How To Tell If Oil Filter Needs Replacing

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After purchasing a vehicle, from time to time, there’d be a need to change certain components of the car, either because of physical damage, corrosion, or for upgrades. The oil filter is one of those components you should change quickly once there’s a need for that.

But knowing how to tell if oil filter needs replacing can be a bit challenging to some auto drivers. Oil filters help to trap the debris and fine particles carried along by the oil while flowing to the car’s engine.

They play an important role (prevent fine particles from penetrating the car engine), and that’s why you should be conscious of them.

What Happens When Your Car Oil Filter Goes Bad?

Your car engine needs clean oil with possibly zero containments; synthetic oils are quite cleaner (having minimal impurities), but what about the possible containments that could situate around the trail where oil passes to get to the car engine?

It is the work of your engine’s oil filter to keep out the containments and allow only clean oil into the engine.

Simply put, when the filter is bad, the oil will flow into the engine, carrying all the debris and particles it encounters along the trail.

These particles, when they keep getting into the engine, accumulate and form lumps. This can cause the engine not to function efficiently and possibly lead to other functionality issues.

The oil filter works hand-in-hand with your car engine, and reciprocally, your car engine’s efficiency depends on the oil filter. There are signs that tell if the oil filter needs replacing.

However, you can draft a schedule for changing your oil filters because they need to be changed quite regularly to keep your engine performing at its peak.

Read Also: How to Pressure Wash a Car Engine

What Could Cause an Oil Filter to Be Damaged?


Oil filters tend to deteriorate over time. But some actions or practices could make deterioration occur faster than average. So, what causes oil filters to damage?

  • You probably have been using the wrong (low-quality) lubricants/oils for your engine
  • The filter seals are bad, and you didn’t notice much earlier
  • Improper installation of the filter
  • You bought a cheap oil filter with substandard components

These are some of the reasons that could cause an oil filter to deteriorate quicker than normal. Now, what are the signs that let you know it’s time to change the oil filter?

How To Tell If Oil Filter Needs Replacing – (Top 6 Signs to Look Out For)

What Happens When Your Car Oil Filter Goes Bad

There is no physical way to detect a damaged or faulty oil filter; you can’t tell if the filter needs replacement by merely looking at it.

Hence, how to tell if oil filter needs replacing depends on your cognitive ability to detect these unusual signs when they start showing up. Not paying attention to these signs can leave you with a severely damaged engine, which would cost more than just replacing a bad filter.

Uncommon Dirty Exhaust Fumes

Exhaust fumes can be dirty; that’s not a serious concern. But, when you start noticing extremely dark fumes, that’s a big sign that something is wrong or about to get wrong in your engine.

A clogged oil filter could be the perpetrator here; this is because a clogged oil filter can cause the oil to leak into the exhaust system; thus, the dark color. It is more critical if you scent a burning odor from the fumes.

Poor Engine Performance

When you notice that your car would not accelerate as quickly as before, it’s a potential sign that some debris has penetrated the engine. A said earlier in this article, “the efficiency of your car engine depends on the oil filter.”

A clogged or bad filter means all sorts of containments can get into the engine, which can obviously lead to poor performance, and if not attended to, it could lead to premature engine breakdown.

When You Start Hearing Metallic Noises As You Drive

A blocked oil filter will limit the amount of oil that gets into the engine – apparently, the engine needs a tremendous amount of oil to function as expected. When it doesn’t get much, the metal components will begin to grind against each other, which will cause you to hear sounds while driving.

The moment you start hearing sounds like metals grinding each other, and it happens that the sound is coming from the engine side, you shouldn’t take this as a slight issue, stop the car and pay attention to the cause; mostly, this is caused by a faulty oil filter that has deprived the engine of sufficient oil quantity required for it to run efficiently.

Handy tip: after you have replaced the oil filter, have a mechanic check the engine to confirm if the metals have cracked, and fix them immediately. Also, add sufficient oil after the replacement to moisture the engine’s components.


Clogged oil filters can cause sputtering; you’ll begin to hear cracking sounds as you drive (especially during acceleration). This can cause your car not to speed as usual; when you start noticing a situation such as this, check the oil filter and replace it.

Still looking for how to tell if oil filter needs replacing, let’s keep going – there are more signs you should know.

Low Oil Pressure

Most current vehicles come with an oil pressure gauge displayed on the car’s dashboard. Naturally, if the oil filter is in good condition, the indicator will display a constant amount of oil pressure.

In contrast, when the filter goes bad, the oil pressure level shown in the gauge on your dashboard will begin to decrease. Hence, when you see that the oil pressure is seriously reducing from the normal level, then it’s time to replace the oil filter.

The Engine is Overheating

Lack of sufficient oil in the engine can cause overheating – this occurs when there’s a drastic increase in friction due to metallic components rubbing/grinding against each other.

Although an increase in friction will cause serious audible noise, it also generates more heat than before, leading to the overheating of the engine.

Clearly, this is not a good thing at all; overheating can damage a lot of things in the car’s system and not just the engine alone. The “Check Engine” light will also appear on your dashboard to further draw your attention to act fast.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Could Cause an Oil Filter to Be Damaged

How frequently should I change the oil filter?

Some people change their oil filter during an oil change. However, oil changes happen quite too closely; you can change the filter after changing the oil up to two times.

Some automakers suggest changing oil filters after intervals of 7,500 miles or more. Check your car’s user manual for more accurate information.

How to choose the perfect oil filter for your car?

Apparently, all these should be included in the manual. Nevertheless, you could always test the filter to see if it matches your vehicle’s designated spot before paying the seller. Oil filters are quite too similar, but differ by their threads and/or gasket sizes.


Hopefully, this article has explained how to tell if oil filter needs replacing, and a couple of handy tips you would love to know.

A bad oil filter can cause serious (if not irreparable) damage to your car engine, and since there are no physical ways of identifying a bad/clogged oil filter, the best practice is to be proactive and pay attention to unusual changes. Have a nice day.

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