No oil filter is perfect. Everyone will need to determine which one is worthy of being called the best oil filter. Your best oil filter, may differ from others. That’s fine, the vehicle you drive may not be the same as others. Different vehicles have different needs. People make decisions differently than others. If we choose our best oil filter as an educated consumer, we will be satisfied with the end results.
All oil filters have to pass Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) tests proving that they can filter out particles of certain sizes. We have found several resources with very good information about those tests. Quite dated however, they are anywhere from 5-17 years old. Manufacturers still make oil filters the same way so the facts are still valid.
Best Oil Filter Study
If you would like to know more about the SAE tests the filters went through, feel free to read through Russ Knize’s study. He conducted this study from 1999 through 2003 and updated it some in 2008.
“The SAE J806 test uses a single-pass test, checking for containment holding capacity, size of containment particles trapped, and the ability to maintain clean oil. As an amendment of the J806 test, the multi-pass test also looks for filter life in hours, containment capacity in grams, and efficiency based on weight. The efficiency of the filter is determined only by the weight through gravimetric measurement of the filtered test liquid. Typical numbers for paper filter elements are 85% (single pass) and 80% (multi-pass).”
“The SAE J1858 test provides both particle counting and gravimetric measurement to measure filter capacity and efficiency. Actual counts of contaminant particles by size are obtained every 10 minutes, both upstream (before the filter) and downstream (after the filter), for evaluation. From this data filtration ratio and efficiency for each contaminant particle size can be determined as well as dust capacity and pressure loss as a function of time. Typical numbers for paper element filters are 40% at 10 microns, 60% at 20 microns, 93% at 30 microns, and 97% at 40 microns.”
The oil filter’s only purpose is filtering out foreign particles in motor oil. Dirt comes in all sorts and sizes and you want a filter that traps as much as possible. Oil filters are not going to catch 100% of the various sizes of dirt. So when you see manufacturers advertising 99% filtration efficiency it is just for a specific particle size. Which means they are allowing a higher percentage of the smaller particles through their filter.
What makes a good oil filter?
Although dated, Russ knows what makes a good filter as he explained in yet another article:
“A good filter has a strong steel can to withstand the high oil pressure (60-80psi when cold), an anti-drainback valve that actually works without creating too much back pressure, a pressure relief valve that doesn’t leak, and a strong element and cap that can with stand the pressure and flow of oil without falling apart. The element media has to be able to trap small particles, but without restricting the flow too much. Cellulose (paper) media is used on economy filters and works OK. The fibers in the paper acts as a mesh to block particles down to a certain average size, while allowing the oil to pass through. Some manufacturers add other media, such as cotton, to the cellulose to improve its performance. There is synthetic fiber media for the high-end filters that has smaller passages to trap smaller particles, but can pass more fluid through it because it has more of them. There is also media that is a blend of these two.”
With so many brands available today, it can be a challenge to find the best oil filter. We will discuss and review as many of the brands as possible to help you choose your best. A manufacturer may supply oil filters for multiple brands. A single brand can have multiple oil filter designs for both economy and high end price points.
For example, Champion Laboratories, Inc. manufactures the following brands of filters: Royal Purple, Mobil, STP, Mopar, and more!
Champion states that they are the world’s largest private label filter supplier. They say that 4 out of every 5 vehicles use a Champion manufactured filter.