What Oil Filter is the Best? (or Why you shouldn't buy Fram)

Here's a great example that compares a high quality filter with metal end-caps (Honda) versus
the paper Fram.
Let me tell you the story of my Mazda MX-3. I loved, loved, loved this car. One day I decided to change the oil, long before I knew there were people on the internet cutting filters open. I started the car after the oil change, and it immediately began to smoke. What happened? Valve damage from a Fram oil filter that collapsed in on itself.

If you're not up to speed on the problem, Fram, one of the most popular oil filters uses cardboard instead of metal filter ends to separate the clean oil from the dirty. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why that's a problem. However it's a inexpensive product that has a generally low failure rate, that has only become the center of attention since the dawn of the internet, now that individuals can share their experience. Mine is not unlike others who have posted online.

Notice here that when a used Fram oil filter is dissected, the internal paper
filter has partially collapsed, and the cardboard end caps have failed to
separate the clean oil from the dirty.
Fram defends their manufacturing process and materials, who, for the most part, suggest that cardboard and their glue is more than adequate for the job, and that their constant quality controls ensure bad things don't happen. Arguable one must wonder how much profit loss the company would suffer switching to the metal standard of other filters. I should also note they have one of thinnest gaskets, smallest base-plate holes, and poor by-pass system in case of clogging.

Yep you heard right, almost every other filter uses metal. So if you're wondering what oil filter is the best, or what to buy, then the answer is almost any other brand than Fram. I personally prefer Wix (also sold under the Napa brand), because of its quality, reputation, and the fact that they're produced here in North Carolina.

By contrast, here's a cut open Wix oil filter.
Of course some brands re-sell the Fram product under their name, so its a good idea to know what you're using on your vehicle (Penzoil, Mopar and Quaker State filters are essentially relabeled Fram filters. "Fram (Honeywell) are the worst constructed, followed by the new 'Encore' Champion ones. Champion make filters for several brands and it is very difficult to know who actually makes what." There's several websites on the internet where individuals have cut-open and disassembled the oil-filters for your viewing pleasure:

  1. http://www.minimopar.net/oilfilters/reference.html#fram
  2. http://www.300cforums.com/forums/general-discussion-issues-trouble-shooting/31190-oil-filters-dissected.html

As with a lot of things in car care, saving a few cents can often lead to very expensive repairs. Maybe Fram filters work 98% of the time, maybe you'll never have a problem, but for a few dollars difference to protect your very expensive engine (and peace of mind), isn't it worth it?

I think it is.

One trick I can recommend is buying the filter on Amazon, or in bulk and simply taking it with you when you take your vehicle into your mechanic for an oil change. It makes it simple, hassle free, and your guaranteed to have the better filter installed on your car.




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