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Why Do I Need an Oil Filter Change?

old oil filter

You might have just accepted that an oil filter change needs to occur every time you swap out the oil in your car or truck engine. The reason why you need to replace your oil filter goes beyond taking money out of your pocket, however, as this crucial component plays an important role in making sure your motor lasts as long as possible.

Let’s take a look at what oil filters do, and why they need to be swapped out at regular intervals to preserve your vehicle’s performance.

What Does an Oil Filter Do?

oil filter

When you change the oil on your car at the specific mileage indicated in your owner’s manual, you’re doing it because you’ve exhausted the additives package used by the oil to keep your engine clean, reduce friction and prevent wear. It actually has little to do with the ‘cleanliness’ of the oil itself, which can actually be recycled and re-sold with a new additives package added (a growing business for a number of oil companies).

Oil filters, on the other hand, are charged with sifting out any physical contaminants that might enter into your engine. This can include dirt, dust or sludge that’s been loosened by the detergents in the lubricant. By removing and storing these particles, the filter prevents them from circulating through, and potentially damaging, your engine.

Why Do I Need an Oil Filter Change?

A filter is only effective if it’s able to strain and store more grime. Once full, it no longer provides any protection from unwanted contamination. If left on too long, it’s also possible for certain designs to have their filter media disintegrate internally and then send all that’s been filtered out back into the motor.

How Often Do I Need an Oil Filter Change?

Since you can’t actually see inside a filter to check on how full it might be, and filter failure can cause potentially serious damage, replacing it with every scheduled oil change is a good practice. Even if you feel like pushing the interval to once every two oil changes, you would still have to drain out the significant amount of oil held inside the filter or the filter reservoir, meaning you’ll be taking it off of the engine anyway.

Does How I Drive Affect the Oil Filter Change Schedule?

Any time you drive your vehicle in more extreme conditions or in a more aggressive manner than typical street use, your oil additives are going to see their wear accelerated. This can also mean that your oil filter will lose its effectiveness more quickly, particularly if you frequently drive in dusty environments. If you’re on the race track on a regular basis or often find yourself on dirt roads, it’s too risky to try and stretch your filter change to every second oil change. In fact, you may want to change your lubricants more often than required in your vehicle’s manual, which may, in fact, come with a heavy-duty replacement schedule.

Contaminants pose a threat to the health of your engine, so make sure to change your oil filter regularly to prevent damage down the line.

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 an oil filter change, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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