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All About Oil Filters

2763 Views 3 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  TMarchand
I am not a lubrication, filtering, chemical or mechanical engineer. I have a degree in engineering, but I studied electrical engineering. I now study physics. You may feel free to question my abilities to gather facts and draw conclusions in the area of oils and filters. In any case, this is a write up of what I learned in about 30 hours of research on this topic. If your eyes glaze over in science classes and you simply wish there were someone with a science background and no financial interest in oils and filters who would do all the leg work for you, I'm your guy. My only interest is having my motorcycle run forever, never break, and be easy to maintain.

Oil Filters come basically in three qualities. Very good, with excellent filtration; normal; and really incredibly bad. This last category, really incredibly bad, should obviously be avoided. Accordingly, never use a Fram, Pennzoil, Penske, Castrol, or Quaker State oil filter in any motor you like. All of these filters are made by Fram. The filter element itself is a normal paper element, and probably no better or worse than anyone else's paper element. However, the end caps on the filter element are made of cardboard in these filters. There are numerous stories of these cardboard end caps getting saturated with oil and coming apart, putting little cardboard fragments directly into the oil flow into your engine bearings. As they say in GhostBusters, this "would be bad." Personally, I don't consider cardboard a suitable material for my engine internals. In the interests of fairness, below I reproduce a letter from Fram to me.

An interesting question is, do oil filters really do anything useful at all? Of course, conventional wisdom is your bike would simply die a horrible death in about 3 minutes without a filter. But, we've all had the experience of making the first oil change on a new engine: the oil comes out looking like oil-colored metal flake paint. Here's the interesting question: why didn't the filter catch all those flakes? If the OEM filter is so great, how come it visibly didn't clean the oil of this very obnoxious crud? I can only think of two possibilities: either the filter let the metal flakes through, which is quite disconcerting, or the filter became completely clogged up in the first 20 miles or so, and I was running with the bypass valve activated ever since - effectively running without any oil filter at all. This is my motivation in searching for better filters. Also I consider it my duty as an American male to supply ammunition for women to say "If you treated me half as well as you treat that stupid motorcycle, we'd never have any problems!"

The single most interesting piece of information I could give in this article is filtering efficiency versus particle size for all the popular filters. I don't have it. You can get this information for any other filter you wish to buy, but most automotive oil filter companies simply don't release this information. So we're going to have to make our decisions with insufficient data.

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i definitely agree with grizzlywizard's statement regarding fram (and those who re-brand fram) filters. i have done some extensive research on this in the past and came to the conclusion that wix filters offer one of the lowest micron filtration rates out there. napa rebrands wix as their napa gold filter. i use them as often as i can. the new trend in automotive chain stores seems to be the "oil change special" where you get 5 qts and a filter, for one price. i usually avoid this, but sometimes the price is too hard to pass up for 5 qts of synthetic oil. i should probably toss the filter in the garbage as i walk out of the store, but i usually end up using it on my work "beater". ::none::
lately, i've been trying to only buy if it's the mobil1 or k&n filter, though.
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