How Often Should You Change Your Oil Filter?

Engines experiences extreme conditions with temperatures at the walls of the combustion chamber ranging between 265 and 475 F during normal operation. Then there are the metal parts like the crankshaft, camshafts, and pistons moving at high speed against other metal components like cylinder walls and bearings. It’s a volatile environment, and engine oil has the job of keeping it moving smoothly and efficiently. An oil filter’s role? To keep the oil as clean as possible while it works.

In the maintenance guide with every vehicle that’s sold, you’ll find recommended and required services listed, and oil filter replacement is one of them. The part is one of the least expensive you’ll need while being pivotal in maintaining engine health, ranging from around $7 to $40 for most vehicles. What does the oil filter really do, and how often should you change it? Here are those answers as well as what should be done at the same time as an oil filter replacement.

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What Does an Oil Filter Do?

An oil filter comes in two main designs, a spin-on filter or a cartridge-style filter, with a spin-on filter continuing to be the more common option for cars. They’re recognizable as a steel canister that has one open end where oil passes through to be cleaned. This self-contained filter has media inside made of paper or woven synthetic and natural fibers that capture particles that could be harmful to your engine. At the closed end of the canister is a bypass valve.

A cartridge-style filter has a similar design but the housing is permanently affixed in the vehicle. The filter is cylindrical and the pleated media seals between the housing cap and the base internally.

No matter the design your car uses, the filter media strains out microscopic particles that could act as an abrasive and wear against metal parts in the engine, as well as remove substances that can stick to and gum up the oil passages. These bits stay stuck in the filter media until the filter is replaced and discarded.

If the filter gets too full of debris and contaminants, it can starve the engine of oil or increase the oil pressure in the filter as it tries to push through. If that occurs, the bypass valve opens and lets some dirty, unfiltered oil through. It keeps you running, but it’s at the risk of causing damage.

How Often You Should Change an Oil Filter

If you’re wondering how often to change oil filters, it usually comes down to a few criteria. They include:

  • The type of oil filter you’re using.
  • The operating conditions.
  • The manufacturer’s recommended service interval.

Generally, a standard oil filter is intended to provide excellent filtration for most types of vehicles between regular service intervals of up to 5,000 miles. An extended life or synthetic oil filter can often last about twice as long, or up to 10,000 miles.

The conditions under how you use your vehicle also factor into the replacement interval. If you drive in light-duty conditions such as a highway commute in temperate weather, your oil and filter change can often last longer distances than if you’re towing heavy loads or operating in stop-and-go traffic all the time.

It’s crucial to adhere to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule to determine when to replace the oil filter. To ensure optimal engine performance and longevity, it’s advisable to replace the oil filter with each oil change. You can locate the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual, on the manufacturer’s website, or through a maintenance reminder system integrated into your vehicle.

For most cars, the oil filter change interval will be between 5,000 and 7,500 miles, and it should be changed once per year regardless of mileage.

What Should an Oil Filter Change Include?

Along with knowing how often to change the oil filter, there are other recommendations you should be aware of. At the same time, you should drain and refill the engine oil. Also, perform a visual inspection of your vehicle including:  

  • Inspect and top up fluids
  • Check the engine air filter and cabin air filter
  • Check tire condition and tread depth
  • Check and adjust tire pressures
  • Inspect exterior and interior lights 
  • Check brake condition and brake pad thickness
  • Inspect steering and suspension parts
  • Check the wiper blades
  • Inspect for leaks
  • Test the battery
  • Check the condition of belts and hoses

An oil and filter change is an excellent time to make sure there aren’t any other concerns you need to address on your car. Whether you simply need an oil filter and engine oil or any other maintenance and repair items, find what you’re looking for at AutoZone.

FAQ/People Also Ask

How long should an oil filter last?

It depends on the type of oil filter and your vehicle usage. Generally, oil filters can last between 5,000 and 10,000 miles or up to one year.

Is it OK to change oil but not filter?

Some vehicle manufacturers recommend changing the oil filter at least every second oil change while others mandate the replacement every oil change. Check your owner’s manual to know what’s right for your car.

How do I know when my oil filter needs replacing?

If the engine oil is due to be changed or your maintenance reminder indicates it’s time, the oil filter should be changed.

Will an oil filter last two years?

It’s possible that an oil filter can protect an engine for two years or even longer, but that’s very difficult to determine accurately. You can’t see the filter media without removing it or cutting the filter open, so there’s no way to know how dirty the filter is. Play it safe and change it at least annually, following your maintenance schedule.

Can I use the same oil filter twice?

If your maintenance guide says it’s okay, it’s possible to use the same oil filter across two oil change intervals.

Do synthetic oil filters last longer?

Synthetic oil filters help keep synthetic oil in better condition than a standard oil filter does. The lifespan is determined according to the part manufacturer, and not just by the type of oil used. Follow the instructions on the packaging and in your maintenance guide.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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