Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I was lucky to get to ask some oil filter questions of Fram's training director

If magnets work, why aren't they added to filters? the rumor mill seems to believe that the worn cylinder iron might be captured by some rare earth magnets, or other strong magnets... and that this would prevent the slurry effect of oil with metal particles from wearing down the bearing and metal to metal surfaces that the oil ought to prevent, if it only stayed clean and filtered.

Most of the dirt in oil comes in through the air filter system. It’s not metal and magnets have proved to be useless. Properly maintained engines with good oil and filters are not constantly “shedding metal”.

If oil filters are so darn good, then we ought to be able to cut one open and see the material it's captured, right?

Again, the filters (if quality) are capturing particles in the 10-20 micron size, that is what wears out bearings on modern cars. If you can see metal in a filter, your engine is in a downward spiral and coming apart quickly. Oil analysis does show contaminants in oil. The dirt particles are there, just too small to be seen by the naked eye.

If oil filters actually work, why doesn't oil stay clean?

 If you start with a clean engine, use quality oil and filters and change when you should, the oil stays clean. Unfortunately, most people do not do that. Oil get “dirty” (dark in color) because the surfactants in the oil are cleaning the inside of the engine, suspending the particles for removal from the oil. All my personal vehicles have golden colored oil at change time but I have owned since new, the engines are clean and stay that way. The exception is my carbureted 67 Mustang, it has no choke and is a bear to cold start and suffers from fuel contamination because of this. It gets 3k oil changes but still the oil coming out is cleaner than most. Any oil company will tell you that color is no indication of oil life remaining or quality, only oil analysis can tell you that.

If oil filters work, why then does the Navy not use them on the big machines, where instead they use Sharples and De Laval oil purifiers.

 Those are oil filters. They work differently using a centrifuge principal to remove particles down to 3-5 microns, kind of super cleaning the oil. Too expensive for auto or truck use, they are used due the huge volume of oil these machines have in the crankcase. Auto and truck filters of high quality typically filter at 95-99%@20 microns, good enough for an engine to last well over 500k with good maintenance I understand some of the oil color change is due to burning, and those color particles might be far too fine for a normal commuter car filter to capture, but I'm thinking that an efficient filter would mean that oil could be reused, and I've given away one hell of a lot of used oil to get it recycled or properly disposed of by the local auto parts store. All oil can easily be recycled and is over 5000 yrs old when new. We currently have a filter that easily goes 15k between changes and are about to release a filter rated for 24k oil changes. The hard part is shifting consumer and technician thinking that modern synthetic oil can go that long when paired with the right filter.

Are filters so darn cheap (5 to 20 dollars) because they are so simple, and ineffective? 

I wish. Shops and consumers want cheap, cheap, cheap. We sell 100 5 dollar filters for every 12 dollar filter. Our 12 filter is a pleated stainless screen with dual layer synthetic media and silicone valves. It goes 15k and is about to be rated for 24k and we can’t sell it. It seems to be a race to the bottom in auto parts in general.

Are you aware of any unbiased independent testing of commuter car oil filters made by the big brands (Fram, Royal Purple, Purolator, etc) that concluded any useful information that car enthusiasts would find informative and decisively end the nonsense between competing oil and oil filter companies?

Consumer reports did filter testing years ago using an independent lab. FRAM smoked the competition as we have always used high quality filter media. These tests cost 25k each so not common. Here is what is important- GM did an engine wear study and found that being absolute filtration at 20 microns reduced engine wear by 50%, it went further to say that filtering at 15 microns reduced engine wear by 70% when compared to 30 micron filtration. Reputable filter companies will tell you what the efficiency is at 20 microns, al, our filters are 95.7% (cheapest) to 99.9%@20 microns (most expensive) ad clearly published. Many companies make blanket statements like 99% filter efficiency without telling you the particle size, when pressed they are at 30 microns. That is really poor by today’s standards. So, the only way outside of testing is for a consumer to ask what the efficiency is at 20 microns. We know we are top in the industry so we readily publish this. Most filter companies will tell you if you ask through their websites.

Thank you Jay!

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