The Dirt on Oil Filters

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The Dirt on Oil Filters

Postby ogrady » 2005 Wed Oct 26, 9:35 am

Tom Glenn of the insider lubrication magazine, LUBES'N'GREASES took a potshot at the oil filter market recently in his July 05 article.
Imagine what it would be like if the big three automakers and other OEMs didn't share with the major oil companies, or anyone else for that matter, their specifications or requirements for engine oil. Instead, they said this information was proprietary. Further, imagine that when a consumer asks a new car dealer what engine oil to use in that expensive and cherished automobile they just bought, the dealer strongly recommended its own oil because it's made to the OEM's exact specifications. Moreover, the dealer discouraged the consumer from using anything else by saying that they frequently have cars coming into their shops with oil lights on and other problems caused by engine oil purchased at retail and auto-parts stores. Imagine this consumer — one of those rebels who like to challenge authority and buck the system —then calls one of the major oil companies to see if in fact the dealer is telling the truth. And the major, contrary to what the dealer says, answers that its engine oil absolutely can be used in that car. In fact, its engine oil is "tested to meet, or exceed the warranty requirements of all vehicle and engine manufacturers." It knows this because, although the OEMs don't all make their performance requirements known, this major tested the OEM's product with standards established by the SAE to determine what those requirements are. To drive the point home, the major then challenges the consumer to ask the dealer to put it in writing if they say anything about the major's oil not meeting OEM requirements. The major adds, "The dealer will not put it in writing because it knows it will be sued if it does."

Stop imagining. Add the word "filter" after "oil" in the above, and enter the real world of oil filters — a world that represents the second most important line of defense against the leading cause of engine wear (dirt). It's a world unlike the engine oil business, where performance specifications are clearly defined and communicated to the consumer and OEMs, and majors work closely and cooperatively to assure the best products for the consumer and the environment. Instead, it's a world where the automotive OEMs typically do not work cooperatively with the aftermarket manufacturers or share much information about their performance requirements or standards.

Yes, this world has standardized protocols to test filters (SAE J1858 and H5806), but there are no official benchmarks, letter designations, approval systems or other established measures available to consumers to compare performance test data. Moreover, there is no requirement for an oil filter marketer (including the OEMs as seen by some of their packaging) to make the SAE test data or any other measure of performance or quality known to the consumer.

As a result, the world of oil filters is a confusing one, plagued with inadequate information, misinformation and self-appointed experts. It is a world where good marketing can trump good filtering at any time.
Just take a look at the oil filters on the retail shelves. Live and breathe the life and decision-making process of a Do-lt-Yourselfer for just one oil change. Do you pick the Fram High Mileage filter for vehicles with over 75,000 miles? Maybe. Although higher priced than some of the others, its package says its filter has a 96 percent single-pass efficiency and a "time release technology" additive gel that helps "maintain viscosity, reduce corrosive engine wear, neutralize acids, keep engine components cleaner."

Then again, maybe the Purolator PureONE is better; it has a multi-pass efficiency rating of 98 percent and the package says it's "Top Ranked in SAE tests." In addition, it has an "exclusive Micronic filtration."
But what about the KEN filter? It has a high flow rate and "drilled safety wire holes for racing." The "90 percent efficiency" on its box, however, is lower then the others.

Or maybe high price doesn't always mean high quality. Wal-Mart's $2.00 SuperTech filter — which costs $8.00 less than one of the leading brands — is "#1 in efficiency among the leading brands," its package claims. The box even says that whereas the leading brands have single-pass and multi-pass efficiencies of 96 percent and 94 percent, SuperTech has 98 and 99 percent, respectively. That's better than any others, right?

