Difference Between Oil Filters And What You Need To Know

October 16th, 2020 by

Two mechanics are checking the oil in a car as part of an oil change near you in Indianapolis.

You just purchased a new or used vehicle, and now it’s time to get the oil changed. Seems simple right? Well, before you set out searching for a shop that can perform an oil change near you, you probably want to get informed about what goes into an oil change. While it may seem simple, there are plenty of important details you need to know. This includes the difference between oil filters and what they do for your vehicle.

What Is An Oil Filter?

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of different oil filters, it’s probably best to explain exactly what an oil filter is and what it does. An oil filter is typically encased in a small capsule with various components inside that are used to filter out contaminants within the oil. The filter’s job is to cycle the clean oil back through the engine parts to keep the components running as smoothly as possible.

The oil itself has several purposes. The first is to keep all of the moving components inside the engine well lubricated in order to prevent them from grinding against each other. The second purpose is to help keep the engine cool by transferring the heat from the rapidly moving components. Finally, the oil will also capture and move harmful particles out of the engine space. The oil filter aids in all of this is to keep the oil clean so that the oil can do its job of keeping the engine running smoothly.

Where Did Oil Filters Come From?

The very first oil filter was made back in 1923 by Ernest Sweetland and George H. Greenhalgh, who patented the first oil filtration system for combustion engine automobiles. The original oil filtration system was called “Purolator,” which was a portmanteau of the three words “pure oil later” and succinctly described how the filtration system would work, as it indeed produced pure oil later after it was filtered. The Purolator company is actually still in existence today, producing oil filters for many vehicles.

The original filter was made of twill-weave cloth, but it was later made from a sturdier material. First, pleated paper, and then synthetic mesh with a louvered design and steel-wire coils. The core concept of the oil filter has stayed the same over the years, but the component designs have changed. The quality of those components can alter how well the filtration system works, how long the filter will last, or how long the oil will be properly filtered and cleaned before making its way back into the engine.

How Exactly Do Oil Filters Work?

We’ve discussed what an oil filter does and where it comes from, but that still doesn’t exactly explain how the filter works or how the oil is cleaned enough to keep circulating through the engine components for thousands of miles before needing to be changed. It starts with the oil pan at the bottom of the engine, where unfiltered oil makes its way through the oil pump and into the oil filter after being pushed through the engine. The oil then cycles through the louvered filtration media to be cleaned and pumped back into the oil pan, all for the cycle to repeat again.

Essentially, after unwanted particles are captured within the oil as it makes its way through the engine, the oil is pushed back through the oil filter, where the unwanted particles are ensnared through the louvered filter cartridges. Then the clean oil is then moved back through a line to the engine’s oil pan out of the inlet on the flange of the oil filter.

Why Do Oil Filters Need To Be Replaced?

Eventually, when the media within the filters is full of trapped particles, the oil can no longer pass through the filter to be cleaned. When this occurs, it means that your oil is no longer being filtered when moving through the bypass valve and back into the oil pan. Each oil filter is fitted with a bypass valve, enabling unfiltered oil to pass through the sump without actually being filtered. This is a safety measure to ensure that oil still makes its way to the engine even when the filter isn’t doing its job.

Anti-drain-back valves are also commonly used to cover the sump so that when the engine is turned on – or if the oil is too thick to pass through the filter due to cold temperatures – there’s still oil being transferred through the components as normal. When the filter device within the sump is full of dirt and other particles, that’s when it’s time to replace the oil filter.

Difference Between Oil Filters

Now that you understand how an oil filtration system works and why oil filters will need to be replaced over time, it’s time to talk about the differences between oil filters and why some may be better than others depending on a number of factors.

  • Price: Some oil filters cost more than others. Just because one is expensive doesn’t mean it’s great. In the same way, just because one is cheap doesn’t mean it’s bad. However, conventional wisdom tells us that cheaper usually means lower quality, and expensive typically means higher quality. The price of an oil filter is less of an issue than the components used on or in the filter itself. You’ll want to check the components of the filter as best you can to ensure that you’re paying for quality, not convenience.
  • Media: The oil filter media is the actual filtration component that captures contaminants. Some filters come with primary and secondary media so that if the oil isn’t cleaned by passing through the primary media filter, particles are still captured effectively in the secondary media filter. It’s important to find a filter with quality media, such as resin-free filters, which are less likely to corrode and become brittle from contamination. Cheap oil filters may use cheaper material for the media, which may cause the filter pleats on the cartridge to degrade before it is normally time for an oil change.
  • Magnets: Magnets are becoming more and more standard these days. Some oil filters will boast having magnets to capture metallic particles. The inclusion of a magnet can help capture metal particles that are filtered through the oil, and thus help clean the oil even more than a standard filter. Not having a magnet in or attached to the oil filter isn’t a deal-breaker as the gains are fairly marginal, but every little bit helps when it comes to keeping your engine oil as clean as possible.
  • Bypass Filter: You’ll want to make sure that the oil filter you purchase has a bypass filter so that there’s always a way for the oil to reach its destination without being blocked. A bypass filter is as important as the cartridges because if the oil isn’t bypassing the filter during a cold start or when the cartridges are full, then the oil isn’t getting into your engine, and that could cause serious problems.
  • Anti-Drain-Back Valve: A proper anti-drain-back valve is necessary to prevent oil from draining back into the sump when the engine is off. Anti-drain-back valves are necessary for inverted oil filters. If you have a hanging oil filter, then an anti-drain-back valve isn’t necessary. However, if you have an inverted one, then it’s important that the oil filter replacement comes with an anti-drain-back valve to prevent dry starts.
  • Gasket: This should be common knowledge, but a silicone gasket seal is always going to be the better option over a rubber seal. The reason for this is because silicone is less likely to warp from extreme temperatures (which the oil filter will likely encounter), nor is it likely to break and cause the oil to leak everywhere. If you can ensure that your oil filter replacement comes with a silicone seal, then it means you’ll have a much longer-lasting oil filter.

Getting An Oil Change

Now that you have an idea of what to look for when it comes to an oil filter, you’re likely going to be a lot more informed about what to ask for and what to purchase when the time comes to get an oil change and replace your old oil filter. If you can find a brand that features all the standard quality components and is available for a reasonable price, it may not be a bad option to give it a try. However, your best bet is to stick with an OEM filter provided by the dealership. This will help reduce any of the unknown factors that come with third-party brands and will ensure that you get longevity and reliability out of your oil filter. If you want to know more about oil filters or are looking for an oil change in the Indianapolis area, then come on over to the Blossom Chevrolet service center.

Posted in Oil Change