What oil filter do i need? Primary oil types & which to use

What oil filter do i need? Your vehicle requires a lot of different filters to work properly. From oil and air filters, to fuel and transmission filters, filters are a vital part of many of your vehicle’s systems. All filters separate and isolate contaminants, dirt, and debris before it enters the engine or passenger cabin.

The type and location of filter varies depending on the vehicle, but all of your vehicle’s various filters are responsible for keeping things clean and running smoothly. For example, the oil filter traps debris from your engine oil before it is recirculated back into the engine, preventing damage to the engine’s moving parts.

The air filter collects dust and debris from the air before it is delivered to the engine. Cabin air filters can also keep the passenger cabin dust-, dirt-, and allergen-free. Other filters on your vehicle may include the fuel filter and transmission filter.

All filters should be replaced regularly, but some, like the oil filter, should be replaced more frequently than others. Your owner’s manual should include service intervals for every filter on your vehicle.

What oil filter do i need?

The answers aren’t as complicated as you think. Here’s how to find the best oil filter for your ride—at a great price.

What oil filter do i need

Engine Oil Wears Out

Engine oil has an incredibly tough assignment. To properly protect your highly complex, expensive-to-repair engine, oil is pumped through a multitude of tight passages that lubricate dozens of fast-moving metal parts.

It must flow throughout the engine almost instantaneously upon startup. And it needs to maintain flawless performance through temperatures ranging from subfreezing to hundreds of degrees, over a period of many months and thousands of miles.

While doing that job day after day, the oil inevitably accumulates microscopic particles of abrasive soot, dirt, metal shavings, and other contaminants that slowly reduce its lubricating quality and effectiveness.

Old, filthy oil can actually damage your engine’s bearings and other internal surfaces, causing the engine to fail. So your engine absolutely needs a top-quality, highly effective oil filter.

Oil-Filter Prices

The good news is that a quality oil filter does not need to be expensive. You can find excellent quality, brand-name oil filters in the $7–$15 price range from such well-known brands as Mobile1, Bosch, Fram, Motorcraft, and more.

We did a quick check on Amazon for oil filters for one of our staffer’s cars, a 1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata, and found filters from such trusted names as Fram, Purolator, K&N, Wix, and Mazda ranging from about $5 to $15. We’d put any one of those brands on a personal car.

K&N offers a helpful feature on what it calls its Performance Wrench-Off filters: a large nut on the filter’s outboard end that lets you to tighten or remove it with a standard wrench or socket.

Most other filters, which lack this feature, will require you to use a low-cost filter wrench to loosen them if they’re on too tight to remove by hand. (The wrench is the circular tool on the left side of the photo that leads this story.)

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Oil-Filter Replacement

Most oil filters are easy to change, so there’s no reason for you to shy away from doing the job yourself. You will have to be able to get underneath your vehicle’s engine—either with the vehicle on a lift or on tall-enough jack stands that allow you to safely see, reach, remove, and replace the filter without a struggle. (Some filters are accessible from the top of the engine compartment.)

Oil filters are generally easy to locate on the engine and easy to remove, simply by unscrewing them counterclockwise. And please, be kind to the environment; have a basin to catch the oil you’re draining during an oil and filter change. If you can’t handle doing the job properly or don’t have the right location or tools available, then you should pay a professional shop.

Types of oil filters

There are many types of oil filters on the market. How do you choose the best one for your vehicle?
Your selection depends on your vehicle’s engine type and your manufacturer’s recommendation. These are the four main types of oil filters:

  • Primary Oil Filter: Ideal for colder conditions, the primary oil filter, also known as a full-flow oil filter, is used by many vehicle manufacturers. This filter removes impurities from all the motor oil used by the engine.
  • Secondary Oil Filter: The secondary filter supports the primary oil filter. It cleans only about 10 percent of the engine oil used by the motor, catching any contaminants that the full-flow oil filter may have missed. Having both primary and secondary oil filters offer better protection for your engine and may extend its life.
  • Spin-On Filter: This full-flow filter possesses a steel canister and a paper component. It is typically easier to install.
  • Spinner Oil Filter: The spinner oil filter is a secondary-type filter that utilizes centrifugal force to catch contaminants within the oil. Because of their incredible power, they’re much more efficient in removing even the smallest particles from the engine’s oil.

