Can I Change the Oil Without Changing the Oil Filter?

Every car owner knows that they have to deal with constant oil changes every few months. It is what you have to do to get a smooth ride on the road. However, most people ignore or forget the filter change that comes with car maintenance. Now, is it possible to change your car oil without changing the filter?

Whether it is a car, motorbike, or truck, your vehicle needs clean engine oil. The oil must be clean as it has to flow through all the engine parts, make them move seamlessly, and prevent overheating. However, with time, the oil in the engine gets contaminated. It happens because oil picks up different pollutants or contaminants along the way. Logically, changing the oil is the best step to fix this issue, and here is where oil filters come in handy.

Oil filters collect the unwanted waste and the particles from the oil and make it clean enough to circulate again. They are an essential component that saves money by reducing the number of oil changes over a period. Like anything else, oil filters also have a certain lifespan. After that, they degrade or usually become so contaminated that they are no longer useful to your vehicle. When you just let it be, the contaminated oil turns corrosive, and as it continues to circulate in your engine, it will ruin it leading to irreversible damage.

Why Do I Need an Oil Filter?

Before we talk about changing the oil filter, let us discuss why choosing the right filter is important. On its way, oil picks up dust particles, metallic residue, and countless pollutants, and to get rid of all this; you need to have a good quality oil filter. The engine and oil both cannot function without each other, and in the end, it all comes down to the oil filter. The oil needs to be clean for the parts to keep running optimally. Moreover, the oil cannot flow properly without an oil filter. If your car does not have an oil filter, then the oil needs to be replaced every 500 to 2,000 miles.

Why Do I Need an Oil Filter

In simple words, a filter acts as a by-pass for the oil. The type of filters for the vehicle varies depending on the car and the oil itself. For example, a heavy-duty vehicle may need a robust, high-performance filter, while your day-to-day vehicle would function well with a standard filter. The four major types of filers are standard, high-performance, racing, and synthetic oil filters. Each filter has different specs that differ in both function and robustness.

What is Inside an Oil Filter?

The filter is an encased cylinder, and it is mounted on the engine of your car to keep oil from leaking and damaging other components. The housing contains filter material, and it can range from synthetic fibers like polyester and glass. Resin is used to saturate it to make it more stiff and durable. High-grade filters often contain more of these synthetic fibers.

There are five main parts that help an oil filter to function properly:


An oil filter has a mesh responsible for catching the dust and debris. It is usually a synthetic mesh folded many times to increase the surface area. The pleats or the folds cover a larger area for filtration. The higher the number of pleats, the thicker the medium.

Tapping Plate

There are two holes in a tapping plate or gasket- smaller holes on the side and a bigger hole in the center. These holes are through which the engine oil enters and leaves, respectively. The oil enters the smaller hole into the filter (mesh) and then exits via the larger hole.

Back Valve

When your car is idle or not running, an anti-drain back valve keeps the oil inside and prevents it from seeping back into the filter. Hence, ensuring that only clean oil gets reused.

End Discs

End discs are designed to keep the filtered and the unfiltered oil apart. It is responsible for keeping the unfiltered oil from contaminating the center tube; hence, protecting the engine. Depending on the type of filter used, they can be made up of metal or fiber. They are placed against the tapping plate by retainers.

What Happens if You Change Oil But Not the Filter?

There might be times when you forget to bring new filters or disregard replacing them when changing the engine oil. If you continue with the same attitude and only change the oil and not the filters, your engine will deteriorate over time. You will need to replace the engine at one point because the moving parts will no longer function as they should. Possible scenarios that can happen with your vehicle include:

Can I Change the Oil Without Changing the Oil Filter

No Filtration Due to Clogged Filter

An oil filter is needed daily to filter the oil. It removes the dust and the debris from the oil, resulting in clean, uncontaminated oil. However, if you fail to change the filter, the oil will only be filtered a few more times before the filter clogs up. If it gets clogged or damaged, the oil will now be full of pollutants, metal pieces, and debris.

Engine Sludge

Once the filter is clogged up, the contaminated oil will flow into the engine. Even if you decide to change the oil regularly, the oil will turn bad after a few cycles. This badly contaminated is called sludge, and it turns thick and black and is harmful to your car’s engine. Sludge will fill up the engine and start building up inside. The circulation will seize, and soon, there will be no lubrication. It will require more work from the engine’s internal components as there is no lubrication to release the friction.

Engine Breaks Down

Sooner or later, the internal components of the engine will give up. Excessive heat produced due to friction and the absence of lubrication will damage the parts due to the sludge trapped inside them. It will not be long before it stops working, and you will have to replace it.

How to Change Your Oil and Oil Filter

Dropping off your vehicle at the auto shop sure is convenient, but you never know when you have to gear up and do it yourself. To prepare you for uncertain times, here is a brief overview of how you can change your vehicle’s oil and oil filter.

