Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Stuck oil filter

Remove stuck oil filter yourself

Every day I see DIYers post a question asking the best way to remove a stuck oil filter. And just as often I see people who have driven a screwdriver into the oil filter can and tried to twist it. This is absolutely the WORST way to try and remove a stuck oil filter. Don’t do it!

First, by driving the screwdriver into the can, you weaken it. Then as you try to turn it you simply tear off the can. All the filter media will tear off and you’ll be left with the thick metal plate that’s torqued against the oil pump flange. The only way to remove that plate is to get a sharp cold chisel and hammer a slot into the outer edge and try to spin it off. Chances are you won’t have a lot of working room and you’ll succeed in turning a relatively minor problem into a freaking nightmare.

remove stuck oil filter

Here’s what happens when you jam a screwdriver into a stuck oil filter. You create a MUCH bigger problem. Don’t do it! You’ve been warned

screwdriver in oil filter

How does an oil filter get stuck

If you read the directions on the oil filter it usually tells you to coat the O-ring gasket with oil and then spin it on until it bottoms, then turn an additional ¾ of a turn by hand. But people think that more is better and they crank the hell out of it. That compresses the square cut O-ring too much, making removal much harder.

Here’s how to remove a stuck oil filter

If you’re using a band style wrench and it isn’t working, STOP. You need a different tool.  If you continue using a band style wrench, you’ll simply collapse the can. And, if a cup style wrench isn’t working, it’ll just strip out the flutes.  Some companies make a jaw wrench and brag that it’ll remove any filter. Don’t believe it. All they do is tear up the can. The same thing happens with a large slip-joint pliers


Lisle tools 57020 band style oil filter wrench with grit

Lisle tools 57020 Swivel grip band style oil filter wrench with anti-slip grit

If you have a band style wrench: Go to the hardware store and buy a small package of 80 grit sandpaper with an adhesive backing. Cut into strips that are the width of the band. Clean the inside surface of the band and mount the sandpaper inside the band so the grit is facing the filter. Then try again.

Or, buy a band style filter wrench with permanent grit on the inside surface so you’ll never face this issue again.

Remove the stuck oil filter with a clamp-style filter wrench

Or, you can buy a clamping oil filter wrench that tightens against the fluted end of the filter. The harder you turn the more it grips.

I’ve used both of these tools and they HAVE NEVER FAILED. I’ve neratcheting oil filter wrenchver run into a filter that wouldn’t come off.

Here are the wrenches I’m talking about:

Lisle tools 63600 ratcheting oil filter wrench. Fits filters from 3-1/3″ to 3-7/8″
Lisle tools 63250 oil filter wrench fits small import oil filters from 2-1/2″ to 3-1/8″
Lisle tools 63250 ratcheting oil filter wrench. Fits small import oil filters from 2-1/2″ to 3-1/8″
Band style with permanent grit Band style with permanent grit Band style with permanent grit Band style with permanent grit

©, 2015 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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