Your oil filters stand as a last line of defense between particles and contaminants in your oil, and the intricate and delicate oilways that lubricate your motor from the inside. Without it, metal debris, dirt, and junk flows unchecked into the innermost workings of your engine causing damage that you won’t notice until it’s too late. Most manufacturers recommend you change your oil and oil filters every 8,000 km, but that could be as little as 5,000, or as high as 12,000 km, depending on your vehicle and usage.
Your engine converts the power of thousands of mini explosions every minute into motion. In the process, the metal parts grind against each other, and even with proper lubrication, your engine slowly wears down. The stresses of high temperatures, velocity, and high pressure are borne by your oil, which carries the scars of that torture in the form of dirt, and even minute metal shavings back into the oil pan where they are, hopefully, trapped and retained by your filter. Over time the ability for oil to flow freely through the filter degrades, and you have to replace the oil filter.
Do you really have to follow the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance schedule for oil changes? The short answer is, yes. The more accurate answer is: Actually, you probably should change it more often — especially in northern areas where winter is harsh. If you’re already looking at oil filters you probably know all of that already, but you might be overwhelmed by the range of options. Below, we’ll highlight top picks for a range of different needs and uses.
1. Editor's Pick: Mobil 1 M1 Extended Performance Oil Filter
The Mobil 1 M1 range of extended-performance oil filters are compatible with synthetic, semi-synthetic, and mineral oils. The best thing about the Mobil 1 brand is that it’s designed alongside the company’s range of oils. If you are a fan of Mobil 1 lubricants, it makes sense that you’d reach for a matching filter.
This premium filter features a lubricated base gasket, heavy-duty construction, blended filtration media, and an anti-drain back valve. The silicone valve prevents oil seeping back out of the filter into the oil pan while your car or truck is sitting still which makes for quieter starts, and ensures your engine gets oil the moment you turn the key. The filter is good for 32,000 km in a best-case scenario, meaning you can get away with replacing your oil filter every other oil change. If you use your Mobil 1 filter with a fully synthetic oil, Mobil 1 will guarantee its performance for up to one year or 32,000 km. At this price though, you might as well pop a new one on at every change, giving you peace of mind, and consistent performance.
2. Best Value: ACDelco Professional Oil Filter
There’s a reason ACDelco oil filters are the OEM part for General Motors vehicles. Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC cars and trucks all sport ACDelco filters right out of the factory. ACDelco’s mix of value and performance make it a great choice for DIY mechanics.
Some shy away from the ACDelco range because the filtration media – that is, the material that actually cleans your oil – is not as sophisticated as some others. The counter point is that ACDelco uses thermal bonding techniques to construct its innards. That means more of the filtration media is usable than competitors of the same size, which helps bring the overall performance of this filter up, even though the media isn’t technically as good. It’s worth noting that the wire-backed cellulose filter material works better with heavier oils, including mineral-based oils.
Other benefits of the ACDelco filters include a full-cover base plate, and a lubricated gasket, which keeps your filter tight against the mating surface of your engine. If you want a low-cost, high-reliability filter that is trusted by OEMs, look no further.
3. Best Heavy Duty: PurolatorBOSS Premium Filter
If you tow often, drive in harsh conditions or just generally want the confidence that your oil filter is giving you maximum protection, the PurolatorBOSS range of filters is worthy of your attention. Purolator claims this filter will remove 99 percent of dirt and debris from your oil for as long as 24,000 km. The company also touts its SmartFUSION technology – and we have to admit the polymer mesh-backed media does sound pretty cool. The double-helix centre tube is designed for structural rigidity, as well as flow, and prevents the filter from collapsing, even after lengthy use.
Like the Mobil 1 filter above, this filter has a silicone anti-drain back valve which prevents dry starts and keeps your vehicle sounding smooth, even after it has been sitting for a while. This is a serious-business filter that sits at the top of the Purolator line-up, and unlike the PurolatorONE series, can be used with any type of oil, including fully synthetic. Lastly, the PurolatorBOSS filter is built for high flow giving you consistent oil pressure in hard-working, heavy-duty engines.
4. Best Frequent Use: FRAM Extra Guard Oil Filter
The FRAM Extra Guard oil filter is often overlooked (despite its vivid orange livery) by lists like this because it has a short life expectancy. This filter is excellent at collecting even the smallest particles of crud and debris and fills up fast – hence the relatively low life compared to others on this list. Leaving a change too long could start to harm the flow rate, but drivers don’t have to worry about oil starvation, because this filter has a stout bypass valve made of glass fibre-reinforced nylon.
