Are Oil Filters Universal? – Get Rid of The Misconception

The idea that oil filters are universal comes up because many vehicle brands use the same oil filter. For example, Some Toyota, Lexus, Ford, and Nissan use the same oil filter. Most mechanics, installers, DIYers, and quick lube operators have differing opinions.

The automotive industry keeps evolving. Things are no longer the way they used to be in the industry. But are oil filters universal, anyway?

Oil filters are not universal because they come in different sizes and threads. There’s no one-size-fits-it-all for engine oil filters.

This article will outline different types of oil filters and answer questions like What oil filter do I need during my next oil change? You’ll also learn what happens if you use a different oil filter on your car engine.

are all oil filters the same thread

Different types of oil filter

Aside from thread sizes, other factors make the oil filters differ. One of these factors is the design of the oil filter. Here are several types of oil filters available in the market. Which you use depends on your manufacturer’s recommendations.

Full-flow oil filters

The full-flow oil filters are primary oil filters, and several car manufacturers widely use them. Some oil filters are designed to clean some engine oil, but the full-flow oil filters are engineered to clean all impurities in the motor oil.

These oil filters are best for vehicles that run mostly in cold weather. Cold weather has a way of affecting oil viscosity. It can cause the oil to thicken. If that happens, it’ll reduce the oil flow rate in the engine, which could lead to severe engine damage. The full-flow filter allows the oil to flow freely in the engine, even in cold weather conditions.

Secondary oil filter

Some auto manufacturers design secondary oil filters to support the full-flow oil filter. It only cleans 10% of the total oil in the engine. Their job is to filtrate any dirt or particles the primary filter may have missed.

Cartridge oil filter

This is a type of primary oil filter installed upright and easy to use. Most cartridge oil filters have no metal parts, and you can inspect them without draining the motor oil. This makes them easier to recycle.

Spin-on Oil filter

Like the cartridge, spin-on is a primary oil filter. The manufacturers construct spin-on filters with a paper element and a steel canister. It has a simple installation procedure, making it ideal for DIYers to change without professional help.

Spinner oil filter

A spinner is a secondary oil filter that filters dirt and particles in engine oils using a centrifugal force. Spinner oil filters can generate a force that is up to 2,000 times higher than gravity. As a secondary oil filter, it traps the thinnest dirt in the motor oil.

Magnetic oil filters

A magnetic filter is a type of secondary oil filter that supports the primary filter. However, this secondary oil filter focuses on trapping metallic shavings in the crankcase. It has little or no effects on dust and grime in the motor oil. They don’t need replacement. Instead, they require regular cleaning.

How do I know what size oil filter I need?

Filter installers, car owners, DIYers, and mechanics have conflicting ideas about the correct oil and oil filter for vehicles. The truth is, when it comes to oil and filters, the only correct answer is a customized one. There’s no correct generic answer. However, you can follow the steps below to determine the right oil filter size you need for your car.

Consult your owner’s booklet.

Your car’s owner’s booklet is the manufacturer in print. It contains essential information like specifications and recommended parts for the car, including the recommended oil and filter for your vehicle. Flip the pages and check the section on oil and filters or maintenance schedule. You should find the recommended filter for your car.

Use online database

Use an online database or reference guide if you are searching for Fram oil filter lookup or any vehicle filter lookup. Several websites offer a lookup database where you can find the right size oil filter for your vehicle. You only need to input your vehicle make, model, year, and engine type. You can get such information from your car manufacturer’s official site and aftermarket parts seller websites.

Visit your local auto parts seller.

Another option is to visit your local parts seller and tell the seller your vehicle’s make, model, and engine type. The shop owner should know the type of filter to give you. However, if you don’t use a popular car in your locality, it may be difficult for the seller to know the right filter for your engine.

Check the current oil filter.

I recommend this approach if you have the current filter you want to replace. All you have to do is to take the filter along with you to a spare parts seller. Also, you can only copy the markings on the oil filter and take it to the spare parts dealer. He will know the correct oil filter to give you.

what oil filter do i need

Are Oil Filters Universal

Oil filters are not universal, and they are not the same. However, all oil filters primarily filter engine oils to prevent contaminants or metal shavings from circulating on the internal engine parts.

A car manufacturer may use a specific oil filter on certain engine models, and another manufacturer still uses the same oil filter for a certain engine family. That doesn’t make it universal. Several other engines from the same manufacturers still use different oil filters.

For example, Toyota engines have two common oil filters (big and small full-flow oil filters). The smaller one can enter an engine that uses the bigger one. The only differences between them are the outer size and the installation space on the engine. Also, they have the same thread. These oil filters are used on several old Toyota cars and other car brands like Ford, Lexus, Nissan, and Suzuki.

Meanwhile, most newer Toyota cars now use different filters like element or paper filters, and most Ford vehicles, both new and old, use different oil filter sizes and different element filter sizes. The fact that one oil filter can fit a particular car, from Ford, Suzuki, and Lexus to Toyota, does not make it universal. Hence, it is best to stick with the manufacturers’ recommendations.

Can you use any oil filter for any car?

Engine oil filters are not universal because they are application-specific. Don’t substitute oil filters because the threads are the same. The oil filter could have different filter media, bypass valves, or flow ratings from the specified one.

Therefore, don’t use any oil filter because it fits the thread on the engine. It could cause catastrophe to the engine.

What happens if you use a different oil filter?

Oil filters are inexpensive and readily available for car owners. However, some aftermarket producers may cut quality to produce more and make extra profits. Also, filters made with different filter media, bypass valves, and flow ratings will cause poor lubrication, inadequate oil flow, and fitment issues.

Here are possible issues you’ll experience from using different oil filters.

Poor filtration

The primary function of oil filters is to filter metal shavings and other contaminants from causing catastrophes in the engine. Using a different oil filter from the recommended one for your vehicle may not provide the same level of filtration efficiency. This could allow contaminants or particles to enter the engine.

Inadequate oil flow

Oil filters have different filter media, flow rates, and pressure specifications necessary to ensure proper oil circulation throughout the engine. If you use other oil filters with lower flow rates, it’ll disrupt the oil flow and cause inadequate oil flow in the engine. If this happens, the engine will experience accelerated wear, causing severe damage.

Fitment issues

There are different sizes and shapes of oil filters. Each filter is designed to fit into a particular engine configuration. Even oil filters from the same brands are designed to fit different engine configurations. For example, there are many Mobil 1 oil filters in their filter line-ups, and each one is designed to meet specific configurations.

Using the wrong filter, not the same size as your engine, will cause fitment issues like oil leaks or damage to the filter housing.

Final Words

The contemplation among car owners – are oil filters universal stems from the fact that most oil filters are compatible with several engines from different car models? Oil filters are not universal, and you should not use just any filter on your car.

Installing different oil filters on your vehicle will cause poor filtration, inadequate oil flow, leaks, or fitment issues. Hence, it is better to stick to the recommended filter for your car. This article has also outlined how you can get the right size and recommended filter for your specific car model.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

Recent Posts