Why Is Your Oil Filter Leaking? (Causes And Solutions)

Motorcycle oil filter - oil flow arrows

Oil leakage from the oil filter can be a big nuisance.

Engine needs oil to run and if you don’t address the leakage soon, the low or no oil levels can lead to engine seizure. There is this proceed with caution scenario there.

So, what are the causes or reasons for the oil filter leaking?

The main causes for the oil filter leaking include:

  • problems in oil gasket
  • incorrect tightening of the filter
  • damaged threads
  • wrong oil filter used
  • damaged filter casing

Now, let’s dive right in for details.

Causes of Oil filter leak

There are many reasons why the oil is leaking from the oil filter. Let’s discuss each of the possible causes for the oil leak one by one.

#1: Oil Gasket is the culprit 90% of the time

Whenever you notice an oil leak, more often than not it has something to do with the oil gasket.

The oil gasket can be the culprit here in many different ways.

First, check if there are double oil gaskets. Often what happens is, while replacing an old filter with a new one, the old gasket sticks with the vehicle and does not come off with the filter.

As a result, when you fit the new filter, there are actually two oil gaskets between the oil filter and your motorcycle or a car. This double gasket makes the fit between the vehicle and the filter not so smooth. Thus, the leakage of oil.

Second cause can be that the gasket itself is damaged. Any form of cut, breakage or even a large enough crack on the gasket is enough for the oil to spill through from the engine to the outside of filter.

So, ensure that there is no such cuts or tear on the oil gasket of your filter. And also ensure there are no double gaskets as well.

#2: Incorrect tightening is another issue

Sometimes when you are fitting a new oil filter into the vehicle, you might end up either over-tightening the filter or under-tightening it.

If you use a torque wrench to tighten the oil filter, you might have over-tightened it by applying too much torque. On the other end, if you have tightened it by hand, you can under-tighten the filter.

Not to mention, sometimes, we just fit the oil filter with incorrect screwing. The threads are not aligned and have tightened in a cross or a slant fashion.

This incorrect oil filter tightening can be another issue why you might be facing oil leaks.

So, check the oil filter tightness and how it is fitted to make sure filter tightening is not the issue here.

#3: Check the threads for damages

This is a rare cause if you have been replacing the oil filters regularly and a decently common cause if you haven’t changed your oil filter since eternity!

For old oil filters which have been glued to your motorcycle or car for such a long time, the threads might have eventually worn out or damaged and are no longer suitably tightening the filter.

Even new oil filters can have damaged threads.

When you or the dealer or the service shop guy, whoever the heck it is, were fitting the oil filter – might have misaligned the filter and then tightened with a wrench forcefully.

As a result, the threads might have been damaged with you thinking the oil filter has been replaced perfectly.

To make sure this is not the case, most probably it is not by the way, just remove and filter and check the threads. In case it is – i.e., the threads are indeed damaged, you might have to replace the filter altogether.

#4: Wrong oil filter altogether

This might be the rarest cause for an oil leak. But nevertheless, still a possible cause.

The engine oil is leaking from your vehicle can be because you are using a wrong oil filter altogether.

First, check the oil filter recommended by your manufacturer in the owner’s manual. Second, check what oil filter model is fitted in your motorcycle or the car.

Now, it’s okay if the oil filter that manufacturer has recommended and the one you are using are different. It is not a big issue and is a normal scenario most of the time.

The problem arises when the recommended and the used oil filter models are so different that they are no longer compatible and is causing the oil leak.

Just make sure the oil filter model is not too far off from the recommended one. If it is, you have to replace the oil filter with a new recommended one.

#5: Lastly, oil filter casing is damaged

One last possible cause for oil leak is a damaged oil filter.

By damage, it will mostly be damage on the external casing of the oil filter.

If the oil filter is located underneath your motorcycle, somehow you might have bumped a roadblock or a heavy obstruction and hit the oil filter. And as a result, you might now be staring at a damaged oil filter casing causing the oil leak.

Not much can be done when the filter casing is broken and leaking oil. You only need to confirm that is the cause for oil leak and replace the oil filter.

Solutions For Oil Filter Leakage

The solution for oil filter leakage will most likely be replacing the oil filter altogether itself.

Check the root cause by the process of elimination first. Once you find out the cause (one of them mentioned above), you can deal it with much easier.

If the oil spillage is caused by a gasket, you can simply replace it with a new gasket if available. Consider changing the oil filter itself if it has been sometime since the last change.

If it is tightening issue, check the threads once for any signs of damage. If there is no visible signs, refitting the oil filter properly this time should do the trick.

On the other hand, if the oil leak is because of damaged threads, damaged casing, or wrong filter – the solution is straightforward. Replace the oil filter with a new one.

Preventive Measures

Lastly, it is better to prevent suck leak rather than troubleshooting and fixing it.

Here are the preventive measures for oil filter leaks:

  • Ensure the gasket is removed: While replacing the old oil filter with a new one, make sure that the old oil gasket has come off.
  • Apply a layer of oil on gasket: While installing a new oil filter, smear some oil over and around the gasket so that the filter fits in smoothly.
  • Check for damages in the new filter: If you are buying a new oil filter, check for any signs of visible damage on the gasket, threads, and the casing.
  • Use the right filter: Often times, we are okay with using a different model for a part as opposed to the recommended one. It works until it doesn’t. Ensure the filter model is right for your vehicle.
  • Don’t over-tighten or under-tighten: When replacing the oil filter, do not overdo or under-do the filter tightening. Apply just enough torque for a smooth fit. If you have to use too much force, chances are you are damaging the thread.
  • If you notice oil leakage, stop there: Do not think you can go for a few miles with an oil leakage. Low or no oil levels can lead to engine seizure. So, as soon as you notice oil is leaking from the filter, stop the vehicle and call your service guy.