Tips, Tricks & Trends

Should You Really Replace Your Filter Each Time You Change Your Oil?

Shortly after purchasing your first car, the reality of just how expensive vehicles can be settles in. Every time a car owner turns around, it seems like there is something else that needs to be paid for. If it’s not another six months of insurance premiums, it’s license fees, or a set of new tires, or an oil change. The expenses quickly add up, which is why drivers frequently ask questions like, does the oil filter really have to be replaced with each oil change?

The purpose of your vehicle’s oil filter

The oil filter might not look like much more than a simple can but plays an important role in making sure your car never strands you on the side of the road. The actual filter is tucked away within that can. As you drive, your car’s engine pushes oil through the filter, which purifies the oil before it makes a return trip through the engine. 

Most drivers know that oil keeps the engine’s moving parts properly lubricated, which drastically increases the life of the engine. What some drivers don’t realize is that it’s imperative that the oil be clean, which is where the oil filter comes into play.

The filter removes dirt and tiny flecks of metal from the oil, so only clean oil comes into contact with the moving engine parts. Not only does the lack of dirt and metal flecks prevent the system from clogging, but it also means the tiny particles aren’t scraping, denting, or scratching the engine components.

What kind of oil filter should you use?

The good news is that in most situations, the mechanic who changes your vehicle’s oil will also replace the oil filter and has built the filter’s cost into the price of the oil change. While this is the standard practice, it’s in your best interest to as a few questions about the quality of the oil filter.

In the long run, spending a few extra bucks on a good oil filter will spare you from some major auto repairs down the road. Make sure the filter your mechanic is putting in your vehicle uses filter paper instead of a filter that’s made out of cheap cotton waste. The filter also needs to have a check valve that prevents the oil from draining into the filter’s housing.

Does your oil filter have to be replaced each time you change your vehicle’s oil?

Replacing the oil filter each time you change the oil drives up the cost of yearly auto maintenance, so questioning whether the oil filter has to be changed with each oil change is a perfectly natural question. Getting a straight answer is anything but simple.

Chances are pretty good that if you read through your vehicle’s owner’s manual, the manufacturer suggests changing the filter with every other oil change, or every 6,000-10,000 miles. 

The tech who actually handles your oil change will likely recommend you change your filter each time you have the oil changed, so every 3,000-5,000 miles. 

Impartial mechanics say that the amount and type of driving you do influences how frequently the filter needs to be changed. They feel that most drivers will be fine if they change the filter every 7,500 miles, but that in extreme driving conditions, it should be changed at 3,000 miles. Extreme driving conditions include:

  • A great deal of stop and go traffic
  • If your vehicle frequently operates in extreme temperatures
  • If the bulk of your driving takes place on dirt roads or dusty conditions
  • Frequently towing heavy loads

The one thing that everyone does agree on is that when it comes to changing your oil filter it’s better to spend a few extra dollars and have it changed too frequently than not enough. When was the last time you replaced your vehicle’s oil filter?