A History of Innovation: FRAM®

There's just something so nostalgic about nostalgia, you know? It's the way you feel when you see Steamboat Willie whistling before a Disney movie or when you hear the Star Wars opening theme. But if you want to spark some memories that will turn into a helpful lesson, here's a tip for Millenials and younger: ask the generation of DIYers who came before you about FRAM®.

More than likely, they'll remember the classic slogan, “You can pay me now, or pay me later." It was introduced in 1971, and if you want a giggle, this commercial with the iconic line mentions that a major engine repair is a whopping $200. Oh how times have changed.

FRAM magazine spread with a variation of their 1971 slogan

FRAM magazine spread with a variation of their 1971 slogan | Source: FRAM

FRAM Oil Filters: How It All Began

Of course, FRAM was around long before their tagline turned into catchy words of wisdom. It all started in 1932 when chemists Frederick Franklin and T. Edward Aldham invented an easily-replaceable oil filtering element for cars. Oil filters used to be difficult to install, change and clean, which is what made their invention truly cutting edge. And if you're wondering where the name comes from, look a little closer. FRAM was derived from their names: Franklin and Aldham. Pretty nifty.

The first FRAM oil filters were made by hand, and by '34, they were averaging 10 filters a day. Within a few years, FRAM put out the first model designed specifically for larger trucks, tractors and diesels. It only took another year before these easy-to-use filters started really catching on — Cadillac, Ford, Lincoln and Mercury were all using FRAM as OE by 1938. Their popularity allowed the first branch plant to settle in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

If you have any family from the Greatest Generation, they might recall FRAM's first slogan from 1942: “The dipstick tells the story." That same year, the Filcron® filter was introduced (it was the first of its kind, combining depth and surface filtration for increased efficiency). This new and improved filter might be why FRAM was chosen as the exclusive manufacturer for filter development by the Army-Navy.

Filter Innovation at Warp Speed

1950 and 1954 FRAM ads

  1950 and 1954 FRAM ads | Source: FRAM

The 50's hit and so did a massive wave of innovation at FRAM. It's a long list, so here's the skinny:


  • 1950 — Introduced carburetor air filters, crankcase ventilators and gas filters, plus water filters for cars, trucks and buses


  • 1952 — Launched aftermarket version of their OE air filter


  • 1956 — Their new oil filter combined the cartridge and housing in one unit, making for faster installation than any other filter on the market


  • 1957 — First spin-on fuel filters for trucks were made available


As if all of this wasn't enough, FRAM then got into the racing business in the late '60's, working on high-performance filters for racing engines. And then finally, the moment you've all been waiting for: the iconic slogan first appears.

"You can pay me now, or pay me later."

If you haven't figured it out by now, innovation never stops at FRAM. In 1973, FRAM opened the industry's biggest and best filtration engineering and research facility to date in Rhode Island. Things only get more radical from there with the introduction of Extra Life®, Wearguard® and Extra Guard® — all of which are designed for improved filtration of air and oil respectively.

Tough Guard® is introduced in '97 to handle rough driving conditions, and adding a new fiber into the media makes FRAM raise the dirt-trapping standard bar by 48 percent in 1998. But wait, there's more: the patent for SureGRIP® goes through just before the 2000's. Here's the 411 on SureGRIP®: do you enjoy changing out a slippery, greasy oil filter? Didn't think so! This new tech makes the outside rough and easy to grip no matter the circumstances, and we think that's pretty fly.

The 2000's said hello to tube tops and even more FRAM innovation. In the first four years of the millennium alone, FRAM launched the Xtended Guard® line for synthetic oil and extended oil change intervals, the SureDRAIN® oil change system and the High Mileage® oil filter. Moving into 2005, FRAM released the Tough Guard® air filter. 2012 brought Ultra Synthetic® for synthetic oil only, and 2017 welcomed the new FRAM campaign, “filter out the nonsense."

An old FRAM ad showing Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad playing "Frampa"

Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad fame played "Frampa" in the new campaign commercial

To Infinity and Beyond

2020…happened. It didn't stop FRAM, though, because they still weren't satisfied and decided to introduce both FRAM Titanium™ and FRAM Force™.

At this point you may be wondering: why is Advance Auto Parts so excited about FRAM? Well, because exclusive FRAM fluids and filters came to Advance in 2021, but FRAM has been around much longer. As you can see, FRAM has a lengthy history of leading the filtration industry, always on the cutting edge of technology and always seeking further innovation.

So here's the lowdown: if you want quality, affordable fluids and filters for your car, FRAM is your go-to. Stop by your local Advance Auto Parts and take their products for a test drive today!

Last updated June 29, 2021