How Often Should You Change Your Oil Filter?

How Often Should You Change Your Oil Filter

Do You Need to Change Your Filter Along with Your Engine Oil?

The quick answer to this is “yes.”
Let’s explain why. The oil filter is designed with paper and fabric medium arranged in pleats – this medium traps particles that are no bigger than a few microns in size and prevents them from circulating through the engine, where they can start to build up on rotating assemblies and cause damage. (For comparison, an average human hair is 60 microns in diameter.) When the filter is completely saturated and can’t absorb any more contaminants, it’s essentially bypassed as the oil circulates. The particulates are still trapped in the filter, but what’s in the oil can’t be filtered out…and that, of course, is when it's really time to change the oil.

So when it’s time to change the oil, the filter will set you back a few extra dollars – but not changing it is just false economy. If you leave that old filter on, as soon as you start the engine and get it to operating temperature, that nice clean motor oil is soon going to be just as dirty as the oil you just drained out. That being said, there’s no point in changing the filter until it’s time for an oil change – if you remove the filter, half the oil is going to drain out from the filter’s mounting point and you might as well do the oil change right then anyway.

Oil Filters and Driving in Severe Conditions

Severely challenging driving conditions are among the important cases when you have to change your oil more frequently. How often should you change your oil and filter under these circumstances? That largely depends on the driving conditions themselves, such as temperature, speed, whether you drive on gravel, dirt, snow or regular tarmac, and even on factors such as your driving style. The engine configuration, size and performance of the car can also play an important role in this case, since warmer temperatures and trying conditions are more likely to affect larger, more powerful engines. As a result, the owners of large muscle cars or pickup trucks would rather have to change their oil and oil filter earlier when faced with severe conditions.

Changing Your Oil Filter When the Service Light Is On

It is essential to change your oil and filter when the service light is on, even if you know your oil is still at a good level and the engine isn’t at risk of failing from oil starvation. In many instances, the service light can be on because of one of many different problems, so ruling out a problem that is easier to solve, such as replacing your oil filter, could possibly help you get your car back in order without spending a lot of money on expensive diagnostics and repairs. When the light is on, it indicates that your engine is not working properly, which could mean that it’s being clogged by grime and debris. In this case, your filter might fail earlier than it normally would.

Some newer vehicles have an oil change indicator light, which is triggered by sensors that monitor the condition of the engine’s oil and performance and use an algorithm to determine when it’s time for an oil change (rather than a simple mileage counter). Other engines have an oil pressure gauge or an oil pressure warning light – the warning light is a really bad sign as it means that you’re either low on oil or the engine has had a catastrophic loss of oil pressure.

Longer Lasting Oils

An important tip when it comes to keeping your oil filter working longer is to use high end synthetic oil. Synthetic motor oil is much more refined and distilled than regular oil, which means it will last longer and it’s also far less likely to clog your filter too early.

Some drivers claim they replace their oil and filter after just a few thousand miles, but that the improved filtering quality actually makes the oil they use more efficient and longer lasting. Experts concur, many stating that the oil change interval can be longer primarily when using synthetic oil, which only requires you to replace it once every 5,000-10,000 miles. Regardless of whether you use synthetic, synthetic blend or conventional oil, don’t skimp when it’s time for an oil change. Change the oil and filter both, right then!

Last updated October 5, 2021