We’ve filtered out the worst to leave you with nothing but the best oil filters.
- 1 What is the purpose of an oil filter?
- 2 But why do I need a good oil filter for my car?
- 3 What makes a good quality oil filter?
- 4 Types of oil filters
- 5 How to choose a high quality oil filter
- 6 The top 7 oil filter brands
Oil is the lifeblood of your car; it keeps the working parts in your engine running smoothly by letting them slide against each other, meaning you get the best performance. Just like you wouldn’t want dirty blood circulating around your body, you don’t want dirty oil flowing around your car’s engine. Making sure this never happens is the role of the oil filter and a poor quality filter can shorten the life of your engine and cause some other serious issues too. It might be a small part of your car’s lubrication system, but it plays a very big role indeed. There are several oil filter types, so our guide is going to give you some of the best oil filter brands and let you know what’s the best oil filter to use.
What is the purpose of an oil filter?
To put it simply, the oil filter removes dirt, sedimentation, or other impurities from the engine oil as it is circulating around your engine. It plays an absolutely crucial role in ensuring that your engine runs smoothly. It is a small canister, which contains a filtration system, which is connected to the engine, and the oil filter location is usually the same in all cars. When the oil has circulated around all the moving parts of the engine it is then pumped through the filter, which removes the impurities and contaminants.
Dirt and grit can enter the engine in a variety of ways and if even small particles of hard substances get into the oil stream then they can rub up and down against vital pieces of machinery (primarily the pistons and cylinders) and can wear them out much faster. In the worst-case scenario one of these pieces of dirt or stone might be big enough to get lodged in part of your engine and stop a piston from moving or a valve from closing. This would have serious consequences for the overall performance of your engine and could lead to very costly repairs. The oil filter makes sure this doesn’t happen.
Oil filters don’t last forever though. Over time, dust and dirt build up in the oil filter and it begins to get clogged up. It stops working as effectively as it did before and it is time to replace it. How long depends, as we’ll discuss below, on the quality or type of oil and filter and the driving conditions.
But why do I need a good oil filter for my car?
As well as the damage caused by unfiltered oil described above, using the wrong filter can cause oil leaks and a poorly fitting filter can just fall off – definitely something that isn’t going to be good for your car when you’re hurtling down the motorway late for an important meeting.
Many manufacturers recommend getting a new oil filter every time you change your oil. This can be anywhere from 3,000 to over 15,000 miles. That is a lot of mileage, so it makes sense to get the best oil filter possible. This is especially true when using a synthetic oil, as they contain additives and detergents which don’t allow dirt particles to settle in the engine. This means they don’t have to be changed as much but the filter has to work a lot harder. Getting a high-quality filter is going to limit the chance of these floating particles causing damage to the engine parts.
A top-notch filter is also going to protect against oil oxidation. Regardless of the situation or conditions, oil reacts with oxygen in a process called oxidation. This permanent chemical reaction increases the viscosity of the oil and it becomes less effective, as well as causing a build-up of sludge. An oil filter prevents the physical by-products of this from making their way inside the engine and stops it getting damaged.
The engine is always operating at high temperatures and preventing it from overheating is also one of the many jobs of the oil filter. A build-up of dirt and impurities in the oil can reduce the heat conductivity, meaning that the oil takes less heat away from the engine’s moving parts. This will result in the engine overheating, just as when low-quality oil is used.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a good oil filter is an extended engine life. Since the filter keeps the oil circulating cleanly and smoothly, removing any debris that might cause damage, your engine is going to be consistently powerful and last for a long time.
What makes a good quality oil filter?
The key parts of an oil filter are the filter element, the anti-drain valve, and the gasket or seal. The materials that these are made from can directly impact the effectiveness of the oil filter.
Anti-drain valves prevent oil from flowing back into the tank unfiltered and can be made of either rubber or silicone. Rubber valves are cheaper and often indicate quite a low quality, although this might be suitable for engines which use conventional, non-synthetic oils. Overall, they don’t tend to last as long and often become quite stiff after around 3,000 miles of use. The fact that they aren’t as pliable might mean that they don’t form a tight enough seal. Silicone, on the other hand, lasts a lot longer and retains its pliability, but is more expensive than rubber. As is often the case, it is a matter of getting what you pay for. Silicone can go 6-8 thousand miles and still snap back into place. It makes, therefore, a good seal and prevents oil flowing back in unfiltered.
The type of filter element is also very important in determining how effective the filter is at keeping the oil clean. This is the material that actually filters the oil. It is made of cellulose, synthetic material, or a blend of the two and can often look and feel like cardboard. Synthetic elements are usually made from polyester, glass, cotton, or nylon and have a better filtration capacity thanks to tightly woven fibers. They can capture even tiny impurities in the fluid without slowing down the oil flow rate and are very hard to rip or tear, making them sturdy with a great longevity. Cellulose elements are cheaper than synthetic elements, but the quality is worse. Blended elements offer a better choice both in cost and performance. Some high-quality oil filters have a metal mesh over the top of the filter element, which removes larger pieces of debris before the oil reaches the filter element. This protects the material and ultimately makes it last a lot longer.