Primary car oil types & which to use

What oil filter do i need

Conventional oil

This petroleum-based crude oil comes from underground and is less expensive. However, conventional oil is more reactive to changes in temperature by thickening in colder weather and thinning when hot.

They are also more likely to produce sludge. This tar-like deposit builds up in the engine due to thickening from oil, carbons, and contaminants.

Synthetic Blend Oil

A combination of conventional and synthetic oils that offer better performance, lubrication, and protection of internal parts. Synthetic blend oils resist heat and do not break down as easily as conventional oils.

While synthetic blend oils cost a bit more than conventional oil, they are less expensive than full synthetic oils.

Full Synthetic Oil

This high-quality oil originates from crude oil purified and broken down into basic molecules, with enhanced additives synthetically produced. Its formulation meets the demands of today’s higher-performance engines.

Compared to conventional oils, full synthetics are more costly. However, the cost is justified because of its improved lubricating properties, efficient removal of impurities, and longer-lasting quality.

Full synthetic oils help the engine consume less oil, are impervious to temperature changes, and do not break down easily because of their heat resistance. They also possess fewer impurities which contribute to the resistance of buildup.

How to choose the right car oil and filter

Use the right oil and filter and make your car last.

Car oil and filters

Whether you change your own oil or have a shop do it for you, choosing the right oil, filter and service interval has never been more challenging. Because even if you follow the oil type and viscosity recommendations shown in your owner’s manual, you still have at least a dozen oil formulations to choose from.

And oil filters come in just as many flavors. We can help answer: What oil filter do I need. You can buy a $14 filter with the highest dirt-holding specifications and the longest mileage rating. But do you need to spend that much if you change your oil on schedule? Then there’s the issue of extended drain intervals. Can you really go 12,000 to 15,000 miles between oil changes?

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We contacted experts at Valvoline, Mobil 1, Pennzoil, Royal Purple, Fram and WIX Filters to get you up-to-date advice that you can take to the bank. And we’ll kill off a few myths in the process. But first, a quick lesson in the basics of engine lubrication.

Engine oil primer

Oil’s main job is to create an extremely thin cushioning film to separate metal components and prevent contact as the parts rotate and bang against one another. Inside the combustion chamber, the oil film acts as a sealant to close the gap between the piston rings and the cylinder wall.

That constant sliding, pounding and shearing friction creates heat. So oil’s second job is to carry away the heat of friction and cool metal parts.

Next, oil has to clean the engine and carry dust, dirt, combustion by-products (soot and acid) and the remnants of degraded oil off to the filter to be captured. In addition, oil must neutralize acids, prevent metal from corroding, and keep foaming as whirling parts whip air into it. And it contains antioxidants to protect itself against breakdown.

Oil does all these things. But first it has to circulate. To do that, it must flow well. And that’s where it gets complicated. Thin oil (5-weight) pumps well when cold. But it thins out when hot, making it harder to maintain a cushioning film. Thicker oil (30-weight), on the other hand, maintains a strong cushioning film that doesn’t thin when hot. But it’s almost impossible to pump when cold.

To get the best of both worlds, carmakers specify a multi-viscosity oil (5W-30, for example). It’s thin and pumps when cold, but thickens as it heats up (see “Regular Oil vs. Synthetic” below). Engineers determine exactly what viscosity range is best suited for any particular engine.

Get rid of old oil

Oil has a shelf life of about five years. So if you bought a truckload of oil on sale 20 years ago, don’t think you can pour it in your 2013 truck. Oil degrades in the can or bottle just from sitting in your garage.

Fill only to the top line on the dipstick

Overfilling the crankcase is really bad for your engine. Even if your engine leaks or burns oil and you’re tired of topping it off, overfilling isn’t the answer. Running an overfilled engine actually causes excessive oil consumption that can destroy your catalytic converter (about $1,000 to repair).

And, when the oil level is too high, rotating engine parts whip air into it, turning it into foam. Foam doesn’t lubricate or cool, so engine parts overheat, wear and fail.

Adding the wrong oil is better than driving with no oil

You’re supposed to check your oil level regularly. But most of us don’t. If you’re driving a leaker or an oil burner and find yourself critically low on oil, you’ve got to act fast or you’ll destroy the engine. If you can’t find the correct oil at the nearest convenience store, it’s better to add the wrong oil than to continue driving on oil vapor.

