If the lifeblood of an engine is its oil, then it stands to reason an oil filter is the liver. Its purpose is to clean that “blood” before it is cycles again through the “body,” providing nutrients, regulating temperature, and picking up any unhealthy toxins along the way. Thus, maintaining a healthy oil filter is crucial to the health of the engine.
Tech Tip 1
Checking the filter is an easy way to check the health of your engine and oiling system. If your filter is filled with metal shavings, then you have a wear problem! If the filter is plugged with sludge, then you have a different problem.
Tech Tip 2
Metal flakes or shavings in an oil filter, or oil pan, are an indication of metal meeting metal somewhere in the engine. This could be due to improper oiling, like not using the correct viscosity for your application or not using an oil with the appropriate additives for the design and use of the engine. Also, not having enough volume of oil in the system can lead to a situation where the oil does not have adequate pressure to reach and lubricate all of the components.
Tech Tip 3
The presence of sludge, which appears as a tar-like substance, is a tell-tale sign the oil has oxidized. This can occur when the engine reaches a high temperature or oil is not changed frequently enough. Severe driving conditions that produce increased levels of contaminants — such as gases, water vapor, fuel — also contribute to sludge that bakes onto engine components and clogs passageways, just as cholesterol in the body collects in arteries and restricts blood flow. Additional effects of sludge include reduced fuel economy, strain on the cooling system, and potential engine failure.
You are bound to find some contaminants during any oil filter inspection; the filter wouldn’t be doing its job otherwise. Sludge and metal shavings should always cause a moment of pause, though. The purpose of inspecting the filter is, after all, to diagnose any problems before they get out of hand. Combined with used oil analysis, an inspection of the filter and used oil analysis report provides an in depth health report on your engine.