Engine Servicing Troubleshoot

How To Remove A Stuck Oil Filter (With 5 Tips For Success)

how to remove a stuck oil filter

One of the easiest service jobs you can carry out on your car is an oil change. But sometimes the oil filter can get so stuck it can seem impossible to remove.

So, how do you remove a stuck oil filter?

The safest and most effective way to remove a stuck oil filter is to heat the engine, spray the base of the filter with WD-40 and then use a special oil filter tool to remove the filter. 

There are a few other methods that work and choosing the right method depends on the location of the oil filter and the type of oil filter that is fitted to your vehicle. Here are a few tried and tested methods that the professionals use.

1. oil filter cap wrench with WD-40 Method

Sometimes the oil filter can be difficult to grip, especially if it's in a hard to reach location. This is where an oil filter cap wrench can come in really handy. 

oil filter cap wrench

There are two types of oil filter cap wrenches available. The first type fits directly onto the top of the oil filter, gripping the filter so that it can be loosened.

The second type is for use with paper oil filters that are fitted inside of an oil filter housing. The cap wrench is used to remove the lid from the housing. Both types of cap wrenches look the same, and are different sizes available.

The secret to success with this method is to heat the engine, use WD-40 (or other pentrant spray) and make sure that you are using the correct size cap wrench.

To begin, drive the vehicle for 10-15 minutes to heat up the engine, this will make the oil filter easier to remove. 

If it's a screw on canister oil filter, spray the base of the oil filter with some WD-40 to help to loosen it. Wipe down the filter with a rag (be careful not to burn yourself!) and fit the cap wrench to the top of the filter. Using a socket wrench, slowly turn the filter anti-clockwise to remove. 

If its an oil filter housing that you are trying to open, these are usually at the top of the engine and are easier to access. Using WD-40 is usually not an option in this case, so go ahead and fit the oil filter wrench directly to the top of the oil filter housing and slowly turn it anti-clockwise.

2. oil filter pliers or chain/strap method

This method only works with a screw on canister oil filter when you've got space around it to fit the wrench.

They key to success with this method is to heat the engine and soak the base of the oil filter with WD-40 or similar lubricant (try not to get the lubricant on surrounding engine parts).

Oil filter strap wrench

Oil filter strap wrench attached to an oil filter

Start by wiping down the oil filter to remove any oil or dirt so that the wrench has the best chance of gripping. Refer to the instructions that come with the wrench that you are using and attach it to the oil filter as tight as you can. Slowly turn the wrench anti-clockwise to remove the filter. You may need to re-position the wrench on the filter as you loosen it.

Here's a video describing the various types of oil filter wrenches and how they work.

3. Screwdriver Method

Personally, I don't like using this method because it's messy and can go wrong very easily. 

If you want to increase the chances of successfully removing a stuck oil filter with a screwdriver, heat up the engine to operating temperature and spray the base of the filter with WD-40, just like the previous methods. 

You'll also need to set up a basin or container to collect any oil that escapes from the oil filter. You also need to take care that you don't get covered in hot oil!

When everything is set up, stab the side of the oil filter using a large flat blade screwdriver and slowly turn the oil filter counter clockwise. Hopefully, the oil filter turns and comes off in one piece.

This method should only be used as a last resort. It's messy and there is a danger of getting burnt by hot engine oil. The is also a strong chance that the oil filter will brake apart, leaving the bottom threaded part still attached to the engine. If this happens then it's going to be even more difficult to remove. 

5 Tips for removing a stuck oil filter

When it comes to successfully removing a stuck oil filter there are a few tips and tricks that you can use to help you succeed. Here are my 5 top tips that you may find useful next time you are trying to remove a stuck oil filter. 

Tip 1: Always warm the engine before starting. 

This will not only make the oil flow out easier but it can help to break the seal between the oil filter and the engine block.

Tip 2: Soak the base of the oil filter with penetrant spray

Use plenty of WD-40 or similar penetrant spray and leave it to work for up to an hour before attempting to turn the oil filter.

Tip 3: Use some coarse sandpaper to help grip the oil filter. 

Wrapping some sandpaper around the oil filter before you attach the oil filter wrench can increase your chances of success as it increases the grip of the oil filter wrench.

Tip 4: Use an exact fit cap wrench filter tool. 

If you can get one, the best oil filter wrench tool is the cap tool that fits exactly over the top of the filter. Combine this with penetrant fluid and a warm engine, and that oil filter will come right off first time.

Tip 5: Don't over-tighten the new oil filter. 

Ok so this is a tip for next time you decide to do an oil change. When you are fitting the new oil filter, don't be tempted to use a tool to tighten it. You should always tighten a screw on canister oil filter with your hand. If it's in a tight space and you can't get access with your hand than only use the tool to give it one final quarter turn after you've