And what about the DlYers who buy some of that new engine oil from Mobil that says it can drain at 15,000 miles? Do they need to change the filter at the interval written in their owners manual? Hard to tell. Mobil says it's a "myth" that its new Extended Performance oil requires a special oil filter. "While ExxonMobil recommends that you use a high-quality filter," the company advises, "you can use the same type of oil filter that you would normally use with conventional oil." But which one is that and how does ExxonMobil know the quality of the filter the consumer "normally" uses? Meanwhile, Fram claims that its Extra-Guard oil filter now has 70 percent greater capacity than the leading competitor's average and is the "the very first premium oil filter to offer an amazing 7,000 miles-plus performance!"

And beyond the DlYer, what about the filter underworld of Do-It-For-Me? The world of unseen arms that reach up from under the car and spin off and on millions of filters a year? Are these invisible arms using quality oil filters? Who really knows?

Does all of this describe a world that OEMs think best serves the consumer by optimizing the flow of clean oil in their engines and preventing dirt from prematurely wearing their high-priced steeds?

If not, who does this world of oil filters serve?

Tom Glenn is president of Petroleum Trends International, a market research and consulting firm specializing in lubricant marketing, manufacturing and channel management issues. He can be reached by phone at (732) 494-0405. E-mail:


Toms article I hope made you pause and think about the oil filter you use in your vehicle. As Tom says, there ARE standards to which the performance of oil filters can be measured. Here's the problem, many, (actually, in the automotive world in North America, none but one) oil filter manufactures DON'T put this information on the filter box, 98% efficiency sounds fantastic, but TO WHAT STANDARD? Without the standard to which the filter in question was measured against, 98% means a b s o l u t e l y n o t h i n g.

98% efficient at blocking WHAT size of particulate, and is this 98% efficient in a single pass or after a 100 passes?

The ability for an oil filter to block the passage of debris in the oil is important, but equally important are two other factors that interplay with an oil filter's ability to block particles. They are;

Restriction of Oil Flow and Dirt capacity

A filter that blocks fantastically but is really restrictive to the flow of oil is asking for the pressure drop protecting device within the engine, or usually built into the oil filter, called the bypass valve to open allowing unfiltered oil to pass straight to your engine.

Also, a filter that blocks dirt fantastically but fills up too fast, also causes the bypass to open, again the same result occurs, unfiltered oil straight to your engine.

These three problems are a balancing act for oil filter manufacturers. All three aspects are equally important.

I mentioned that not a single, expect for one, oil filter manufacturer in North America of oil filters for the automotive market puts the industry performance standard to which their oil filter was measured against out for all to read, as in on the box the filter comes in, or right on the can

Who does this?? Amsoil. Amsoil oil filter performance is put right on the box AND on the oil filter, not just filter efficiency, but filter efficiency per the latest standard. Tom in his 2005 article above mentioned SAE J1858 and H5806, these are filter performance standards, standards that two years later have evolved into a similar but more restrictive standard, the standard ISO 4548-12.

Amsoil oil filters are 98.7% single pass efficient at 15 microns per the standard ISO 4548-12

And Amsoil is the only automotive / motorcycle / outboard / ATV oil filter in the North American market that makes the above statement on the performance of their oil filter. Efficiency, single pass, particle size measured according to the industry standard.

So the Amsoil oil filter blocks particles, what about it's restriction to flow and what about it's dirt holding capacity? One would expect a filter that blocks a higher percentage of particles to restrict the flow of oil more and hold less dirt before it's bypass valve opened up right? All things being equal this is exactly what you'd expect, and this is where the Amsoil filter is most different from comparison to competing oil filters.

It's dirt blocking ability is WAY better.
It's restriction to flow is lower.
It's dirt holding capacity is much higher.

The performance envelope of these filter is so high that Amsoil warrants them for 25,000 miles (40,000km) or a full year provided you use Amsoil oil.
This level of performance can only come from using the latest technology in oil filter media and having the desire to make the very best. Called nanofiber technology, you can learn more about this here. ... ilters.htm
Are you still on the 3,000 mile oil change treadmill? Put some convenience in your life!
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