Oil Filter Leaks
Leaks limit the flow of oil to the engine and may cause symptoms such as overheating., dropped oil pressures, and more. Most often, leaks develop from poorly installed oil filters or broken seals and seams. To find out if and why your oil filter is leaking, follow these steps.
Step 1. Verify compatibility- as we have seen, using the wrong filters can cause weakness in the installation and oil to leak out.
Step 2. Ascertain proper installation
While it is not advisable to over tightened the filter, it should not be loose either. Check to see that it attaches to its assembly tightly. Oil filters may loosen over time, and require re-tightening
Check the filter threads
Damaged threads can result in wrong installation that causes the filter to leak. If the filter was cross-threaded during installation, you can only install a new filter. Damaged threads cannot be repaired and indicate a filter that needs replacing.
Inspect the rubber seal
If this is worn or broken, you may need a new filter installed. If not, clean the area around the seal to remove dirt and debris before re-installing the filter. You may also need to inspect the seems of the filter housing for leaks. While such damage is rare to occur, it dies sometimes happen and cause leaks.
In addition to the above checks, you may need to inspect the oil filter canister for breakage. System pressures can cause the can to spit, or even over tightening. Oil drilling on the sides of the filter would indicate that.
Leaks can cause the oil pressure to drop considerably and the dashboard light to come on or the oil pressure gauge needle to dip. A check on these indicators can help you to detect a leaking oil filter even before you open the hood to access the filter.
How To Choose An Oil Filter
Vehicle owners often get overwhelmed when they have to choose the right oil filter. While the car manual may help in that direction, the opinion of car professionals may seem to conflict. That can be confusing and may lead you to select the wrong filter for your car. Because every car’s oil filtration needs are unique, we compiled and answered the questions that may users ask.
Question 1. What Oil Filter Do I Need?
It depends on several factors, such as driving conditions, habits, and climate. Dusty conditions call for an oil filter that holds more dirt, while low speed-high load situations require a premium oil filter that can cope. Extremely cold climates cause the oil to thicken, and you would need a filter whose bypass valve is responsive enough to avoid engine starvation.
The type of filter to use also depends on the engine type, which again depends on the car make. Manufacturers require specific filters for their engines, and you may need to consult your manual to ensure the right one. An oil filter finder button on a company website can help you search for the most suitable filter.
Question 2. Are 10 Micron Filters Suitable?
Oil filter manufacturers rate their filters according to the size of the particles the filter media can retain. Essentially, a 10-micron oil filter can filter out particles as small as 10 microns (about the size of human red blood cells). But that does not tell us a lot about the filter’s ability. For the micron rating to be useful, it needs to be accompanied by a beta ratio, which is usually tested using the SAE J1858 protocol.
Most automotive oil filters are rated 40 microns. Higher values would reduce a filters ability to capture dirt, while a lower rating would restrict the flow of oil (which is not a good characteristic, especially for the full flow or primary oil filters. As you can see, the lowest micron filter is not always the best. You can get a better understanding of these ratings by from an oil filter micron chart.
Question 3. Does The Size Of The Oil Filter Matter?
Oil filter sizes vary, and you may need to select the right one for the mounting stud on your engine. You can ensure that by matching the values with those of the new filter. Your car’s manual would be a great help in this case.
Question 4. What Filter Media Should I Choose?
You have a choice of several media; cellulose, synthetic, and micro glass. Cellulose is the most common, and for obvious reasons. Cellulose filters are less costly, resist oil flow less, and can absorb water better. Their downsides? Cellulose contains inconsistent and fewer pores, which makes it less efficient and less effective when it comes to dirt holding capacity. However, this media would be suitable if the driving conditions are less severe and will perform satisfactorily
Synthetic and micro glass filter media have more pores per inch squared, which makes them effective at trapping smaller particles and holding more dirt. These media also stand up to temperatures and acidic oils better. However, synthetic and micro glass filters cost more. If your car is the high-end type, filters that use these media are the kind to go for. They are premium and match the car. Also, if you drive in severe conditions.
Question 5. What Is The Relation Between Flow And Pressure In An Oil Filter?
