Car Repair Tools

How to Use an Oil Filter Wrench


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If you've never changed your own oil, you probably aren't familiar with using an oil filter wrench. It's an integral part of standard oil change equipment, a tool that helps you remove the oil filter quickly and easily. And as simple as it sounds, removing an oil filter is not so simple to do without an oil filter wrench. A used oil filter is coated with greasy road grime, making it difficult to get a decent, strong grip on the filter and effectively twist it off. Using a wrench is the best course of action.

Oil filter pliers or wrenches are designed specifically to fit a particular oil filter, gripping the filter snugly and giving you the ability to twist it loose. Because some filters are larger or wider than others, depending upon the kind of engine you have in your car, there are varying sizes of tools available. It's easy to find a wrench that fits the filter for your car by visiting a local automotive parts store, where they can look up the type of filter for your vehicle and match it with the right size and style of oil filter wrench.

The style of wrench you have determines how it's used to remove a used filter. In simple terms, you fit the wrench on top or around the filter and use it to twist the filter loose so you can remove it.

Socket-Style or Cap-Style Wrench

This design of wrench fits right over the top of a filter like a socket, from which you can turn to release the threads and loosen the filter. Oil filters sometimes have fluted or serrated edges along the top of the filter, and these types of oil filter wrenches lock onto these grooves or fluted edges, making a tight grip and allowing you to turn the whole filter and twist it off easily. In cases where the space around the filter is too tight to fit a strap-style wrench through the strap, the socket or cup style is used.

Strap-Style Wrench

Another typical design of oil filter wrench looks like a handle with a strap or band on one end of it in a loop, giving the shape of the tool similar to a letter 'p'. The filter goes through the loop and after the strap is tightened, you use the handle as a lever to twist the oil filter loose. This is the most common type of oil filter wrench, and comes in varying sizes, small-medium-large, depending upon the diameter of the filter. Sometimes the strap is made of metal, plastic or rubber, like a rubber band that when tightened gives extra traction from the tight grip around the grimy used filter. 

Variations of Strap-Type Wrenches

For some makes and models of cars, strap-style wrenches are recommended, however they don't have a handle. It looks like a metal or rubber strap with a metal socket at the end of it. Like the conventional strap-style wrench, the strap fits around the filter and is tightened, then a socket handle or screwdriver can be used as a lever to turn the filter around to loosen it. This gives you or your mechanic some flexibility in choosing a style of handle or lever to use if the space around the filter is too tight or has an area that limits the range of motion.

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