Changing oil filters is messy. Few do it after draining the engine oil. And few do it without draining the engine oil at all. There is no right or wrong here (although the former is recommended). But in either case, it gets irritating if the oil filter gets stuck and is tough to remove.
So, how to remove a stuck oil filter?
If you are unable to remove the oil filter by hand, you can use one of these methods to remove a stuck oil filter:
- Strap wrench
- Oil filter cap
- Lubricant spray
- Vice grip
- Screwdriver and hammer
Now, as for how exactly can these tools be used to remove the oil filter is discussed in detail below.
#1: Using a Strap Wrench
Okay, before we discuss any of these methods, let’s make sure one thing. These methods are to be tried only after you have tried the most basic way of removing the oil filters – by hand. And that has failed!
I mean, if the oil filter could have been easily removed by hand and you went through all these tools to remove it makes the entire process of oil filter removal – let’s just say pointless. Or nonsense. Or idiotic, if you will.
So, we are on the same page that we tried to remove the filter by hand but the oil filter is too stuck to come off by this method.
That brings us to our first method – using a strap wrench.
A strap wrench grips an object via a strap and is pulled in tension using the grip it holds on the object. The strap can be made of polymer, rubber, or even leather. The material needs to be smooth, flexible and should have high static friction.
Strap wrenches are easy to find and you can buy them in any automotive store. You can even find strap wrenches specifically for oil filters as well. They are usually called oil filter strap wrenches. Pretty descriptive eh.
Now, all you need to do with the strap wrench is fairly simple.
- You slot the wrench over the filter first.
- Next, move the handle in the counter-clockwise direction to tighten the strap around the filter.
- Now, the strap is tightened around the filter and should move the oil filter along with it.
- Move the wrench handle in the unscrewing direction. The filter should start unscrewing with the pressure that the strap is applying.
- As you move the handle more, the oil filter should unscrew completely and be removed.
The strap wrench can be extremely useful here. The only downside though, the wrench handle can get in between many other components and may not be easy to maneuver.
Pros and Cons
Pros: easy to use; strap wrenches are readily available.
Cons: the handle can get in the way of the other components.
#2: Oil Filter Caps
Oil filter caps or oil filter socket adapters are one of the most reliable tools to remove an oil filter. These are filter and brand-specific. So, you need to buy the right one suitable for your oil filter. That’s a pain, to be honest.
Other tools mentioned in this post are fairly universal across different oil filters. But oil filter caps need to be specific to the type and the brand of filter you are using.
As for how to use this to remove the oil filter, here are the simple steps:
- Place the oil filter cap on the bottom portion of the filter and push it to fit into the filter.
- The oil filter cap perfectly fits at the bottom of the filter. Like they are made for each other.
- Next, use a socket wrench or a 1/2 inch breaker bar – depending on the cap design – to the filter cap.
- The breaker bar and the filter cap are now connected and fit tight.
- All you need to do is unscrew the oil filter by rotating the wrench or the bar in the unscrewing direction.
- The oil filter comes out along with the oil filter cap easily this way.
A major advantage of oil filter caps is you can use them when the oil filter is in the trickiest of spots. Using a combination of the socket and joint extensions to the oil filter cap makes it easier to unscrew.
Pros and Cons
Pros: easy to use; helpful when the filter is located in tricky spots.
Cons: caps are brand and filter specific
#3: Lubricant Spray Can Come in Handy
Another method to remove an oil filter when stuck is using lubricating sprays. This is useful when the screws are old and rusty and hence the oil filter is stuck.
However, the downside is this method does not work in all situations. You might have to look into other methods if the problem is not with stuck screws.
As for the method, this is too simple.
- Spray the lubricant where the oil filter meets the vehicle screws.
- And that’s it. Wait for 15-20 mins for the lubricant to do its job.
- Then, try removing the oil filter by hand.
- If the screw was old and rusty, then lubricant should have made the unscrewing easier. You will easily remove the oil filter now.
As for the spray, a normal automotive lubricant like WD-40 should suffice. No need to buy a specific lubricant at all.
Pros and Cons
Pros: extremely easy; not much work required.
Cons: won’t work in all situations.
#4: Vice Grips Are Another Alternative
Vice grips are another neat way. Also, if you don’t find the strap wrench useful or working well, vice grips might just be the right tool you need.
Vice grips are another version of pliers that can be used to lock an object into a position. Hence they are also called locking pliers. Another popular name is mole wrench.
Here are the simple steps that you need to follow:
- Adjust the vice grip and position it on the oil filter.
- Once the vice grip covers a significant portion of the oil filter circumference, tighten the grip.
- Slowly rotate the vice grip handle in the unscrewing direction.
- Since the vice grip hold is tight, the oil filter will move along the grip as well.
- With more unscrewing of the vice grip, the oil filter slowly unscrews and gets removed.
Personally, I like vice grip the most out of all the approaches mentioned here. This is because – a) vice grip is something I already have, and most people will have (or a plier at least); b) they are effective. Far more effective than the other methods in my opinion.
Pros and Cons
Pros: effective; the tool is readily available.
Cons: the handle can be too long and get in the way of other components.
#5: Screw Driver and Hammer – the Last Resort
This screwdriver and hammer should be the last resort to go for. The oil filter will be damaged definitely here. And if you are not careful, other components might as well.
Now all you need here is a good hammer and the biggest screwdriver you have got. We are going to take this screwdriver and bash it straight into the middle of the oil filter.
Yes. You heard it right. The screwdriver is going right into the oil filter.
Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Take the screwdriver and place it on the outer surface of the oil filter. Preferably somewhere in the middle.
- Next, bash the screwdriver with the hammer.
- Continue bashing until the screwdriver has sufficiently penetrated the oil filter. Or if you prefer, the screwdriver coming out of the other end.
- Now, move the screwdriver in the unscrewing direction.
- The oil filter should move along as well and should get removed.
This method is the most effective of them all. But you should resort to it if other methods are not working since it involves hammer bashing which might result in damaging other components as well if you are not careful.
Pros and Cons
Pros: most effective solution.
Cons: will damage the oil filter; might damage other components if you are not careful.
You can use any of the above methods to remove a stuck oil filter. You can choose the one which you feel is the most convenient.
But, make sure that you have tried the basic method first and failed. That is, removing the oil filter with bare hands is not working. Only then can you look into these options.
Personally, I like the vice grip or the strap wrench the most. They are effective. The downside can be their long handles though. They can get in between other components.
Lubricant spray will only work if the problem is vehicle screws. Lese, it’s going to be a dud most of the time.
Oil filter caps are damn effective. The only pain point is they can be brand and filter-specific. There are, however, universal oil filter caps coming into the market.
The screwdriver and hammer should be your last option though. They are effective, no doubt about that. But there is a high possibility of damaging the other components since you will be bashing the hammer. And not to mention, the oil filter will be damaged for sure.