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How to Use an Oil Filter Wrench For An Easier Oil Change

Someone removing an oil filter with a ratchet and end-cap oil filter wrench

If it’s time for an engine oil change, you’ll need a few different tools and supplies. Gather new engine oil and a new oil filter, plus a wrench or socket for the oil drain plug, a drain pan and some rags for cleanup as well as safety gloves and glasses, too.

One other tool you’ll definitely need is an oil filter wrench, which comes in handy when a used oil filter doesn’t want to come off easily. Learn how to use an oil filter wrench so you can get the job done quickly and efficiently.

How to Use an Oil Filter Wrench

All oil filters and caps use right-hand threads — clockwise to tighten and counterclockwise to loosen. Some tools only grip counterclockwise for loosening. Several oil filter wrench types are available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses:

  • End Cap: End cap filter wrenches fit a single filter size. You fit the cap to the filter and use a ratchet or wrench to loosen it.
  • Claw: Universal claw-type wrenches have two or three claws that grip the oil filter. The more you turn the ratchet or wrench to loosen the filter, the tighter the claws grip. Spring-loaded claw wrenches tend to stay attached to the filter, freeing up your hands in tight spaces.
  • Oil filterBand: A band wrench is simple to use and fits a range of filter sizes. It works in one direction, with a swivel handle to fit tight spaces; others are used with a ratchet or wrench. Try flipping it over if it doesn’t grip.
  • Strap: Strap wrenches use a flexible strap to grip the filter. Some have a handle, while others need a ratchet or wrench. Some strap wrenches grip in either direction. To use, clean the strap and filter to prevent slipping. Once the filter is loose, remove the strap before fully loosening the filter and removing it by hand. This prevents oil from soaking into the strap.
  • Pliers: Oil filter pliers spread the force over three or four points to improve grip and limit slip but need more clearance to use. Be sure to get a firm grip with your pliers before attempting to loosen the filter.
  • Chain: Chain wrenches wrap around the oil filter with extreme grip and are very effective. Some chain wrenches work in either direction.
  • Wrench or Ratchet: Some spin-on oil filters and canister filters have a hex or square lug or a hole. Use a wrench, ratchet or socket to loosen the filter for these.

Here’s How NOT to Use an Oil Filter Wrench

For the most part, don’t use an oil filter wrench to install an oil filter, which needs very little torque. Spin-on oil filters are tightened one-half to three-quarters of a turn after gasket contact. For canister filters, use the tool only to tighten until it contacts the base, then apply the correct torque with a torque wrench. Canister filters are sealed by an O-ring and overtightening could break them. Oil filter torque is light, usually 10 to 20 foot-pounds.

Always check your maintenance or repair manual for vehicle specifics before changing your oil. After the oil change, clean up and recycle the used oil. Auto parts stores and many repair shops accept used oil for recycling.

Check out all the car filters available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on oil filter wrenches, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Benjamin Jerew View All

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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