How to Change a Car Oil Filter & Why It’s Important

How to Change a Car Oil Filter & Why It's Important

Changing the oil filter in cars is an important vehicle maintenance task that all car owners must perform. Mechanics across the country offer oil filter change services at the same time as having your engine oil changed. 

If you’re wondering how to change your car’s oil filter, you’ll first want to understand what an oil filter is and why it’s so important. 

Oil filters separate the solid particles and contaminants from the oil circulating the different engine parts of the vehicle. Contaminated oil in vehicles can damage the engine, affect fuel consumption, and cause exhaust issues. 

Oil filters cannot last forever. You must replace this device with a new one after a prescribed amount of vehicle use. Most people have their car oil filters changed by their mechanic during an oil change or car service and repair. However, those confident with vehicle maintenance may choose to change their oil filter. 

Not sure if you’re confident changing your oil filter? This article will tell you all about the step-by-step process, so you can decide if you want to DIY or have a professional change your oil filter. 

Read on to learn more about oil filters and how to replace them correctly and safely.

What Is a Car Oil Filter?

An oil filter is a mechanical device usually found in modern combustion engines of motor vehicles. It aims to remove contaminants and impurities from the engine’s oil to achieve optimal engine performance. 

Oil lubricates the moving parts of an engine so it can run smoothly. However, as the engine runs, combustion within the engine produces contaminants that gather in the engine oil. If these contaminants stay unfiltered from the oil, they will develop into small hard particles that can damage the oil engine. 

How Does a Car Oil Filter Work?

An oil filter is enclosed in a metal can with a sealing gasket and is attached tightly to the engine block. After the unfiltered oil passes through the engine, the engine oil pump pushes the oil into the oil filter. 

The oil then goes through the oil filter’s holes and is pushed with pressure through the synthetic fibre cartridges inside the filter. These cartridges trap the particles but allow the clean oil to go into the filter’s inlet and back into the car’s oil pan.

Why Is It Important to Change Your Oil Filter?

Over time, the filter media in the oil filter will be full of trapped particles. When this happens, the filter will not be able to function correctly and will leave oil unfiltered. Unwanted particles in the oil damage the engine. 

Most people know that changing car oil is important, but do you know that changing your oil filter is just as important? Engine damages due to dirty oil can also result in changes in fuel consumption, unhealthy exhaust smoke, disturbing noises under the hood, and acceleration problems. 

How Often Should You Replace Your Oil Filter?

According to an old standard, replacing the oil filter in cars should be done every second time an oil change occurs. Not every car is the same. Many car manufacturers mention oil filter change recommendations in the owner’s manual. 

An oil change in vehicles usually takes place every 4,800 to 9,600 kilometres, depending on the vehicle. This means that if you change your oil every 4,800 kilometres, you need to replace your oil filter every 9,600 kilometres. 

You can also consult a mechanic to know how often an oil filter change should occur for a particular vehicle model. 

How to Change an Engine Oil Filter

It is advisable to drain old engine oil before replacing the filter. This ensures that the old oil is not over-contaminated. This means you’ll need to know how to change the oil in your car in addition to changing the filter.   

Here is the step-by-step method to change a car’s oil filter:

1. Gather the supplies you need to change the oil & filter. Before changing the oil filter in cars, you need to gather all the necessary tools and supplies, which are:

  • The oil filter
  • A socket wrench
  • An oil filter wrench
  • Oil pan or bucket to catch the leaking oil
  • Jack, jack stand, axle stands, or ramps
  • Rags
  • Work gloves
  • New drain oil plug
  • Owner’s manual
  • New engine oil suitable for your vehicle and funnel

2. Warm up the vehicle before changing the oil. Start the car and let it run for a minute or two, or take it for a quick drive. Such activity warms up the engine oil so it can drain better. 

3. Park the vehicle in a secure area. This area can be a driveway or garage. The ground must be level. Turn off the engine before changing the oil filter in cars. 

4. Raise your vehicle with a jack or ramp. Use a jack stand to stabilise the vehicle. Do not go underneath the car held only by a jack.  

5. Locate the oil drain plug. It is usually underneath the vehicle. You may use the owner’s or repair manual to help find the oil drain plug. Place a drain pan right below the oil drain plug. The drain pan should collect the oil once you remove the oil plug. 

