The oil filter is a simple, yet critical part on your car
When you think about the internal combustion engine, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s massively complicated. There are roughly 10,000 moving components in a normal petrol-powered car, all of which have to be in perfect synchronisation to send you down the road.
All of those moving parts mean there’s going to be a lot of friction, and a lot of friction means there’s going to be a lot of heat. That’s why – to keep things running smoothly – everything is lubricated by oil. But the modern car engine would be nothing if it wasn’t for a component that we all take for granted; the oil filter.
Normally positioned either on the flanks or the underside of the engine block, an oil filter is there to keep as many contaminants out of the lubricant circulating the engine as possible.
Over time, engines naturally wear down, meaning that tiny particles of metal shed from the moving parts and begin to annoyingly travel around the engine block. If left to their own devices, these shavings could slowly erode away other parts of the engine like piston rings and other important areas and seals, leading to potentially catastrophic damage.
For example, if the finely-machined vanes of an oil pump were to become damaged in this way, the lubrication of the engine could take a serious hit, resulting in the possible seizing of the entire block – not good at all.
An oil filter does the job of gathering up these nasty bits and pieces, storing them well away from any fragile areas. The filter itself sits within a metal casing which is threaded so as to mate with the engine block. The mating surface has a sealing gasket as well as small holes that allow oil to travel in and out.
Within the metal casing sits the actual filter material, most frequently made from synthetic fibre. The oil is sent via the oil pump through the perforated surface of the filter housing, travels through the filter material and then remerges into the engine block via a larger central hole in the filter housing.
Installing/changing the oil filter can be a pretty painless process, as long as you have the right kit. Some filters are ribbed around the edges, allowing for either a chain-grip tool or a specific clamp to release the filter from its thread. If you’re lucky, your oil filter will be a ‘wrench off’ variant, which has a head to perfectly fit a specific spanner size.
This is a spin-on/canister filter but some manufacturers use cartridge-style oil filters which are fixed metal housings that make you simply replace the filter material instead
Then, of course, there’s the classic debate of whether you should lace the top of the filter with oil before you screw it onto the block. Technically, the rubber gasket in place should do its job just fine, but I’ve always trusted the wise words of Mr Edd China, who always dabs his finger in oil and smears a small amount across the top of the filter’s surface, just to make the mating extra oiled and safe.
If you care for the wellbeing of your car and want it to live for as long as feasibly possible, an oil refresh coupled with an oil filter change is a must, keeping the engine’s lubricant as fresh as possible and giving your motor the ability to stay cool and operate in a smooth, uniform manner.
Oil filters are used on all internal combustion-powered vehicles, including on this motorbike engine
How confident would you be at changing your oil filter? Would it be a walk in the park or does getting under the bonnet intimidate you a bit? Tell us through the poll below!