The system pressure is what maintains the flow of oil through the filtration media. When every part is working normally, an increase in pressure causes an increase in the oil flow and helps to keep the engine adequately lubed and cooled.
Question 6. What Is Viscosity?
In relation to the working of the oil filter, oil viscosity refers to the thickness or thinness of the oil going through the filter. Thin oil penetrates the media more readily, and more particles are removed. Oil whose viscosity is high experiences high an equally high restriction. If it is too thick, the bypass valve may open to allow the overly viscous oil circumnavigate the filtration media and prevent starvation.
Question 7. Are Magnetic Filters Effective?
While not commonly used, the effectiveness of these filters has been disputed by a section of car specialists. Proponents argue that a magnetic oil filter helps remove metal particles. On the other hands, opponents claim that most of the metallic particles are not ferrous, and the filter cannot detect them.
Overall, the oil filter you opt for depends on your preferences. With all the choices available and with knowledge about what each filter type is capable of, you can now easily make a decision. When you have found the filter to use in your car, you may want to know how to carry out the installation. That is what the next chapter is all about.
Oil Filter Removal And Installation
Replacing an oil filter is a straightforward task. You only need the right tools, and you are good to go. Situations that would require you to change the oil filter include clogging, oil filter housing leak, collapsed internal components, and worn or broken seals. Sometimes, the filter may be the wrong type and not fitting the mounting point tightly. It could also be that you have a defective oil filter whose valves are not working. If the defect requires that you change the oil filter, here is the process to follow.
Steps In Changing Oil Filters
Materials you will need.
Your new filter, rumps, oil filter wrench set, funnel, new oil as specified in the manual of your car, container to catch oil, and safety gear such as gogles and gloves.
Run the engine to warm and thin out the oil so of drains easily. If you have been driving, allow the engine to cool to a suitable temperature level.
Put on the safety gear and drive the car onto the rumps. Switch off the engine and ally the parking brake.
Changing oil filter without draining oil is not advisable. With the help of your car’s manual, find the oil drain plug and place a container where it will catch the draining oil. Unfasten the plug using a socket wrench, then carefully remove it using your hand.
Take care with this part as the oil may be hot enough to born your hands. You can locate and remove the oil filler cap to facilitate faster draining of the old oil.
Replace the oil plug when all the oil has come out. Tighten it using your hand and ensure it is properly threaded. Finish the tightening with a wrench while avoiding applying too much torque.
Locate the oil filter. It is the blue, black, white or orange canister on the side, top or bottom of the engine block. Place a container to catch the oil that may come out of the filter.
Use your hand to unscrew the filter. If that is not possible, use an oil filter wrench to unfasten it, then the hand to remove it. Using a rag, clean the mounting surface.
Smear the ribber seal of the new filter with oil, then screw it on the mounting stud using your hand. Avoid using a wrench to fasten the filter as doing so can result in over-tightening.
Ensure you do not cross thread the filter during installation, and that the rubber seal is correctly positioned on the filter.
Using a funnel, add new oil, following the guidelines indicated in the manual for the amount. Remember, some oil may have remained so you do not want to pour in too much oil. Replace the filler cap.
Switch on the engine and run it for a few minutes. Inspect the filter for leaks. The oil plug, too. If you notice leaking oil, try to correct the problem and run the engine again. A leak at the filter could be caused by an incorrectly seated seal or loose installation.
Once you are satisfied with the installation, allow the engine to rest and the oil to drain completely. Check the level of oil using a dipstick and add more until it is adequately full.
Oil Filter Removal Tools
Oil filters are among the most frequently replaced components in a vehicle. For that reason, you may want to have the tools necessary for the task with you. The best oil filter removal tool will make the process easy and you want it in your tool box.
Oil filter wrench cap- this tool helps you remove spin-on filters with ease. Oil filter wrench sizes vary, and you may need to select the right one for your vehicle.
Band oil filter wrench- a simple-to-use wrench that makes removing the oil filter a quick process. It comes with a swivel handle and a circular band that you slip over the filter body.
Strap wrench- this too is ideal for the large-sized and jammed filters. Also, cartridge filters that require careful removal to avoid damage to the housing. It is turned using the handle. In case the handle is missing, you use a ratchet to turn it.
