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Oil Filter Form and Function
By Mike Bumbeck /
Printable version
Degree of DifficultyEasy
Estimated Time120 minutes
120 minutes
Cleaning Out the Engine from the Inside

Oil is often referred to as the lifeblood of an automobile engine. The thin layer of oil molecules that rides in between engine parts is in reality all that prevents the friction between these moving parts from creating excessive heat and turning the engine into a useless heap of expensive scrap metal. If oil is the engine's lifeblood, then the oil filter is the liver. Like the liver, the oil filter takes in dirty oil and removes the particulates and crud. This engine-damaging crud remains trapped in the filter media and the oil filter returns the clean oil back into the engine. Changing the oil and filter on a regular basis gives the engine a fresh transfusion for longer life.
Oil Filter Form and Function - Cleaning Out the Engine from the Inside
Inside the Filter
Choosing a quality oil and oil filter is just as important as regular oil and oil filter changes. All oil filters are not created equal. A poor quality oil filter may temporarily save a dollar or two, but can instantly cause thousands of dollars in engine damage upon burst or failure. At the heart of the engine oiling system is the oil pump. The pump circulates oil through the engine at a required pressure. The materials and construction of an oil filter must be able to withstand this pressure under torturous conditions of heat and cold. If an oil filter housing or oil filter base gasket fails due to rupture, a rapid loss of oil pressure and oil will result and it will be time for a new engine. Engines usually cost more than a few bucks.

Hidden Horrors
Worse than outright failure is an oil filter that fails in its task without ever letting on. A poorly constructed internal bypass valve inside the filter can open unnecessarily and cause the oil to simply go around the filter. Filtration is lost without any outward signs. Conversely, a clogged oil filter will also cause a bypass valve to open. Just because an oil filter looks right or screws onto an engine does not mean it's the right one for the job. Oil filters are manufactured to match engine requirements to maintain the correct oil pressure, flow volume, pressure relief valve opening and of course filtration. Always select only an oil filter designed and built specifically to work with the engine and oil system it is to be spun onto.
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