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How To Remove A Stuck Oil Filter

3 Recommendations To Save You The Headache of Dealing With a Stubborn Oil Filter

how to remove a stuck oil filter

Often, oil filters get stuck, making them extremely difficult to unscrew by hand. This usually happens either because people do not oil the gasket before installation or because they over tighten the oil filter when installing it. Either way, here are three recommendations on how to remove a stuck oil filter if you find yourself dealing with a stubborn filter in the future.

How To Remove A Stuck Oil Filter

1. Try to Unscrew The Filter by Hand

First, you will want to try loosening the oil filter by hand. Make sure that your hands are not oily or slippery and that you can get a firm grip on the stuck oil filter. You can wear gloves with a non-slip grip to get a better hold on the oil filter. As always, be careful with hot filters, and remember to always turn the filter to the left to unscrew it.

2. Use a Specific Tool to Unscrew The Filter

If your filter is stuck and you can not unscrew it by hand, you may need a specific oil filter wrench or oil filter cap to remove it. A few additional tools that might work are adjustable oil wrench pliers, chain wrenches, band wrenches, or jaw wrenches.

Using your tool of choice, you should be able to get a good grip on the filter to unscrew it. Be careful about crushing the cylinder depending on the method and tool you are using. Note that you will need to apply a decent amount of torque to make any headway with a really stuck filter.

3. Use a Screwdriver And Hammer

If none of the above works, as a last resort you can use a screwdriver and a hammer. Though less than ideal, this method is usually effective; just be aware that it is messy. Using the screwdriver (preferably an old one that you aren’t attached to), make a hole in the back of the filter body by hitting the screwdriver in with a hammer. Once the screwdriver pierces the metal canister from one side to the other, you should be able to use it as a handle to rotate and remove the filter.

Avoid Future Stuck Oil Filters

Of course, once you have figured out how to remove a stuck oil filter, you don’t want to cause the same problem again. Be sure you appropriately install your new oil filter. Don’t skip over the step of lubricating the gasket with a light layer of fresh oil. And make sure you don’t overtighten the new filter. It should fit snugly up to the engine block, but you don’t need to crank it tight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is hand tightening an oil filter enough?

Generally, you should be able to hand tighten your oil filter so that it is snug enough that it won’t leak. If you are concerned that you were not able to tighten it enough by hand, you can use an oil filter wrench and give it a quarter turn to tighten it. This should ensure it is tight enough that it won’t leak but not so tight that you can’t get it off the next time you need to change it.

Can over tightening an oil filter cause it to leak?

Though it may seem counterintuitive, overtightening an oil filter may in fact cause an oil leak. Over tightening may crush the filter gasket which will lead to an imperfect seal from which oil can leak.

Which way does an oil filter unscrew?

Always unscrew an oil filter by turning it counter-clockwise or to the left.

Do you really need an oil filter wrench?

Typically, you won’t need an oil filter wrench unless you have a stuck oil filter or a deeply recessed filter that is hard to reach. If you routinely perform your own oil and oil filter changes and know you are properly tightening your oil filter, you should be able to hand tighten and remove your oil filter without the use of a special tool.

However, if you like the peace of mind of having just the right tool for the job (or just like having a lot of tools) you can always purchase an oil filter wrench or other oil filter tool to keep on hand.

About Kristen Arendt

Kristen is a writer and editor based in Colorado. She came to motorsports by way of her husband's passion for track days, autocross, and fast cars and is now the proud co-driver of two E36 325s and an overland-in-the-making Lexus GX470. She is a volunteer driving instructor with the BMW CCA Rocky Mountain Chapter and enjoys any event that involves getting behind the wheel or navigating from the passenger's seat.