An oil change is probably one of the least expensive services your shop offers, but it has the possibility to result in one of the most expensive comebacks if a mistake is made. Cartridge oil filters make potential mistakes more likely because they require more knowledge and tools to properly change the oil than a canister filter.
1. Cleanliness is key: After the old cartridge filter is removed, clean the cap and housing. This is about the only way you are going to be able to spot cracks and damaged threads.
2. Roll the O-rings: Do not pull, pry or stretch the new O-rings during installation. Lightly lubricate the O-ring and roll it in over the threads to the correct position on the housing.
3. Use the correct tool to remove the housing: Just because a housing has wrench flats doesn’t mean you can use a conventional wrench, socket or even pliers to remove it. Using the wrong tool to remove a housing can cause damage you might not be able to see. The wrong tool can put stress on the housing and cause it to crack. Tool suppliers have a wide selection of cartridge oil filter tools that will pay for themselves by preventing such a problem.
4. Be gentle when removing the O-rings: Never use a tool method to cut the O-rings off the housing — doing so may accidentally damage the threads or sealing surface. Even the smallest scratch or gouge can cause a leak.
5. Lay out the old and new O-rings: Some new applications may require up to four new O-rings, and some filter kits have multiple O-rings in the package to fit different applications. To avoid confusion, pull the old O-rings from the housing and place them to the side. When the new filter is unboxed, use the old O-rings as a basis of comparison when looking at the new O-rings.
6. Apply oil to the O-rings: Always apply clean engine oil to the new O-rings and the O-ring grooves in the housing cap. This helps to create a better seal because the O-rings will not bunch up or twist when the housing is installed. When threading on the oil filter housing, always use your hands to feel if the filter is seated in the correct position. If you need to use a lot of force to thread on the filter, remove the housing and inspect the filter to make sure the pleats and end caps are not damaged.
7. Codes and filters: Some filters have locating tabs that become shifted as the housing is rotated. If the oil is restricted on some imports, it may prevent the engine from starting or cause codes to be set in the PCM.
8. Look up the specifications and service information: Ford, Mazda, Toyota and many more OEMs have all issued TSBs concerning the replacement of cartridge oil filters. Most of these TSBs state that they are not liable for warranty repairs to the engine if the proper procedures, tools and parts are not used to change the oil. Don’t guess; look them up.
9. Replace the housing if you are in doubt: Replacement housings and caps are available from parts suppliers and dealerships. If you see any damage that could possibly cause a leak or failure, recommend a new housing. Prices for these items can range from $13 to $40, but this is a lot cheaper than having to replace an engine.
10. Inspect the filter: The old filter can tell you a lot about the engine. Inspect the pleats for damage like tears and deformation. This could be a sign that the filter was not installed properly during the last service. It can also indicate that the filter was clogged and restricted oil flow. Also, look at the end caps of the filter for separation of the sealing surface. On some vehicles, if the oil change is delayed, the material will crack and separate. Oftentimes, the material will block the oil pickup or passages in the engine.