Every driver knows that you need to routinely change the oil in your engine if you want to keep your car working as well as it can. Once upon a time the rule was that you needed to change your oil every 3,000 miles or so. These days, with higher grade synthetic oils available, you can potentially go for 7,500 miles, 10,000 miles, and even longer without actually needing to have your oil changed. It really depends on the make and model of your car and the kind of oil that you're using in it. Your best bet for figuring this out is to always refer to your owner's manual. It's going to tell you exactly what kind of oil you need to use and how often you need to have it changed.
One thing that some drivers do tend to forget is that along with an oil change you need to be changing your oil filter as well. Consider it like making your morning coffee, if you don't change the coffee filter and keep using it, even when you put new coffee in it, you're still using a dirty filter and that's going to lower the quality of the finished product. If your oil filter doesn't get changed along with your oil, it has the potential to get clogged and also to quickly contaminate your new, clean oil. There's no point changing the oil if you're just going to keep a dirty filter in place, right? With that in mind, let's take a look at just how often you need to be changing your oil filter, what happens if you don't, and some signs that your oil filter is due for a change.
When Should an Oil Filter be Changed?
As we just said earlier, when you change your oil you should be changing your oil filter as well. But there is no hard-and-fast rule for exactly how often you need to change your oil. You always have to check with your owner's manual to find out what will best suit the needs of your vehicle. An Audi A4 can go 10,000 miles before it needs an oil change for instance. If you drive a Chevy Silverado it's recommended you change the oil every 7, 500 miles. It really does depend on the vehicle. However, there are some other instances that will pop up to let you know that it's time to change your oil filter as well.
If you are the kind of driver who is constantly driving in harsh conditions, then you may need to change your oil and your oil filter a little more often than is recommended in your owner's manual. Harsh conditions can be anything from driving in extreme temperatures, especially dusty hot desert conditions or in extremes between hot and cold, as well as if you are driving a vehicle that makes frequent starts and stops like a delivery vehicle. If you tow a lot of heavy loads with your vehicle then you may be stressing out the engine enough that you would require more frequent oil changes as well.
Anytime that you get a warning light on your dashboard about checking your engine or checking the oil if you have that particular warning light on your vehicle then you need to take that seriously as well and check things out, potentially having the filter changed even if the scheduled maintenance for it is not due to be done just yet.
Signs and Symptoms That You Need an Oil Filter Change
Aside from following the maintenance schedule for changing your oil filter that's laid out in your owner's manual there are a handful of signs and symptoms that you need to be aware of that can let you know you're having a problem with your oil filter and you're going to need to get it changed. If you start experiencing one or more of these symptoms, definitely get into a mechanic to have him take a look at the oil in your vehicle in the filter to see if that's what needs to be done. Even if it's not the problem, at least it will eliminate this as the issue that you're facing so you can figure out what's going on with your car.
Engine Overheating: The most common side effect of your oil filter not working properly is the lack of oil that will be lubricating your engine causing it to overheat. If you're seeing that the thermometer on your dashboard indicator is dipping into the red on a regular basis because your engine is overheating, you're definitely going to want to take a look at the oil filters to see if that's the root of the problem. This is one problem that you don't want to let go for too long because of the serious damage it can cause to your engine.
Exhaust Fumes: When your engine is working the way it's supposed to you shouldn't really notice any colour from the exhaust that comes out of your vehicle. At most a white mist or smoke should be produced, and that's typically only noticeable in colder weather because much of it is warm water vapour. However, if you're noticing grey or blue smoke coming out of the back of your vehicle now that's a sign of oil being burnt in your car and could potentially be the result of a clogged oil filter that is causing oil to leak out.
Burning Smell: Along with the noticeable exhaust fumes that are coming out of the back of your vehicle, if you're noticing the smell of burnt oil when you're driving that also could indicate that your filter has become so badly clogged that oil is leaking out of it and burning when it comes in contact with your engine.
Lack of Oil Pressure: When your filter is so badly clogged that your oil can't pass through it easily that is going to lower the overall oil pressure in your vehicle. Low oil pressure can lead to problems with overheating, and you may also find that oil is leaking out of your vehicle and damaging the driveway or garage below your vehicle when you have it parked.