The oil filter capacity refers to the filter’s ability to retain contaminants it extracts from the oil and keep working effectively, thus meaning it doesn’t have to be replaced. The element type and the build of the filter will have an impact on this capacity. The better the capacity, the more mileage you’ll get out of it. Some high-quality filters will have a bypass valve that allows unfiltered oil to enter the engine, so that it can keep functioning. Others, which lack this bypass valve, might stop any oil at all from entering the engine when they reach capacity.
The size and shape of the filter is also worth taking into consideration as not all filters fit into every car. Your manufacturer might also recommend certain filters or be designed for a specific filter. For example, certain Land Rover models can be fitted almost exclusively with Wix oil filters due to their size. There are no common standards for oil filters and this means that every car brand and car model has its own specifications. The oil filter weight and housing design determine whether it can be installed in your car or not. Make sure the filter’s specifications match your car’s requirements outlined in the owner’s manual. If the oil filter housing is too heavy, this can also affect your vehicle’s performance.
Types of oil filters
Full-flow. It passes the whole oil flow coming from the engine. An important component of such filter type is a bypass valve that controls pressure in the engine lubrication system. If the pressure level exceeds the permissible values (for example, when the filter element is clogged), the valve will open the access of dirty oil to the engine units. The valve operation prevents damage to lubrication system seals and gaskets, and protects the engine from faults caused by low or lack of lubricant on the surface of its components.
Bypass. It provides more refined oil filtration. The engine lubrication system in this case consists of two circuits. In one circuit dirty oil freely circulates among the engine components, in the other circuit a little amount of oil is recurrently filtrated. Eventualy the filter cleans all the oil circulating in the system. More time is needed to clean the oil of impurities. Using a bypass filter helps to keep the pressure in the system on a certain level even if the filter is clogged or the bypass valve has failed.
In combined engine lubrication systems both the fullflow and bypass filters are used. Filters can also have a one piece or assembled housing. the assembled ones are cheaper in maintenance: you can replace only the filter element in them.
How to choose a high quality oil filter
1. Pay attention to the purification efficiency of the filter paper: it must comply with technical characteristics of your car. In passenger car engines the filter must provide oil filtration from 5 micron particles. Well purified oil extends the useful life of the engine and its components. But remember that the hire is purification level, the lower is the filter pass-through capacity.
2. Inspect the filter housing. The valves and seals must provide its sufficient integrity.
3. Carefully examine information about the manufacturer. As a rule, the companies that produce high quality filters always specify their corporate details on the package, including the country of origin and the customer support phone number.
4. When purchasing the item online, use only trusted online stores. Usually they offer expert help and quality warranty.
Why isn’t it worth skimping on the quality of consumables?
- Thick paper is used in low quality filters. Its useful life is quite brief.
- The bypass valve of substandard filters opens at low pressure and dirty oil gets back into the engine.
- If the anti drainback valve is not tight enough, the oil drains into the crankcase. At the engine start the low oil pressure warning light on the instrument panel flashes.
- Particles of a poor quality filter element can clog the engine oil channels.
The top 7 oil filter brands
For conventional and blended filters, Bosch offers perhaps the best oil filter on the market. Their filters offer a sturdy and thick blended filter element with a high glass content and the capacity to hold up to 14 grams of dirt. They are strong, reliable, and fit well with most Asian and European vehicles.
Mann-Filter focuses on high-performance and incredible durability. Their filters feature return stop and bypass valves and the filter elements have been specifically designed for modern engines. They offer a wide variety and claim to be the safest option and the trucker’s choice of oil filter.
3. Mahle Original
Mahle has some very interesting options for those looking for a new aftermarket oil filter. As well as selling premium-quality oil filters with fully synthetic elements, these also have the cheaper, and more eco-friendly, option of replacing only the element itself rather than the housing, an ‘oil filter cartridge’ as they call it.
For racing and high-speed driving, K&N offers the perfect design. A nut at the bottom and slots on either side help to keep the filter in place, even when travelling at high speeds. It has a silicone anti-drain valve and a thickness of 77m, which is thicker than your average filter.
Valeo filters are designed to provide the highest possible quality standards of filtration and meet all their users’ needs. Their impressive oil filter technology blocks particles as small as 40 microns (40µm), equivalent to half the width of a human hair.
6. Blue Print
Blue Print offers filters for petrol, diesel, and electric & hybrid cars and their aftermarket filters are designed to meet the required standards of most vehicles so that they can be easily replaced. Blue Print filters are made using premium-quality materials.
Stark products claim to offer a long service life, good flow, and reliable rubber sealing elements. They have anti-drain and bypass valves to ensure a timely supply of oil immediately after the engine has been started and prevent damage to its components if the filtering element has reached capacity.