6. Remove the oil plug with a socket wrench. Check whether the engine is cool to touch before touching the oil plug. Remove the oil plug using a socket wrench. Be careful as the leaking oil may be hot. 

7. Once all the oil is drained, install a new drain oil plug. You can use your fingers initially to screw the plug. Then, you can tighten the plug with the socket wrench. Do not overtighten the socket because it can damage the threads. You can also consult the repair manual for the correct torque specification.

8. Loosen the old oil filter. Start by loosening the filter from its position using the oil filter wrench. Once the filter loosens, some oil may spill. Place an oil pan underneath to collect the excess oil. Make sure to wear gloves because the leaked oil may be hot. 

9. Remove the old oil filter. Once all the oil is drained, carefully remove the oil filter with your hand or oil filter wrench. Wipe a rag on the mounting surface of the engine to clean it and ensure that no old gasket is left behind. 

10. Insert the new oil filter. Get the new oil filter and coat the O-ring seal with fresh oil. Screw in the new filter and turn it about halfway. Do not overtighten the new filter so you won’t deform its soft rubber gasket. The gasket keeps the oil from leaking. 

11. Fill up with new oil. Clean the mounting surface of the engine with a rag. You can now change the old oil with a new one after replacing the oil filter. Use a funnel to pour in the new oil. Check the owner’s manual for your vehicle’s correct amount, type, and grade of oil.

12. Check for any leaks. Run the engine for a few minutes to allow the oil to circulate well. Turn off the engine immediately if you see a leak and find out the source of the leak. 

13. Turn off the engine and check the oil level using the dipstick. Clean the dipstick first before inserting it into the oil inlet. Make sure to have the correct oil level before screwing the cap back on.  

14. Take note of the date of the oil filter and the oil change. Write down the current distance travelled by your vehicle to know when the next oil and oil filter change will be.

What Oil Filter Do I Need?

Oil filters in cars come in various gasket sizes and threads. Different vehicles require particular types of oil filters. You must consult your owner’s manual or the relevant automobile parts catalogue to determine which oil filter fits your car. 

Using the wrong filter will lead to oil leaks and engine malfunctions. The best oil filters have heavy-duty gauge metal, tight filter material, and high-quality gaskets. The general rule is that the best filters are usually the most expensive. 

What Is the Best Oil Filter for a Car?

Fram TG7317 Tough Guard Passenger Car Spin-On Oil Filter and Purolator PL14610 (PurolatorONE Advanced Engine Protection Spin-On Oil Filter) are some of the best oil filters available in Australia. These filter products are expensive but can last for about 16,000 kilometres. 

Fram TG7317 and Purolator PL1461 perform the best for full or semi-synthetic oils. Both models can clear 99% of oil junk. 

Royal Purple 356753 Extended Life Oil Filter and Mobil 1 M1-110 / M1-110A Extended Performance Oil Filter are examples of more affordable oil filter products that still offer high performance.

Related Questions

Is It Easy to Change the Oil Filter?

If you’re already changing your engine oil, you should be able to change your oil filter simultaneously. However, it’s more challenging to do safely for those without experience. You’ll need the right equipment, like a jack and jack stand, socket wrench and oil filter wrench. 

For most people, it’s best to have a mechanic change your oil filter when you go in for an oil change or minor service. 

Can I Change the Oil Filter Without Changing the Oil?

Yes, you can change the oil filter without having to change the oil completely, as long as you top up the amount that spills out. However, it’s best to do both simultaneously, especially since the interval for oil filter changes aligns with your oil change intervals. 

When replacing oil filters in cars, expect oil to leak out. This is because some oil can still be trapped inside the filter during replacement. However, around 80% of the entire car oil usually stays in the oil pan. In this scenario, you can pour additional oil to replace the spilled amount. 

If changing your oil filter without changing the oil, use a dipstick to measure the correct oil level for your vehicle and be sure to top up. However, changing your oil at the same time is the most efficient way to maintain your car. 

Can I Use the Same Oil Filter Twice?

No, you cannot use the same filter twice. Once a filter is filled with debris and dirt participles, it needs to be replaced with a new one. Installing a used oil filter again will result in heavily contaminated oil that can damage the engine severely. 


This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. Shift Automotive does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information, and specifics will vary according to your vehicle’s manufacturer and model. This article is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified automotive service technician.