What oil filter do i need

Grab a bottle of multiviscosity oil that’s the closest to the manufacturer’s recommendation and pour in enough to restore the oil level. If you only added 1 qt., you can wait until your next oil change. But if you’ve added 2 or more quarts of the wrong oil, get your vehicle in for an oil change soon.

Car oil for high-mileage cars

High-mileage (HM) oil contains seal conditioners that rejuvenate brittle aged seals. And it contains additives to improve film strength when the oil is hot. Depending on the brand, HM car oil may also include more anticorrosive, acid-neutralizing and antiwear additives. If you have a high-mileage engine and want to keep it running, HM oil is worth the higher price

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Buy a good car oil filter for synthetic oil

Filter manufacturers usually make several grades of filters—good, better, best. If you use a mineral oil and change it and your filter on schedule, you don’t need to spend more for a better filter. But if you use a synthetic oil or intend to go longer between oil changes, buy a top-of-the-line name-brand filter.

Mark the contact position when installing a new filter

Loose car oil filters are the No. 1 cause of oil leaks. Follow the tightening instructions on the box. Spin it on until the gasket contacts the mounting surface. Draw a line on the filter in the 12 o’clock position. Hand-tighten the recommended number of turns and then stop.

Bigger is not better

Oil filters are application-specific. Don’t think you’re getting better filtration by substituting a larger filter just because it fits the threads on your engine. It may have a different filter media, flow rate or bypass valve rating than the correct filter. Don’t second-guess the filter manufacturer.

What type of oil does your car need?

Combustible engines have improved in recent years, but they’ve also become increasingly more complicated. Manufacturers have tightened leniency on compression ratios and moving parts.

Synthetic oil’s formulation is a more chemically reliable element best suited for the changes manufacturers have implemented. Synthetic oils do not produce sludge at the same rate as conventional oil. They also evaporate more slowly, don’t thicken in colder weather, and have an increased life cycle in comparison.

On older models, using conventional oil is suitable and, in some cases, recommended. Older engines can’t handle the chemical makeup and thin consistency of synthetic oils.

How often should you change your oil filter?

Many installers, parts stores and even auto makers say the oil filter needs to be replaced only at every other oil change. While you may think you are saving money by this practice, it really is false economy.

What oil filter do i need

The filters on late-model car engines have been downsized to save weight, cost and space. Sometimes they’re hard to find and reach. The quart-sized spin-on filter of the past has been replaced by a pint-sized (or smaller) filter today.

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that a smaller oil filter has less cumulative dirt-holding capacity and perhaps higher flow restriction – a concern with high rpm’s or low oil temperature engine starts.

However, we have to trust that these smaller filters will be adequate for 3,000- to 7,000-mile oil change intervals; but there is real risk that they will blind off long before a second oil change at 8,000 to 15,000 miles.

If your oil filter becomes plugged before it gets changed, the oil will go into bypass, leading to accelerated engine wear. When your filter goes into bypass, it is no longer working.

While your engine will not be starved of oil, particle concentrations will continue to grow in the oil by as much as 100 times normal levels.

When you have 100 times more dirt, you will have no less than 100 times more wear associated with particle contamination. Sadly, car makers don’t build cars with oil filter bypass alarms.


How do I know what oil filter to buy?

Finding out what type of oil filter you need is not nearly as complicated as finding out what kind of oil you need. There are hundreds of different filters, but you’ll need only one type of car. In your owner’s manual, the manufacturer will tell you what type of filter you need, so all you need to do is match it up.

Does it matter what oil filter I get for my car?

Oil filters are application-specific. Don’t think you’re getting better filtration by substituting a larger filter just because it fits the threads on your engine. It may have a different filter media, flow rate or bypass valve rating than the correct filter. Don’t second-guess the filter manufacturer.

What oil filter should I use with synthetic oil?

You will want to check with your vehicle’s manufacturer to make sure, but typically any automotive filters that are made for modern vehicles can be used with any type of oil. Every major motor oil manufacturer says you do not need a special or different oil filter when using synthetic oil.

Above is information about What oil filter do i need? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of Primary car oil types & which to use. Thank you for reading our post.

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