OIL FILTERS 101: WHAT THEY DO, HOW TO INSTALL THEM, AND WHAT THE BEST BRANDS ARE
Oil filter is a crucial part of the engine's lubrication system. Without it, engine oil would get dirty very soon and the car would need an oil change after just a few hundred miles. In this post, we explain the basics behind this inexpensive but very important part.
What is the Oil Filter?
The oil filter is an engine component designed to clean and filter the dirt, contaminants and various residues from engine oil. Since engine oil runs and lubricates almost all moving parts inside the engine (most importantly, the crankshaft, pistons, camshafts and valve train) it gets dirty from combustion residues, small metal particles etc.
The purpose of the oil filter is to forbid those compounds to remain in engine oil and circle through the lubrication system, eventually hurting the engine. Dirty engine oil loses viscosity and fails to deliver proper lubrication of the engine which can ultimately lead to extensive engine wear, compression loss, and breakdowns. That is why the oil filter is an extremely important component in the engine`s lubrication system, and it is crucial for the long life of your motor.
How Does the Oil Filter Work?
The basic working principle of the oil filter is fairly simple. The oil filter is an engine component which is mounted on the engine block near the oil pan. When the car's engine is working, oil flows through the engine and runs through the oil filter which stops harmful materials from going back to the oil system. Since oil runs constantly, the oil filter cleans it every second and makes sure that you have clean oil to lubricate your engine.
The inside of the oil filter is made of a sponge-type material which is designed to keep the dirt and let the oil run through it cleaning it in the process. The oil filter housing is made of metal since it needs to endure high temperatures of engine oil.
How to Install the Oil Filter
The installation process for oil filters is pretty easy since oil filters are mounted on easy-to-access places for fast servicing. In most cases, they are located near the oil pan on the bottom section of the engine, and you can access them from underneath the car.
You can change the oil filter in your driveway since you don't need a lift and a simple car jack and stands will do. Oil filters are simple parts so all you need to do is to remove the old one and screw back the new one. Of course, make sure you buy the right one for your car's make, model, and year. Also, be sure not to screw it too tightly since it could make the filter hard to remove next time you change your oil.
Apart from spin-on filters which are most common, several car manufacturers use the cartridge-type filters which are as easy to replace, so do your research before you shop.
How Often Should You Change Your Oil Filter?
There are a couple of opinions on this matter. The first one is that you should change your oil filter every time you change your engine oil. This is the most common opinion and it is correct. An oil change is not complete if you didn't screw the new filter on your car. If you change your oil and put the old filter back on, you basically did nothing since fresh oil will be contaminated soon with the residue which was left in the filter.
The second opinion is that you should change your oil filter even sooner if you are driving in tough conditions, extreme heat or cold, under heavy load, or at high RPM. Since your car is under heavy use, the engine oil will get dirty very soon which means that the oil filter will get clogged. In this case, changing the oil filter is recommended even if you didn't change the oil in your car.
If you neglect your oil filter for long, it will get clogged by the dirt in the oil. A clogged filter will not be able to perform as expected and can even limit the oil flow in the engine which can severely damage the engine itself.
Oil Filter Brands on the Market
There are numerous oil filter brands on the market, from well-known car parts manufacturers to dozens of no-name cheap producers. Since the technology behind regular oil filters is simple, lots of companies can produce those parts. However, as always, brand name products have distinctive quality standards which can ensure that your oil filter will work as it should and that it will protect your engine in all working conditions. We can put oil filter brands in four different categories:
- Oil Manufacturers
Some companies like Mobil Oil or Royal Purple produce oil filters designed to work best with their oils. Those filters are not OEM spec parts, but they work as such or even better.
- OEM Manufacturers
Car manufacturers sometimes produce their own filters, so you can buy a Subaru or Nissan oil filter, for example. But companies like Motorcraft, AC Delco, WIX, and so on are producing oil filters for car companies which come standard with the car. Those filters are designed and produced by the car manufacturer's specifications and fit perfectly on your vehicle. If you want OEM part, this is the way to go.
- Filter Manufacturers
Companies like Bosch, Fram or Mann are producing various filters for cars for decades and, among those, oil filters as well. Their products are built according to OEM specifications and are a great alternative to other brand names.
- Unknown Manufacturers
There are a lot of cheap and unknown brands on the market, most originating from China. Those filters are not necessarily bad but built as copies of some of brand name manufacturers. This means that materials are not up to standards and that they cannot perform as good. We don't recommend you using them.
Oil Filter Recommendations
As we said before, oil filters are inexpensive parts and prices for most filters on the market ranging from just a few dollars to $20. Of course, there are more expensive ones but they are used for high-performance or racing cars or extreme machines, vehicles built for industrial purposes, and so on.
Oil filters can be found in any car parts store, gas station, or online and here are a few recommendations. Of course, before you buy your filter, be sure to check the fitment and search online for the right parts number. If you are not familiar with the parts number system and car maintenance in general, it is best to go to any auto parts store and talk to a professional who will help you determine what filter you need.
Most Popular Filters: