If you drive your car hard, then chances are you are worried about your engine more than most drivers. Forums are filled with horror stories that will transform the biggest fanboy into a doubter at the drop of a hat. Most of us change our oil on a regular basis, some people waste their time with 3,000-mile oil changes, but I prefer to inspect my oil filter very often, and especially after each track day.

If your engine is constantly nearing its redline, then it will like shed bits of various metal components, which is actually fairly normal. Though this is a normal thing to happen, these contaminants can get caught up in the filter and restrict the oil flow just enough to cause damage at higher rpm.

Few racers know that you can actually change the filter without doing a complete oil change. So you can keep all but about a half-quart of the good oil in the engine and get a fresh filter — I prefer Purolator — in there to keep it all flowing as it’s supposed to.

Click past the jump to see how it’s done.

Tools needed

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First you need to buy yourself a new oil filter, and while you are at it, I’d say buy a couple of them as this procedure is so easy you will want to do it on a regular basis. You can buy the factory filter but that can get a little pricey, and the changes of the parts store having factory filter in stock are almost non-existent. TopSpeed recommends using Purolator oil filter, as they are as good or better than the factory part and nearly every parts store carries them for a fraction of the price of the OEM filter. This is especially beneficially, as you will be using a lot more of these than most people, so saving a few bucks each time can help keep money in the bank for your next engine upgrade.

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Secondly, you need to buy the oil wrench that matches up with the type of filter your rig uses. You can use the "universal" — AKA the big `ol set of slip-joint pliers — but we recommend buying what is intended for your car. This allows you the ability to get right onto the filter and tighten it down exactly as the manufacturer recommends.

I usually write down on my oil wrench the torque required by the factory — keep in mind that not every manufacturer has a precise torque spec for the oil filter. Like the oil drain plug, the filter and its mounting boss on the engine cannot take excessive torque, and is easy to break them. Make sure you’re as careful as you can be and find out the manufacturer’s recommended tightening procedure before removing the filter.

After that, of course, you need an drain pan catch the oil and also transport it to your local part store for recycling — nearly all auto parts stores have an oil-collection bin in the back of their store, so don’t be shy about asking the employees. If they don’t have one, just look up a local oil-recycling plant in the yellow pages or online.

I prefer working with gloves because who knows what oil can do to your skin over time, but that’s up to you.

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  • New oil filter (Purolator recommended)
  • Drain pan
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Torque wrench (optional but recommended)
  • Nitrile/rubber gloves (optional but recommended)

Engine Warmup is Not Necessary

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For complete oil change, you want to have the engine oil at operating temperature, so that the oil flows nicely out of the engine. When changing the oil filter, this doesn’t matter and this will also make the procedure safer as you don’t have to worry burning yourself with hot oil.

Open Your Oil Filler Cap

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Even though we don’t care about how much oil will get out during this procedure, we want to make sure the oil flows out once and for all, instead of dripping during the whole process. Opening the oil filler cap will help draining the oil in the oil cooler and filter passages faster.

Prepare the Car for Filter Access

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Locate your oil filter — each manufacturer has a favorite place to hide these things, and some are harder to find than others. This can be tricky, but most of the time, it is a non-issue to access the oil filter— unless you drive an RX-8. Depending on the type of car you have, the oil filter may be an a metal canister or it could be the paper element that slides into a chamber on the engine. Check out the new filter to get a better idea of what you’re looking for.

Make sure you have a good work space to operate. Figure out where you will place your drain pan and that you have space to operate your tools.

Wrench Away

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Set the oil drain pan directly under the filter. Grab your oil filter wrench or oil filter cup and a ratchet, and loosen the filter — It should not be very tight — then unscrew it the rest of the way by hand. Set the oil filter in the drain pan to keep it from rolling around on the floor.

Inspect The Filter (Paper Element Filter Only)

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While the oil is dripping from the oil filter mounting boss, and before putting the new filter back in, I like to inspect my old oil filter. This allow me to make sure that my beloved engine is in good shape or if it was suffering in silence. For paper filters simply take a blade and cut through both sides, then open the filter and check it for chunk of debris.

The hope here is that the filter is clear of these particles, but very small particles is perfectly normal.

Put your Purolator filter back in

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Grab your Purolator filter and stick press it into the housing, if your car has a paper element filter. Before you put the oil filter cap back on, you should replace the rubber O-ring that is on its base — each Purolator filter comes with a new O-ring. Make sure you apply some new oil on the ring before you put it in place, in order to make a better seal.

Grab your torque wrench, setup the proper torque (20 foot-pounds in our case) and tighten it down.

If you have a canister filter, coat the O-ring on the base with new oil and tighten it onto the mounting boss until the O-ring touches the mating surface.Grab the torque wrench, if the manufacturer recommends a specific torque, attach the oil filter cup, then tighten the filter to the recommended torque. It the manufacturer doesn’t have a recommended tightening procedure, simply tighten the filter one full turn clockwise to seat the O-ring and make a good seal.

Final steps

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You are almost done so don’t forget to add the oil lost — usually half a quart — and make sure you close that oil filler cap tightly.

You are good to go, knowing that you are doing all you can to check your engine health.

What do you think?
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