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Types Of Oil Filters: What Are My Options?

An engine oil filter housing being tightened. One of the many types of oil filters.

There are many different types of oil filters for cars on the market, as well as oil filter sizes, but they all have one thing in common: They play a crucial role in protecting the health of a car’s engine. Your car’s motor oil soaks up contaminants that can damage the engine, and the oil filter purifies this fluid. It ensures that your car’s oil is as clean as possible before it makes its way through the engine.

Which car oil filter is best for your specific make or model? That will depend on the engine type and automaker recommendations. Let’s take a look at some common types of oil filters and how they differ.

Full-Flow Oil Filter

This choice is also known as a primary oil filter, and it’s widely used by many carmakers. While certain filters clean only some of a car’s motor oil, a full-flow filter is designed to remove impurities from all of the oil used by a car’s oil filter

A full-flow filter is especially useful in colder temperatures. Frigid weather can cause motor oil to thicken. If a filter is too restrictive, the engine may not receive the oil it needs to prevent damage. A full-flow filter allows motor oil to move more freely through the engine than other types of filters, so it’s able to provide all the oil needed for efficient performance when the mercury drops.

Secondary Oil Filter

Some automakers install a secondary oil filter to support the vehicle’s full-flow filter. The secondary filter is designed to clean less than 10% of the motor oil used by the engine. These filters remove contaminants that may have been missed by the full-flow filter. They can extend the life of your car’s motor oil and provide additional protection for the engine.

Cartridge Oil Filter

This is a type of full-flow oil filter. It’s easy to use, and if it’s mounted upright, it can usually be inspected without needing to remove the oil. In many cases, cartridge oil filters have no metal parts. This makes these filters easier to recycle than other choices on the market.

Spin-On Oil Filter

As with the cartridge filter, a spin-on filter is a type of full-flow oil filter. It features a steel canister paired with a paper element. These filters are tailor-made for DIYers, since installation is simple and requires minimal tools.

Spinner Oil Filter

A spinner oil filter is a type of secondary filter, and it uses centrifugal force to trap contaminants in your car’s motor oil. Some of these filters are able to generate a force that’s more than 2,000 times greater than that of gravity. They’re able to efficiently remove the tiniest contaminants from your car’s motor oil.

Magnetic Oil Filter

Like the spinner oil filter, a magnetic filter provides secondary support to a full-flow filter. It effectively cleans the oil of metallic contaminants but does little to remove dust and grime. Unlike other choices, a magnetic oil filter doesn’t need to be replaced. Regular cleaning is all that’s needed to keep this filter functional.

Now that you understand the differences between the various types of oil filters for cars, you can tackle DIY projects with a greater level of confidence. Your car’s owner’s manual will offer specific recommendations on which type of filter is best for your vehicle.

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

Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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