How Does Your Car’s Oil Filter Work?

How Does an Oil Filter Work?

Generally, the oil filter is encased in a cylindrical metal can with a sealing gasket that fastens it to the engine’s mating surface. Inside the gasket lies a base plate perforated with several small holes. There is also one central hole that is threaded with the oil filter assembly.

The filtration material is typically composed of synthetic fiber and is placed in the interior of the can. The engine's oil pump pushes the oil through the engine and directly to the oil filter.

The contaminated oil passes through the filter housing and re-enters the engine through the central hole. Meanwhile, the oil filter effectively traps debris and various tiny particles in the oil, making it cleaner.

Main Parts of an Oil Filter

Having a basic knowledge of how all the parts work together can help you make informed decisions regarding your vehicle’s filter.

Here are the main components of an oil filter and their functions.

  • Tapping Plate: This is where the oil enters and exits the filter. It has a center hole surrounded by numerous small ones that allow the motor oil to pass through the filter.
  • Filter Material: A synthetic fiber mesh functions as a sieve and traps contaminants and debris present in the oil. The filter material is folded into pleats to increase the surface area.
  • Anti-Drain Back Valve: The anti-drain back valve flaps shut when the vehicle isn’t running to prevent the oil from seeping back into the filter..
  • Relief Valve: Colder temperatures can thicken the motor oil, making it difficult to move through the oil filter. The relief valve temporarily releases a small amount of unfiltered oil to help warm up and boost the engine.
  • End Discs: Two metal or fiber discs are situated on either side of the oil filter, preventing unfiltered oil from passing through the engine.

Are There Different Types of Oil Filters?

Yes, oil filters come in different types, sizes, and composition materials to suit different engines.

There are four main types of oil filters: standard oil filters, synthetic filters, high-performance filters, and racing filters.

Standard Oil Filter

Standard oil filters are the most widely used filters. These filters are generally suitable for most vehicles operating under standard driving conditions. Compared to other filter types, they are typically more affordable.

Synthetic Filter

Synthetic filters replace the traditional paper filter medium with a synthetic material. Sometimes, the filter’s gasket and valves are made from a special blend of rubber.

This type of filter can capture smaller particles for an extended period. In addition, they tend to have a longer lifespan.

Synthetic filters typically have a larger casing and higher oil capacity than standard filters.

An added benefit of synthetic filters is that they don’t need replacing as frequently as standard ones. Most synthetic filters can last anywhere from 7,000 to 25,000 miles.

High-performance Filter

Built with high-quality filtration materials and robust cases, high-performance filters tend to be more resistant to debris and damage. They usually come with stiffer and heavier base plates that are less likely to flex even under extreme conditions.

Racing Filter

Racing cars typically use specialized oils that can withstand higher temperatures. These oils are also thinner than the oils used in regular cars.

Racing filters are specifically engineered for these oils and are designed to offer better protection against wear and tear.

How to Choose the Right Oil Filter for Your Car?

Just like selecting the correct motor oil, choosing the appropriate oil filter for your car is crucial for achieving optimal engine performance.

Take some time to understand the specifications of different filter types and assess their compatibility with your specific vehicle.

Note that the size of the oil filter isn’t the only factor at play. For instance, a larger filter may fit the threads on your engine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will provide better filtration. You should consider other factors, such as the filter medium, bypass valve, and flow rate, to assess if the filter is appropriate for your engine.

Therefore, it’s always recommended to follow the filter manufacturer’s guidelines or consult your vehicle’s owner's manual when picking an oil filter for your car.

When Should I Replace My Oil Filter?

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