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How to Remove a Shredded Oil Filter

by Herb Holloway

What was supposed to be a simple oil change has just gone from bad to worse. When the oil filter on your car was stuck and wouldn't budge, you tried the old trick of driving a screwdriver through the filter to get leverage and loosen the filter. The screwdriver just ripped the filter case, however, and now you have a shredded or mangled oil filter and an oily mess on your hands. Don't despair. Following a fairly simple procedure using a readily available tool and a few items you probably have on hand will have that shredded oil filter off and your car back on the road.

Determine which type of oil filter wrench will work on your car. It depends on how much clearance is around the base--the part of the oil filter closest to the mounting surface when screwed on. If the clearance is sufficient, a band- or strap-type wrench with an attached handle will be fine. If not much clearance is around the base of the filter, the project requires a wrench with a pivoting handle or one with a square drive hole made for a ratchet handle. If you plan to use a square drive wrench with a ratchet handle, an extension long enough to give the ratchet handle clearance to rotate also is necessary.

Bend down all pieces of the torn filter case that protrude outward. That will reduce the chance of injury and provide clearance for the band of the oil filter wrench. Use pliers to lessen the risk of cuts from sharp edges.

Wipe excess oil from the filter case, especially around the base. Double your rag and use care around sharp edges where the case is torn.

Slide the band or strap of the filter wrench onto the oil filter until it surrounds the base, right next to the mounting adapter on the engine. The base is the strongest part of the filter, made of a single piece of metal thicker than the rest of the filter. It will withstand the pressure of the band or strap when you tighten the wrench.

Tighten the wrench in the direction that will turn the oil filter counterclockwise. You may have to hold the band or strap in place with one hand until you have sufficient tension on the wrench for it to grab hold of the filter base. Continue counterclockwise pressure until the filter loosens, being careful not to hit your arm or hand on sharp parts while turning the wrench.

If the band or strap slips on the base of the filter instead of grabbing and loosening it, remove the wrench from the filter. Wrap a doubled-over strip of sandpaper, the approximate width of the filter wrench band and long enough to wrap around the oil filter base, around the base of the filter with one rough side against the filter and one rough side facing out. You can use a small piece of tape to hold the strip of sandpaper in place. Then place the filter wrench band or strap around the strip of sandpaper. The sandpaper will provide additional traction for your filter wrench and should allow you to remove the stubborn filter.

Tip

  • After you successfully remove the stuck-on oil filter, apply some clean engine oil to the rubber gasket on the new filter before installing, and tighten the new filter only 3/4 turn after the gasket contacts the mating surface. These tips, and changing the oil at the recommended intervals, will help to prevent a replay of this frustrating episode in the future.

Warning

  • Don't attempt to change your vehicle's oil and filter soon after driving. Allow sufficient time for the engine to cool to prevent burns from hot oil or engine parts.

Items you will need

About the Author

Herb Holloway began writing in 1989. His master's thesis was published in the "American Journal of Agricultural Economics." Holloway has written numerous research publications and publishes a quarterly newsletter for the Southeastern Louisiana University Business Research Center. He holds a Master of Science in agricultural and resource economics from North Carolina State University.

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