How to Remove a Damaged Automotive Oil Filter
Browse articles:
Auto Beauty Business Culture Dieting DIY Events Fashion Finance Food Freelancing Gardening Health Hobbies Home Internet Jobs Law Local Media Men's Health Mobile Nutrition Parenting Pets Pregnancy Products Psychology Real Estate Relationships Science Seniors Sports Technology Travel Wellness Women's Health
Browse companies:
Automotive Crafts, Hobbies & Gifts Department Stores Electronics & Wearables Fashion Food & Drink Health & Beauty Home & Garden Online Services & Software Sports & Outdoors Subscription Boxes Toys, Kids & Baby Travel & Events

How to Remove a Damaged Automotive Oil Filter

How to remove a damaged oil filter.

Not too long ago I purchased a used 1992 Jeep Wrangler with 160k miles on it. One of my first orders of business was to change out all the fluids since the previous owner had mentioned he wasn’t sure when the last oil change was. So after purchasing 5 quarts of oil and the new oil filter I embarked on what I thought would be a 30 minute oil change… not so fast!!

After draining the used (and very blackened) oil into the container I set out to remove the old oil filter. There are several ways of doing this, ranging from using your hands to twist it off to using a strap wrench.

Needless to say, twisting it off didn’t work, so I tried using a strap wrench which is available at most automotive stores.  In many cases, there won’t be enough room under the hood and around the filter to use a strap wrench.

That was my case, so I went to the auto parts store and purchased a filter socket, which is a device that will fit over the bottom of the filter and provide gripping power. This type of filter socket is used with ratchets and extensions, allowing more room to maneuver the tools in order to remove the filter. This is done from the bottom of the vehicle since most filters point downward.   

  Keep in mind that oil filters are made from flimsy tin metal, therefore they are not sturdy. Applying too much force to the ratchet will cause the socket to spin on the bottom of the filter, rendering it useless. That was again the case in my oil change!!

So what to do?

You can punch a screwdriver through the body of the filter and use it as leverage to turn the filter, but that may also tear the tin metal and also cause a mess. Remember that the filter is still full of oil and once you punch a hole in it the old oil will run out.

That is exactly what happened to me, and I ended up ripping the whole lower half of the oil filter, with the upper part still screwed into the engine block.

Don’t panic- you still have options. The upper portion of the filter is made of much heavier gage steel because that is where the filter screws into the block. That means that you still have some “meat” to work with in trying to remove your filter.

Take a hacksaw and cut off all the remaining tin from around the flange of the oil filter, leaving the top lip of the oil filter. Be careful not to accidentally cut the top flange because that’s your attachment point.

 Next, take a small set of straight jaw vice grips and clamp them on the lip you just created on the top flange of the filter. This will act as your anchor point to apply torque to unscrew the filter.

The filter will unscrew just like opening a faucet- righty-tight, lefty-loosey. Remember that when viewing the filter from above it’ll be backwards, so take care in not re-tightening the filter!! Once you remove what’s left of the filter, inspect the male nipple that protrudes from the block to ensure no damage has occurred.

So what did this oil change go so wrong? Probably because it had been quite a long time since the filter was changed. One thing that will greatly prevent this from happening again is to lightly coat the new filter with oil before screwing it back on. This will lubricate the rubber gasket preventing it from sticking when removed later on.

Additional resources:

Need an answer?
Get insightful answers from community-recommended
in Car Maintenance on Knoji.
Would you recommend this author as an expert in Car Maintenance?
You have 0 recommendations remaining to grant today.
Comments (1)

Let me be the first to give you a vote on your writing. Good work and hope to see more good articles.