FRAM’s humble filter features some high-end features, including its Sure Grip casing designed to make it easier to install and remove, as well as the lubricated gasket for a tight seal to the engine. Features like that, coupled with the FRAM Extra Guard’s steady, honest performance make it a great option for DIY mechanics with high-mileage daily drivers running mineral oil. Regular changes of a filter designed to trap maximum amounts of dirt is the perfect way to keep your engine ticking smoothly for a long time to come.
5. Best Flow: K&N Performance Wrench-Off Oil Filter
Flow, baby, flow! If you’re looking for a filter that lets your oil run freely through the veins of your engine under heavy-stress situations the K&N Performance line of wrench-off oil filters is for you. This filter doesn’t have the best filtration efficiency, but that doesn’t matter as much if you’re performing regular oil changes. This is a good option for racers or track day drivers, who will do a day of heavy running and then swap out the oil for a brand-new batch.
The K&N filter has a 17mm nut on the end to make installation and removal easier, and in some models the nut is even pre-drilled for safety wire. That’s handy for racers who are required to wire-up their filters so they don’t come loose and oil up the track. The high-flow filter will make sure your oil pressure is consistent and reliable which is good for performance, while the frequent oil changes negate the lack of filtration in this style of filter.
6. Best Numbers: Royal Purple Extended Life Oil Filter
Let’s say that money is no object, and you need maximum performance for your engine. Maybe you’re a tuner, maybe your car is more important to you than life itself: What filter then? Enter the Royal Purple Extended Life.
Easily one of the most expensive filters on this list, the Royal Purple filter features the best filtration numbers, and one of (if not the most) robust designs. It boasts thick outer and inner walls, as well as that tightly packed pure synthetic filter media. You’ll notice the heft of a Royal Purple filter as soon as you take it out of the package. It’s designed to handle massive surges in oil pressure without breaking a sweat, and feeds your oil galleries with pure, clean oil for ages to come.
How to Check Fit
Oil filters are not a universal part, the way windshield wipers or other consumables might be. There are differences in size, shape, fastening threads, and construction. Even sizing data can vary, so how do you figure out which oil filter is the right size for your vehicle?
Certain websites allow you to enter your vehicle’s information to check for products compatible with your particular car or truck, and that can be helpful to get a shortlist. Your vehicle owner’s manual will have a recommended filter listed, and you can cross reference that filter with others on the market using the brand’s cross reference chart. We recommend you cross reference any filter with your owner’s manual, OEM website, and the oil filter brand’s website before buying.
Oil Filter FAQsNot all oil filters are created equally, but each has its value. Some are less costly; others offer better longevity or performance. How you use your vehicle, what your budget is, and what you care about most will all impact which oil filter works for you. Here are some additional questions you should consider before buying an oil filter for your car.
Why does filtration efficiency matter?Filtration efficiency is only part of the measurement of an oil filter’s effectiveness. Two spin-on cartridges might have the same efficiency at first glance. For example, you might see the number “98 percent” often during your research. Now let’s say one filter is rated for particles under 25 microns, and the other is rated for particles under 40 microns. The one rated for the smaller particles is better – it will trap more debris than the other filter and could extend engine life compared with the less effective trap.
What is filtration media?There are three common types of filtration media: Synthetic, Cellulose, and a blend of the two. In all cases, the media is folded into a concertina-style shape and fills the space between the inner tube of the filter and the steel casing on the outside. Synthetic media is made of polyester, nylon, or glass fibres woven into a tight lattice. It is usually the best at both flow rate, and filtration efficiency, but is expensive to make. Cellulose media is a plant-based fibre, far cheaper to make, but often less effective than synthetic. These days, even cellulose media performs well, and it is a good option for engines with high oil pressure, or heavier oils. A blend is just that, and it hits the happy medium between price and performance that works best for most applications.
How often should I change my filter?Simply put, the more frequently you change your filter, the cleaner your oil and the better your engine will perform. Even long-life filters rated for 24,000 km or more will give you a better result if you change them at each oil change than they will if you leave them in for the full 24,000 km. It might seem like good value to use up every inch of your oil filter’s rated mileage but remember: Oil quality has a direct impact not only on performance, but on reliability and fuel efficiency too. Even if you change it out at every 8,000 km, an oil filter is a cheap investment and in the long run, could even save you money at the pumps.
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