Here’s a question: How often should you change your oil filter? If you’ve ever wondered just what’s in that little round canister called an oil filter, have a look. Those manila-envelope colored pieces you see are the outer edges of material that traps contaminants — things that can clog and damage the working parts of your vehicle’s engine.
If you look in your vehicle’s owner’s manual, you’ll probably see a recommendation that you change your oil at certain intervals based on months and miles, and you may find that the manufacturer recommends you change the filter every other oil change. You might have a relative, neighbor or friend who tells you that they go even longer between oil filters — maybe a year or more. It saves money, they’ll tell you.
It’s a safe bet none of them are mechanics or engine parts manufacturers.
Engine oil does its job best when it’s as pure and clean as possible. Grit, grime, sludge or — this can happen — metallic particles from the inside of your engine — add friction to what is supposed to be lubrication. Friction causes heat, and heat causes premature wear and tear on your engine.
And then there’s the material the oil filter is meant to trap. Bigger pieces can ultimately clog intakes. Think about a blood clot in your body. You could have a stroke, right? Replace your heart with your engine and you’ve got the picture. The longer you go between filter changes, the more contaminants that are already trapped inside the oil filter, the less efficient that filter becomes. It’s like your home furnace filter. If you go too long between changes, your HVAC system begins to strain. The clogged filter is starving it of clean air. It’s the same with your vehicle’s engine and the oil filter.
So, How Often Should You Change Your Oil Filter?
The cheapest insurance for your car’s engine is frequent oil changes — with a new filter at every oil change. That prevents contamination of your new, clean oil from anything that might pass out of your old filter and ensures that new oil is as efficient as it can be in its job of lubricating engine parts, reducing wear and tear, and keeping operating temperatures in a healthy range.
If you’re wondering how often you should change your oil filter, keep things simple by changing your oil filter every time you change your engine oil. Following this schedule might cost you more money, but it will save your engine from possibly getting clogged with grime, sludge or large metallic pieces.
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how often you should change your car’s oil filter, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.