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Friday, October 29, 2010

Back to the Future

The return to prominence of cartridge-style oil filters promises many benefits…if installed correctly  

Dating back to the invention of the internal combustion engine in 1806, and later the automobile, cartridge oil filters were the preferred technology once automakers began to utilize filtration. Filtering the dirt or impurities that can affect the performance of engine oil extended engine life and performance. Cartridge oil filters are those in which a permanent filter housing features a replaceable filter cartridge, or element. This housing is mounted either directly on or near the engine, and when the filter becomes contaminated to the point that it is no longer adequately filtering the oil, the housing cap is removed and the dirty filter is replaced with a new, clean one.

This type of filter was the preferred choice of vehicle manufacturers and mechanics for the first several years that automobiles traversed the nation’s expanding roadways. Then, in the 1950s, a new filter technology entered the market. Called “spin-on” technology, these new filters were said to be superior to the traditional cartridge type because they offered a quick, efficient and clean method for changing oil, and did a better job of preventing leaks during the oil-change process. Spin-on filters were marketed as being more user-friendly than cartridge types and are actually credited with allowing vehicle owners to begin performing their own oil changes.

Cartridge Making a Comeback

But in an example of “what goes around comes around,” the venerable cartridge oil filter is making a comeback. There are several reasons for this shift in the oil-filter market. For one, improvements in filter technology have led to the creation of cartridge oil-filter models that are easier to change without the risk of oil leaks and spills. Second, the engine compartments in late-model vehicles are becoming smaller and smaller, and cartridge oil filters can be positioned on the topside of the engine for ease of service. Finally, the disposal cost of a cartridge oil filter is much less than the cost related to the disposal of a spin-on filter. In the 1990s, European and Asian automakers initiated the return to popularity of cartridge oil filters because of this reduction in disposal costs.

This return of the cartridge oil filter has become so prominent that no less an authority than the Filter Manufacturers Council, Research Triangle Park, NC, has announced that “the cartridge-style filter is back and will be the oil configuration of the future.”

While the benefits of using cartridge-style oil filters are many—as spelled out above—these benefits become lost if the filters are not installed correctly. In fact, the failure to follow the proper cartridge-filter installation procedure can result in oil leakage and engine damage. Therefore, let’s take a closer look and walk through the correct process for replacing and installing a cartridge oil filter.

Cartridge Oil Filter Installation Tips

The first step in the process is draining the vehicle’s existing oil from the oil pan by removing the drain plug, and disposing of this used oil in an acceptable manner. Once the oil pan has been drained, the filter housing must be located and the drain plug removed from the housing cap, allowing any residual oil to drain from the filter housing. Using an appropriate tool, the filter cap must then be removed from the housing. At this point, it is important that the person performing the oil change note the position of the O-ring(s) seal on the housing cap, and drain plug before the O-ring(s) seal is removed. After noting the position of and removing the O-ring(s) seal, remove the old filter cartridge and set both aside.

Before continuing, clean both the filter’s housing cap and the filter housing itself. If necessary, use a flashlight to look for damage such as a breakage, cracks or damaged threads. Also make certain that the groove in which the O-ring(s) rest is clean and undamaged. If necessary, replace any damaged components that are found.

Now, choose a new filter cartridge and compare it and the included O-rings(s) with the used filter and O-ring(s) that were set aside. This comparison will let the installer know if the correct filter has been chosen for the installation. It is imperative that no old O-rings are reused since they are not designed for multiple service intervals. Re-use of the old O-ring(s) may lead to oil leakage and possible engine damage.

Next, apply clean engine oil to the new O-ring(s) and the O-ring grooves on the housing cap. Then, install the new housing O-ring onto the housing cap by rolling the O-ring evenly into place in its groove. It is important that the installer make sure that the O-ring is positioned in its correct location in the O-ring groove. If the O-ring appears to be twisted, slide it around in the groove until it straightens out.

The new filter cartridge is now ready to be placed in the housing cap. Install the housing cap on the filter housing by tightening until the O-ring compresses. Using an appropriate tool, tighten the housing cap as indicated on the housing cap or in the owner’s manual. It is important that the installer does not over-tighten the housing cap. Next, install the housing cap drain plug O-ring into the groove on the drain plug of the housing cap. The housing cap drain plug should be installed by hand and tightened as indicated on the drain plug or in the owner’s manual.

Now, install the oil pan drain plug by hand and tighten as indicated in the owner’s manual. Finally, add engine oil as indicated in the owner’s manual. Run the engine for several minutes and then look for engine leaks at the drain plug(s) and housing. Turn the engine off and allow time for the oil to drain back to the pan. At this time, check the oil level on the dipstick to confirm that it is in the recommended operating range. If it is, the vehicle is ready to safely return to the road.

To download a Technical Bulletin on Cartridge Oil Filter Installation Tips, please go to

Based in Albion, IL, Champion Laboratories is a quality and technology leader and one of the world's largest manufacturers of filters and filtration products and related services. The company manufactures the Luber-finer brand of filtration products. Luber-finer filters are made alongside the world’s leading private label and original equipment manufacturer’s filters, ensuring the most stringent filter construction requirements are met for maximum protection on today’s demanding engines. Champion Laboratories, Inc., has been a trusted name in filters since 1955, providing high-efficiency performance in the most demanding work environments. For more information, visit or call our Tech Hotline at (800) 882-0890.