One of the most basic yet most important pieces of routine maintenance to run on your vehicle is an oil change. Since you should change your oil filter along with your oil a few times a year, knowing how to use an oil filter removal tool is a useful skill to have.
There are a few types to choose from, so make sure you understand how to use them and what your options and needs are before getting started. Also, remember to follow all safety precautions and specifications outlined by your car’s manufacturer.
End Cap Wrench
These socket-type tools snap onto the end of a ratchet or a ratchet extension and then fit directly onto the bottom of the filter. They may be sold in a set or individually, and it’s important to have the right size for the filter you are trying to remove. These tools can be useful for filters in hard-to-reach places, but they’re also more prone to slipping or rounding off the edges of the filter. For this reason, it’s critical to make sure you use the correct size cap.
This tool, which is also a socket-type, uses adjustable claws or feet to grip the filter from underneath. Simply place the adjustable claw socket under the filter and make sure that rotating it to the left causes the feet to clamp down harder, which should allow you to twist the filter off as you turn your ratchet counterclockwise.
These filter wrenches have more range in terms of the filter sizes they can accommodate, but you’ll still need to make sure you have one that fits your filter. Band wrenches often come with handles that pivot, and the band portion encircles the filter and tightens as you apply pressure in one direction. If you flip the wrench over, it tightens in the other direction. The added torque is nice, but these wrenches also have a tendency to slip and can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.
Strap and Chain Wrenches
These have a design similar to that of the band wrench, but they can accommodate a much broader range of filter sizes. Also, while band wrenches are usually enclosed at all times, strap and chain wrenches can be unhooked and reconnected around the filter. The same tightening principle applies, so a strap is ultimately quite similar to a band wrench, though a chain wrench can crush the filter if you put too much pressure on it.
Adjustable Channel Lock
These pliers can accommodate a relatively large range of filter sizes, but always double-check that the one you are using is right for your filter. This variant works like pliers — you simply slide it into the optimal notch for the filter size, clamp down, and twist counterclockwise to remove the filter. If there’s room, you can get excellent grip and leverage, but be warned that the tool can damage a stuck filter pretty badly with enough force.
With any oil change, preparation is key, and ensuring that you have all the parts and tools ready can make the job easier. A stuck oil filter might require a combination of tools, and it will definitely be a reminder to tighten only by hand when you install the new one.
Check the car care tools available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on an oil filter removal tool, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.