An oil filter is so much more than just something you have to change every 3,000 miles on your daily driver. In addition to protecting your engine from any contaminants in your oil, it can be a valuable diagnostic tool, especially in a brand-new engine build. However, in order to be a diagnostic tool, you need to access the internal filter media, to inspect what has been filtered out of the oil. Enter the Tool of the Month – a dedicated oil filter cutting tool, specifically Summit Racing’s SUM-900511 Oil Filter Cutter.
Oil Filter Cutter — A Fancy Can Opener
Right off the bat, you might be thinking, “Why do I need a special tool to cut open my oil filter? I have all sorts of cutting tools in my garage already.” Well, let’s take the can opener analogy suggested at the top of this section to a bit of an extreme. You wouldn’t use a bandsaw or hacksaw to open a can of soup. If you did, it’s highly likely that you would contaminate the contents with metal shavings. When the whole goal of inspecting the filter media is to inspect and evaluate what the filter has caught, introducing metal shavings isn’t exactly a good idea.
So, much like a soup can, we need a way of opening a filter housing without contaminating the contents inside. The way that is accomplished is like a can opener or a pipe cutter – via a rotary blade and pressure. Here, the analogy shifts from a can opener to a pipe cutter, as the process of opening an oil filter usually takes several turns, each one getting a little more pressure from the adjustment knob, before the top pops off, revealing the filter media within.
From there, you simply remove the media, and inspect the contents. If you are really diving deep, or see something that interests you, you can go even further and slice the filter media down the center and unwrap and flatten out the pleats of the media. On a brand-new engine, this can reveal any issues of component interference early on. As a regular maintenance check, it can show the signs of wear. After an engine mishap, the contents of the filter can also help diagnose the severity of the parts failure.
Inspecting your oil filter as part of regular maintenance of your high-performance engine, along with used oil analysis (which we’ll be covering in an upcoming article) can be cheap and easy insurance that all is well with your powerplant. After all, we sink serious time and money into our engines to get them to perform at an elevated level, so it only stands to reason that we would also take extra steps when it comes to maintaining them.