Poor Engine Performance: When your filter is badly clogged and preventing the flow of oil, your engine is going to struggle to perform the way it normally does. That means it's going to be burning fuel and pushing harder to generate the power that you require. You'll notice that your vehicle seems a little more sluggish, you might have hesitation on trying to accelerate and it's harder to get up to speed as a result.
Wrong Oil: All motor oil has a rating listed on the bottle to let you know what kind it is. That might be something like 5 W 30 for instance. Every engine is meant to operate with a certain kind of oil in it and if you don't follow the guidelines listed in your owner's manual you could be causing damage to your engine as well as your oil filter. If you use the wrong kind of oil, it may cause your oil filter to clog up much faster than it should normally because it's too viscous for the filter that you have in place. Always make sure you're checking your owner's manual and are using the exact right kind of oil that's been formulated to work with your vehicle.
Can I Change Oil Without Changing the Oil Filter?
Of course, you can do an oil change without changing out the oil filter in your vehicle, but it's definitely not a good idea to do so. The only reason you might do this is if you are in a serious situation with your vehicle overheating because you have an oil leak, or it's gotten so bad that your car isn't running properly, and you absolutely need to put new oil in but can't do a proper change of the filter at the same time.
If you are driving with a contaminated oil filter, even though you have new oil the filter itself is still going to be clogged with all the debris that was in your previous oil. This is going to include particles of carbon, dirt, rust, metal shavings and any number of other things that have been collected in it over time. This will prevent it from properly filtering the new oil and may impede the flow of oil through your engine overall. Unless you absolutely, positively cannot change your oil filter at the same time you get an oil change, you really should be getting this done.
How Much Does an Oil Filter Change Cost?
Getting your oil filter changed is typically done as part of a full oil change, as we said. So, technically, you're actually paying for both things at the same time. Depending on where you go, you're probably going to be spending anywhere from $30 to $70 to get a full oil and filter change in your vehicle. There are many businesses that specialize in just doing oil changes for cars because it is the one piece of Maintenance that needs to be done more often than just about anything else. For that reason, you can often find deals, there are usually sales available several times a year from places like this and you may be able to get a deal at your regular mechanic as well.
What Happens if I Don't Change the Oil Filter?
If you don't change your oil filter when you get an oil change, and especially if you let it go for too long of a time without putting a clean filter in, you're going to greatly impede the flow of oil through your engine. A clogged oil filter prevents oil from passing through the filter and into the engine where it needs to do its job. When your engine isn't properly lubricated that means it's going to start creating a lot of friction and overheating. If this is allowed to continue for a long enough time it can cause some serious damage to your engine. Because the parts of your engine need to move constantly and at a high rate of speed, they're going to wear down and suffer some damage as a result of the lack of oil. Your pistons and cylinders, your cylinder head, the head gaskets and more can warp, and break down completely as a result of there being not enough oil in your engine.
The kind of damage that results from a lack of oil is severe if you let it go for too long. In fact, this could end up costing you several thousand dollars in repair bills if you don't take care of it in a timely fashion. For the sake of an oil filter that will cost you under $100, you definitely want to make sure you're doing this as soon as you can.
The Bottom Line
Changing your oil and your oil filter is one of the most common and important parts of routine maintenance that a driver could do with their vehicle. Always check with your owner's manual to determine how often you need to change your oil and the filter and make sure you're keeping on top of that scheduled maintenance. Far too often drivers will let this slide for a little while and you'll end up driving another 1,000, 2,000, or even more miles before getting the oil changed. This can cause some serious problems to your engine as we've seen, and the results could potentially be not just performance difficulties but serious damage that could end up disabling your vehicle and leaving you stranded with some exceptionally high repair bills as a result. Given that an oil filter is only going to cost you a few dollars there’s no reason not to get it changed out when it's time, so you can avoid the risk of having to spend upwards of $4,000 or more to repair an engine that has failed because it overheated due to lack of proper lubrication.