Archive for July, 2014

Our Industry’s Oil Filter Mix-Up

Sunday, July 13th, 2014
airdrie oil changes

They might all look the same from the outside, but there are some very big differences in how oil filters are constructed inside!















Part of setting up our new shop included ordering thousands of dollars of inventory (parts, fluids, etc) to build on what we already had. Part of this process stunned and disappointed me, though: many of the auto parts representatives we spoke with were surprised that we wanted to stick with the premium line of oil filters that we’ve been using in the past. “That’s not what most guys in town are buying”, we were repeatedly told.

You see, most automotive filter manufacturers offer a “wholesale” line of filters, which are not usually available to the public, and are usually much cheaper than the lines sold in-store – but for good reason. They employ much cheaper construction methods and are usually inferior to the original equipment or factory filters in most ways. These filters are typically not recommended for oil change intervals over 5000 km; which is the same as saying they aren’t recommended for 90% of today’s vehicles! (See our post “Stop Changing Your Oil” for more on oil change intervals.)

Here are some of the differences between a premium oil filter – such as the WIX line that we carry – and these economy filters:

  • Better filter media incorporates synthetic and polyester fibers to reach filtration efficiency of up to 99% – vs around 80% for cellulose (paper) alone in cheaper filters.
  • Metal instead of cardboard end caps hold the internal filter element together.
  • Silicone anti drain-back valve seals better and stays working longer than cheaper rubber valves. Some economy filters do not have a drain-back valve at all, which means “dry starting” the engine every time, greatly accelerating engine wear.
  • A true internal coil spring, instead of a flimsier leaf spring, keeps everything in place.
  • Actually designed to last for the length of time the filter will be installed on a modern vehicle.


Most of these parts company sales reps only wanted to talk about how using these cheap filters could help us maximize profits. A popular line seemed to be “But think about it; if you save 50 cents per filter, multiplied by 5000 filters…” – it’s like they’ve completely forgotten why we do this job in the first place; that our job is to help our customers maintain their vehicle to the best of our ability. How has it happened that the auto repair businesses are the ones buying the cheapest oil filters available, and the higher quality lines are mostly purchased by do-it-yourselfers? Aren’t we supposed to be the professionals?

In our industry, those of us who care more haven’t done a good enough job educating the driving public, many of whom believe “an oil change is an oil change” and don’t give basic maintenance much thought. Unfortunately, the fact is that when you drive into a shop and replace your oil and filter with parts that are inferior to what the vehicle originally came with, you’re making your vehicle worse, not better! Our oil changes will probably always cost a little more than many shops charge, but the value you receive for your money will be unmatched. We’ll do the very best job we can for you, and leave the “oil filter roulette” to our competitors.