Chain wrench- almost identical to the cloth strap wrench, this tool features no handle. This wrench is ideal for the removal of stuck-on oil filters. You wrap it around the filter canister, then turn the hexagonal bar to unfasten the filter.
Spider wrench- tightens on the oil filter as you turn it. The spider wrench comes in a choice of claws or jaws. This type of wrench is ideal for filters that are installed in locations that ate hard to reach.
Oil filter pliers- another tool to remove oil filter that allows you to pinch at the filter. Useful if the filter proves tricky to remove.
Common Questions About Replacing Oil Filters
Vehicle owners will often have a lot of questions about oil filter replacement. We answer the most common ones here.
Question 1. How Often Do I Need To Replace The Oil Filter?
How often to change oil filter depends on several factors. Experts recommend oil filters to be changed during every oil change. That gives 3000 miles before you need a new filter installed. But this may not be true at all times.
If you drive in severe conditions, you may need to change the filter ahead of schedule. Oil filter manufacturers also indicate a higher mileage for the oil filter change which can be as long as 7,000 miles.
There is also the question of how often to change oil filter with synthetic oil. This kind of oil offers more mileage before you need a new filter, and which can be up to 10 000 miles.
Question 2. Can You Change Filter After Changing Oil?
You can. Manufactures recommend changing both at the same time. It is good for the engine of your car.
Question 3. Are Oil Filters Universal?
Oil filters are generally engine-specific. As a result, they come in many different types in terms of size, thread pitch, filter media, and more.
Question 4. Are Oil Filter Wrenches Universal?
Some are, and will remove many different oil filters. A universal oil filter wrench is one of the the essential tools to possess if you intend to be using the do-it-yourself to change your car oil filters.
Question 5. Can You Remove An Oil Filter Without Using A Tool?
The question of oil filter removal without tool or how to remove oil filter without a wrench often arises when performing the task by yourself. While tools make the procedure to be easy and fast, most filters will unfasten by merely turning them with the hand.
However, there are instances where the filter is deeply ingressed and tight and you need a wrench to wrestle it out. It is also advisable to avoid removing oil filter with a screwdriver. Instead, it would be better to remove the oil filter with a belt.
Question 6. How Do You Replace A Filter That Breaks While Trying To Remove It?
If that happens, the first question that comes to mind is how to remove a broken oil filter. It is a simple process, especially if you have the right tool. A strap or band wrench is the ideal tool to use. Wrapping it around the broken filter allows you to unscrew it easily.
Question 7. What Are The Dangers Of Loose Oil Filter?
One of the immediate effects of a loose filter is leaking oil. Leaks lead to oil pressure drops, which is bad for the health of the engine and the general performance of your car.
Question 8. What Happens If You Tighten An Oil Filter Too Much
It could result in a split filter or broken seal. Over tightening also risks damaging the threads. For the best procedure on how to tighten the oil filter for your type of vehicle, you may need to consult its manual. To be sure that you are right when it comes to how tight to tighten oil filter, always use your bare hand. If you have to, use a quarter-turn of a wrench.
Question 10. Are Oil Filters Difficult To Replace?
With a few basic tools, the procedure to replace a bad filter should offer no challenge, and almost anyone can do it. You do not need any skills apart from the general understanding of the working of the different vehicle components. The process also takes a short time.
Automotive oil filters have a direct relation with the engine of a vehicle. By removing impurities from the oil, these components ensure long life and optimum performance of the engine. But the oil filters need to be of high quality and of the right type for that to happen. That calls for a vehicle owner to understand how these filters work, the different types available, and how to choose the right one. Also, how to tell if the filter is no longer doing its work and change it.
This automotive oil filter provided you with all that information. It is our hope that it will help you to make better decisions when looking to but an oil filter- from selection the right micron rating, the best filter material for your car make and driving conditions, and more. Also, how to know when the filter needs changing and the procedure to change it.
The oil filter serves an essential function that cannot be ignored. It is highly important to know how to have the right one for your vehicle. Not only that but also to ensure it is performing its work at all times.
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