If the oil is the lifeblood of a car, then your oil filter is your car’s kidneys. Plenty of articles about oil filters say this, and you’ve probably even heard this saying passed around between fellow car enthusiasts. That’s no surprise, because it’s an important piece of advice to keep in mind! And we’ve got a list of oil filter brands that you should avoid so that you keep your engine healthy.
Your oil filter is responsible for keeping your engine working right by filtering out any detritus and impurities in your oil. This keeps your engine parts working right and extends its lifespan. The last thing you want is an awful filter that lets impurities gunk up your engine slowly over time. What’s more, in some places you might even find that your vehicle’s warranty might even be rendered void if you aren’t changing your oil and filter at the recommended intervals.
In this list, we’ve compiled some of the worst oil filters that you’ll want to avoid along with a buying guide that’ll help you figure out what to watch out for as you pick out a filter for your car. Cars come with plenty of moving parts and things to consider. And with all the different brands and manufacturers producing them, filtering the good from the bad can take a fair bit of time; time that we’ve spent to help you narrow down your choices much faster.
Oil Filters and their Features
Before we get into the brands to avoid, you’ll need to know what we want to look for in oil filters. In recent years, cartridge filters have come to be more popular than spin-on filters.
Spin-on filters enjoyed decades of popularity due to their ease of use due to the simple process of just spinning them onto your engine and then swapping them out as needed. However, with climate impact and waste being a concern in recent years, plus the changing nature of modern engines no longer being as compatible with spin-ons, their use has started to decline.
Cartridge filters are now the favoured model. The filter component is replaceable, and their housing can even be reused. This reduces the waste their use generates, making them more eco-friendly. Even better, they’re a lot more affordable to do; though they require a bit more effort to install than spin-ons. But as with learning how to service various parts of your car, you’ll find that it gets easier as you do it more and more. Take a watch through this video so you can get started on figuring the process out!
Here are some other features you’ll want to check on before purchasing your oil filter:
Price – While this might feel like a shallow metric, the old adage of ‘getting what you pay for’ runs true even when buying filters. Sure, the ones on the market do their job. But the prices of filters indicate the kind of quality you expect. Anything under $5 isn’t likely to be all that good (if they’re being sold in 2-in-1 packs, that’s a bigger red flag), $5 to $15 is the standard sweet spot, and anything over should run longer and are usually made by the manufacturers of your vehicle. The over $15 ones do, however, run the risk of being overpriced due to the fact that some brands mark up their prices by virtue of their own reputations.
Filter Media – This is the part that does the oil filtering. The cheaper ones don’t quite have as much of this content, so if you’re in an auto store you could easily compare the cheaper ones and other filters; something double the amount of a cheap brand’s filter media is ideal. If you get a bad oil filter with too little media, you might find that they don’t last as long since less media equates to less filtering power as the contaminants fill it up faster.
Anti-drain Back Valve – If you’ve gotten a cheap filter once and heard a horrible rattling noise, you may have gotten an oil filter with a bad valve. This part ensures that any oil filtered through doesn’t drain back into the main tank. This keeps the engine lubricated and avoids a dry-start where there isn’t enough oil to keep the engine running smooth when you start it up. A dry engine has its parts grind against each other more, leading to faster accumulation of wear and tear and ruining its longevity.
Weight or build – You can typically identify a better filter by how heavy it is. Better builds use higher quality materials like more filter media and thicker steel components and rubber gaskets. Cheap materials are often lighter and will wear out faster.
Service Life – How long you can go before the next filter change. The best ones can accommodate 10,00 miles before needing to be changed. If it only lasts 3,000 miles, you’ll be forking out the cash to replace them frequently, making them more costly even if their base price is supposedly cheaper.
Our List of Oil Filter Brands to Avoid
- Manufacturer Brands
All the forums and articles out there mention Fram first and foremost. It’s a fairly popular brand when it comes to auto parts, partially due to the strong marketing campaigns that push them. Unfortunately, they’re all fluff. The oil filters in particular are built with cheap components, and their anti-drain back valve is notorious for being poor and resulting in many a dry start. While some auto enthusiasts have found that changing their oil frequently can mitigate the poor performance of Fram oil filters, you’re better off making things easier for yourself and buying a product that will actually do its job.
Funded by Wal-Mart so they could market their own oil-filters in their stores, Supertech’s oil filters are almost the same as Fram’s in build and components. Worst of all, the cover plates are made of paper. Sure, you could get the enhanced ones that are made with steel cover plates; but I wouldn’t put any stock in a company that puts out products with poor materials in the first place.
Speaking of paper, Fratnz shows you exactly why knowing the build of your car parts is incredibly important. Dissecting this filter reveals that the actual filter component is practically a roll of toilet paper; a design that many filter experts advise against buying into.
Any filter made by a company that also makes oil filters; typically identified by their brand being stamped on them too. While mostly intended for use with the relevant products due to their make being adapted specifically to the engines that these companies make, plenty of other car owners have advised against them. The most cited reason being the fact that they overprice these filters, and that even the standard market filters do the same job as them. This is a hotly debated topic, however, so we advise trying them out for yourself since you’ll at least be assured of some level of quality if a bigger brand that actually works with car parts endorses them.
You’ll find this video pretty handy in showing what a bad filter can do to your car.
And there you have it, 4 brands of oil filters to avoid or at the very least be wary of. We hope that this guide is a handy one for you as you head out to pic out oil filters for your vehicle. Cars are modular things and require great amounts of care, and getting poorly made oil filters only makes that process of maintenance even harder than it needs to be.
In our search for the most disliked oil filters, we did also find a fair amount of favoured ones as well. Many recommend that if you want to get a great oil filter, Beck-Arnley’s Oil Filter is one of the most highly recommended on the market right now. It’s fairly cheap at around $12, and is a great cartridge filter overall
Have any brands you want others to steer clear of? Or maybe you know of one that works really well? Tell us all about it in the comments below!