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Understanding oil filters and their use

In theory, an oil filter has one simple task to perform, and that’s to capture contaminants that cause wear and hold them securely, stopping them from causing trouble for your engine. However, there are many factors that can impact how well these filters are performing this task.

In the following passages, we’ll explore these crucial car components that filter vehicle lubrication, covering topics from reusing filters and how long they last to what to do when you forget to change them.

Can you use an oil filter more than once?

Oil filters are designed to collect contaminants and keep them inside the filter media. Over an extended period of time, the filter media will fill with soot, dirt particles, metal fragments and other unwanted debris. If your filter plugs, any pressure differential created will open a bypass valve so that oil can bypass your filter, ensuring you avoid oil starvation. While dirty oil is definitely preferable to none whatsoever, it isn’t an approach you can rely on in the long term, and it can lead to engine damage.

In simple terms, purchasing a fresh oil filter is a lot less pricey than buying a new engine, so make sure you replace your oil filter every time you change your oil.

How long can an oil filter last?

The lifespan of an oil filter will depend on the driving conditions it experiences and its quality.

A standard low-quality but affordable filter won’t provide the same capacity as an oil filter that employs synthetic media. This effectively means that it will fills up with contaminants far faster and will therefore require changing a lot more often. Furthermore, if you drive in extreme conditions involving a lot of dust and dirt, your onboard engine will be exposed to greater levels of airborne particles that will enter your engine. This will be particularly so if you have not changed your air filters or have a leak present in your intake system.

Many of the latest direct-fuel-injection vehicles suffer elevated levels of fuel dilution, and this can also have an impact on your oil filtration system over time. In diesel engines, you’ll commonly find that soot particles can form together, making larger contaminants that will lodge in your oil filter. This will all add up to a greater volume of contaminants and even more stress on your oil filter.

What happens if you forget to change your oil filter?

If you change your oil only to realise you have forgotten to change your oil filter, it’s not too late to install one. Simply change the oil filter as you normally would. After your brand-new filter has been fitted, make sure you run your engine for a few minutes and then shut it off. Then, allow the oil time to settle into the pump – this may take several minutes. Afterwards, check your oil levels and top up if required to compensate for any oil that was lost when you removed your old oil filter, and the process is then complete.

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