Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: How Do Oil Filters Get Dirty?

asked by on

How do oil filters get dirty?

A: Oil filters have a very important, yet real...

Oil filters have a very important, yet really dirty job to perform. I don’t think even Mike Rowe would want to tackle the dirty job of an oil filter.

Before we talk about the oil filter, let’s talk about the oil.

The purpose of oil in an engine is threefold:

As an engine operates, the friction between its moving parts creates heat which, over time, leads to thermal breakdown of the oil. This, in turn, causes the oil to turn to sludge.

The internal friction also causes wear of the moving parts. These wear particles act like very fine sand paper and can cause accelerated wear of components inside the engine.

The purpose of the oil filter is to remove the sludge, contaminants, and metallic wear particles from the oil so the oil can continue to do its job properly. This is how the oil filter gets so dirty.

If not maintained properly, the filter media inside of an oil filter will become plugged up and the filter will no longer be able to do its job. This will lead to accelerated wear inside the engine and eventually lead to engine failure.

Adhering to the published maintenance schedule for oil and filter changes in the owner’s manual of your vehicle is the single most important thing you can do to ensure that your engine gets a good and long life.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: ATF oil leaks lights

The vehicle will need to have a complete inspection done to determine the mechanical and electrical condition. A complete fault survey should be done to see if there are any electro-mechanical issues both with the engine and/or transmission. Fluid levels...

Q: New oil filter replaced 5 days after oil change

Hey there. Yes it can. The reason it could have been leaking is because maybe something hit the filter while driving or the rubber seal on it didn't seal properly. You can change the filter without changing the oil but...

Q: I can hear a rattling noise under my hood close to the outside of the motor

Hey there. I would not expect anything in or around the oil pan itself to make rattling noises that might be considered musical. Heat shields for exhaust manifolds and other metal brackets and shielding can make lots of rattling noises,...

Related articles

How Long Does a Heater Control Valve Last?
Keeping the right amount of coolant in a car is essential in keeping the engine at the right temperature. Failing to have the right amount of coolant or even bad elements...
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
Rules of the Road For Iowa Drivers
Driving on the roads requires knowledge of the rules, many of which are based on common sense and courtesy. However, even though you know the rules in...