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How Tight Should An Oil Filter Be?

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The quality of your oil is instrumental to the proper functioning of your engine. The engine's oil needs to be kept clean from contaminants, hence the need for oil filters. But what is the proper way to install oil filters, and how tight should they be? We have asked automobile mechanics, and here's what they have to say. 

An oil filter should be tight enough to firmly fix it to the main oil gallery. You can accomplish this tightness simply by using your bare hands. Turn clockwise until the filter uses all the threads and you experience some resistance on your palm. A rigid-feeling oil filter should be sufficiently tightened.

Are there advantages and drawbacks of affixing your oil filter too tightly? How would you know if it is properly tightened? Keep reading as we tackle these questions in-depth. 

Car mechanic holding an old oil filter, How Tight Should An Oil Filter Be?

Use of Oil Filters

Oil filters are used to filter the engine oil consumed by the car's engine. They are often overlooked in routine car maintenance, but oil filters are essential for a well-functioning engine. 

Car mechanic comparing old and new oil filters

They capture dirt and debris from the motor oil, keeping it clean and free of impurities. This helps keep your car running smoothly without interruptions or performance breakdowns.

How To Tighten an Oil Filter 

It is easy to affix an oil filter to a car. You can often do the trick with your hands by turning it clockwise until it gets rigid. But first, locate the ring-like rubber seal on the filter, and make sure it gets lubricated before tightening. This will aid easy removal next time you change your oil. 

After lubricating the rubber seal and ensuring both surfaces are clean, try to screw in the oil filter to the oil gallery by turning it in a circular motion. When you do this, also try to make sure the threading moves seamlessly, avoiding irregularities.

Before fixing your oil filter, always make sure to have both surfaces clean, i.e., the threads of the oil gallery and that of the oil filter. This would prevent contaminants from mixing with the oil when your vehicle starts running.

How Much Should You Tighten an Oil Filter?

Mechanic replacing old oil filters with new one

After tightening your oil filter with just your hands, you might feel like using a filter wrench to tighten it further. But most professionals would suggest that using only your hands would do. Plus, it is easier to tell when the tightening is sufficient when you use your hands, unlike using a wrench. 

While using a filter wrench, you risk damaging the threads and the gaskets, eventually leading to oil leakage and, therefore, oil contamination. 

Should Oil Filters be Hand Tight?

In most cases, yes, the oil filters should be hand-tight. Oil filters are designed so that the rubber seal around the edge of the oil filter compresses as you tighten the oil filter. 

The more you tighten it, the harder it seals. Remember, you have to fasten it in a way that would not allow oil to leak. You could only use the filter wrench if, for any reason, you can not wrap your hands around the oil filter to tighten it properly.

Can You Over Tighten an Oil Filter? 

Car technician checking the strainer of the oil filter

Yes, it is possible to over-tighten an oil filter. The disadvantages of overly tightening an oil filter are having difficulties with the rubber seal and the ability to loosen the oil filter when replacement is due. 

It is essential to achieve balance when it comes to tightening oil filters. Since you also risk leaks if your oil filter is too loosely attached to the main oil gallery. This is because of the working principle of the oil filter. 

The oil filter acts as a passage for oil from the oil pump throughout the engine. As the oil pump pushes oil into the oil filter, a certain amount of pressure is maintained, which would lead to a spill if the oil filter is not fixed correctly.

That is why it is essential to have an oil filter tightly fixed so that it does not leak out oil from being too loose. 

Why is Oil Filter Still Loose Even After Tightening?

There are various reasons for an oil filter remaining loose even after tightening. The following subheadings discuss each factor in detail.

1. Vehicle Vibrations 

Vibration and friction are part of all moving mechanical devices. And this might affect the rigidity and looseness of oil filters. If an oil filter is not attached correctly, it begins to loosen to the point that it starts to leak oil from the gasket of the filter after a while. 

To solve this problem, it is always good to make sure that you tighten the oil filter properly and make sure the seal, i.e., the ring-like rubber, is present and properly attached. If the rubber unfastens, you should change it with a spare one.

2. Double Gaskets (Seal)

When there is more than one gasket or seal on the edge of an oil filter, you might experience oil leaking. Sometimes, there might be overlapping seals on the edges due to repairs or maintenance of oil filters. In addition to that, the gaskets get messy and sticky because they come in contact with oil every time. 

As they wear out, their broken pieces become stuck, which causes irregularities on the edges. If those small pieces of broken gaskets are removed from the edges and replaced with new and fitting ones, the leaks will stop. 

3. Loose Filter's Threading

The filter's threading plays a role in oil filter installation. A filter's threading must not cross-thread another line of thread. It must screw onto its line till the gasket seals properly. If otherwise, there is a high possibility that the filter will leak out oil.

Do You Need a Torque Wrench For Oil Filter? 

Car mechanic removing the oil filter found near the car engine

It depends on why you want to use the torque wrench, as it can be used for both tightening and loosening. But it would be unnecessary to use a torque wrench to tighten your oil filter. You only need to tighten the oil filter with your hands until you feel resistance. 

But if the purpose of the torque wrench is to untighten the oil filter, i.e., counter-clockwise movement, it is okay to do so with a torque wrench. In this case, you are relieving the oil filter from the threading and from the main oil gallery, most times, to change the oil filter.

Is it Necessary For an Oil Filter to be Used in a Car?

It is essential to have an oil filter in a vehicle oil system. It serves as a cleanser that ensures that the oil circulated throughout the engine and the other parts of the vehicle is free from contamination. 

If you decide to run a vehicle without an oil filter, you risk your vehicle's engine getting knocked. In addition to using an oil filter, it should also be of good quality and the correct size. 

How Often Should I Change The Oil Filter?

Car mechanic holding a dirty oil filter of a car

Mechanics recommend you use your oil filter only twice. This means you need to replace it every second time you change your oil. If your vehicle works on a 5,000-mile cycle, you would need to change your oil filter every 10,000 miles.

Note that the same rule does not hold for all vehicles, so heed your vehicle's manufacturer's instructions. But generally, an oil filter change is required every 7,500 miles. 

It is possible to change a vehicle's oil without touching its filter. It also depends on the circumstance. To have the new oil without any contamination whatsoever, you should change the oil filter when you change the oil.

How Long Can an Oil Filter Last?

There is no exact rule on how long an oil filter would last. Besides strictly following the manufacturer's manual, the vehicle's age, the drivers' driving habits, the oil used, and other factors also contribute to how long you can use an oil filter.

Final Thoughts

Car mechanic holding an old oil filter

Oil filters are an essential part of a car's engine. They remove dirt and debris from the oil passing through the filter. They also help keep the engine running smoothly by filtering out impurities that could otherwise damage the car's engine.

When fixing your oil filter, make sure that the threading of the filter is lined correctly to avoid leaks. For more on oil filters, you might also enjoy these related articles. 

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