Can You Clean an Oil Filter?

Keeping the engine oil clean is a key way to maintain the health of your vehicle. It’s common practice to replace the oil filter with every oil change, but can you clean it instead?

You cannot clean an oil filter if it has disposable, delicate components that can be damaged by soap and water. And even if you don’t damage a disposable oil filter during cleaning, it will still have tiny particles that can impede oil flow or affect the filter’s ability to remove impurities. 

You’re in the right place if you’re thinking about cleaning or reusing an oil filter. This article will discuss the implications of cleaning an oil filter and what happens if you reuse it.

Can You Clean an Oil Filter?

An oil filter is an essential component of a car’s engine. It’s typically a metal can that circulates and removes carbon particles and other contaminants from the engine oil. There are reusable oil filters, but regular ones should be replaced when dirty. Some oil filters can last another oil change before being replaced. 

As an oil filter does its job, it inevitably becomes dirty and ineffective. If it fails to remove hard contaminants from the oil, the hard particles can wear out engine surfaces and damage internal components.

Can an Oil Filter Be Cleaned and Reused?

An oil filter can be cleaned and reused if it is made of more durable materials. Reusable filters are designed to be washed during oil changes. Manufacturers of such filters claim that they can be washed repeatedly and will last the vehicle’s lifetime without needing replacement. 

You can wash a reusable oil filter by soaking it in gasoline, soap, water, or a carb cleaner. If you can find a reusable oil filter for your vehicle, like those made by Pure Power, it may prove to be a good investment if you don’t mind the additional effort to clean it.

What Happens if You Change the Oil but Not the Filter?

The engine oil keeps all the moving parts lubricated and the engine’s internals clean. Inevitably, the engine oil accumulates pollutants, which the oil filter removes. Over time, the contaminants gathered by the oil filter build up to a point where it affects the filter’s capacity to perform its job.

If you change the oil but not the filter, it will reach a point where it can no longer hold or catch more dirt, affecting combustion and fuel consumption. The filter may also get blocked, preventing clean oil from passing through adequately and contaminating your engine oil.

The oil filter in some vehicles is harder to reach, so changing the oil without replacing the filter can be a tempting proposition, especially if you’re used to changing your oil without jacking the vehicle up. 

You can read more about how to change the oil without lifting the vehicle in this article

Can I Skip Changing Oil Filter?

You can skip changing the oil filter no more than once, provided the filter is in good condition. It’s possible to replace it every second oil change. If you change your oil every 5,000 miles (8,000 km), your oil filter can last 10,000 miles (16,000 km) before being replaced.

If you weigh the price of a new oil filter against the consequences of having a poorly lubricated engine due to an old oil filter, replacing the oil filter with every oil change may be a better idea. 

How Long Will an Oil Filter Last?

An oil filter can last up to 7,500 miles (12,000 km) under mild driving conditions. Generally, its lifespan depends on how much dirt it accumulates. Extreme driving and environmental conditions can significantly shorten the lifespan of an oil filter.

You should replace an oil filter every 3,000 miles (4,800 km) if your vehicle is prone to the following conditions:

  • Towing or carrying heavy loads. The extra stress placed on the engine when pulling heavy loads causes an increase in heat production and puts more wear on parts.
  • Sporty driving with heavy braking and high revving acceleration. When driving in a sporty fashion, oil moves around more rapidly due to increased friction between the moving parts. This causes the oil to break down at a faster rate than normal.
  • Frequent short trips. Frequent short trips don’t give the engine enough time to reach its optimal running temperature, which leads to increased wear on key components.
  • Driving through dusty or dirty conditions, like off-roading. These conditions lead to an increase in the dirt and debris particles that get into the engine. 
  • Seldomly using the vehicle. The quality of engine oils deteriorates over time. This process happens even faster when a car isn’t running as much and is exposed to extreme temperatures or humid conditions while in storage.

Signs That an Oil Filter Needs To Be Replaced

The best way to tell if an oil filter needs to be replaced is by keeping track of your mileage and replacing it during fixed intervals. It’s never a good idea to wait for your vehicle to show signs that you need to change the oil or replace the oil filter.

Nevertheless, here are some symptoms your vehicle may exhibit if the oil filter is long overdue for replacement:

  • Low oil pressure
  • The oil warning light on the dashboard goes on
  • The oil texture is thick and dirty
  • Black, blue, or gray exhaust smoke
  • Visible sludge or debris on the exhaust pipe 
  • Burning oil odor
  • Poor engine performance, sluggish acceleration
  • Rough or grinding engine noise
  • Overheating or temperature above normal
  • Sputtering engine

If your vehicle shows any of the symptoms above, you should have it checked immediately to prevent any further damage.

Final Thoughts

Replacing your oil filter as needed is just as important as keeping your engine oil clean. Your vehicle’s oil filter will inevitably become dirty over time, and failure to replace it can cause severe engine damage.

Unless your oil filter is reusable, you cannot clean it because washing it will ruin its internal components. If your vehicle isn’t exposed to extreme conditions, you don’t have to replace the oil filter with every oil change, but make sure not to neglect it. 

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