How to Change Your Oil and Oil Filter

Step 1: Drain the Oil

To change the oil, you first need to drain the old oil. Running your engine will increase the temperature, making it easier for the oil to drain. To drain the oil, you need to locate the drain plug. You may consult the service manual or quickly do an internet search for your vehicle if you are having trouble finding it. Once you have located the drain plug, lightly loosen it with a socket wrench but do not completely unscrew it. Place the oil pan below, and then slowly remove the plug. Be careful as the hot oil can burn you. You can also remove the filler cap to make the process faster.

Step 2: Change the Filter

Give the oil some time to empty and screw the plug back in. Next, remove the oil filter, be careful as it may contain a bit of old oil that might be hot. Line the new filter’s seal with fresh oil and start screwing it by hand. The filter does not need to be super tight; just secure it in its place.

Step 3: Pour the New Oil

Now you can pour the new oil. You can use a funnel to be precise and not spill beyond the container. Once you have poured the specified amount, let it rest for a minute and let the oil settle. Next, run your engine and look for any leaks. If you see a leak, immediately turn off the engine and tighten the loose parts. If all is well, you can go ahead and dispose of the old oil and filter and go your way.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens if I Use the Wrong Oil Filter?

To promote the engine’s optimum functioning and increase its longevity, you must use the right filter. If your oil filter is not the right kind for the oil or vehicle, it can negatively impact oil pressure. Either too much or too little oil will pass the engine, and you will have to bear the losses in both cases. If too little oil passes the filter, there will be friction among the engine’s moving parts. On the other hand, if too much oil passes the filter, the oil will form a frothy and foamy liquid that will not lubricate the engine parts effectively. So, make sure that the filter you are using is suitable for the oil and your vehicle.

On the other hand, a bad filter can also thicken your engine oil. Thick engine oil can increase the oil pressure, reducing the engine’s horsepower. As a result, the engine will do more work, and since the oil is not clean, the extra effort can cause wear and tear in the engine. If you notice that the oil pressure is high, it is best to take care of it instantly. Ideally, your oil pressure should be within 20 to 30 psi at idle and 45 to 70 psi when driving.

When Do I Change My Oil Filter?

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell whether your oil filter is going bad. However, there are some signs you should look out for that might indicate that you need to replace it. When your oil filter is clogged, your car’s performance will significantly decrease. It includes your vehicle not picking up speed when you push the accelerator or the engine lags during the drive. Moreover, you will also notice that your engine will sputter when driving. It is due to less lubrication inside the engine components, leading to more friction. This friction is enough to ruin your engine, and the sputtering also causes a great deal of damage to the internal parts.

Apart from this, you will also notice metallic noises when you drive; this again is due to a lack of proper lubrication. This metallic noise is the final call to save your engine. After this, you will have to replace the engine altogether.

If you notice a drop in oil pressure, it is either caused by a leak or a clogged filter. It is a definite heads-up to find a mechanic and save your car. If you keep driving, you will be further grinding and damaging the engine parts, making it impossible for the car mechanic to salvage your engine. Lastly, if you see smoke or exhaust coming out of your car- your vehicle is burning oil. If the smoke is black or brown, then the reason behind it is a clogged filter.

Is It Important to Change the Oil Filter with Every Oil Change?

Oil change varies from vehicle to vehicle, not just the type but also the driving conditions. Generally, you need to change the oil every 10,000 to 15,000 kilometers. Changing oil at 12,000 km, which is about 7,500 miles, is ideal. However, if you drive in extreme conditions, you need to change your oil every 5,000 km. Extreme driving conditions may include bad weather (both hot and cold), very long distances, bad road conditions, and the extra load your car carries.

It is recommended that you change your oil filter with every oil change. However, if your usual driving route is not extreme, you may change your oil filter after every other oil change. If the oil, after some running, comes out translucent with a hint of brown, then your filter is working perfectly fine. However, if the oil is dark brown or black, that is your signal to change it. When this happens, the filter can no longer purify the oil. As a result, contaminated oil is circulating in your car, and it will continue to cause damage the longer you delay changing it.

Can I Use the Same Oil Filter Twice?

Replacing an oil filter all comes down to your driving conditions. If you drive in extreme weather or face a lot of stop-and-go traffic, you can use the same filter for two oil changes. Since your engine works double-time, the oil filter would be on the verge of being clogged by the end of your second oil change. It will hinder the proper oil filtration, and as a result, contaminated oil will circulate through your engine. This oil may not completely wreck your engine, but it will damage the internal components to some extent.

The lifespan of an oil filter depends on the type and its use. A synthetic filter usually fills up faster, especially if you drive in sandy or dusty areas. So, if your vehicle uses a synthetic filter, you might need to replace it more frequently, even more, if you drive in bad road conditions.

Final Thoughts

Changing oil filters is just as important as changing the oil itself. If you do not change the filter, there is no point in changing the oil. A clogged filter will not be able to filter the new oil after a few cycles, and as a result, thick oil full of debris, dust, and pollutants will start circulating in the engine. Moreover, the engine’s internal components that constantly move need proper lubrication. If not, the movements will produce friction, leading to wear and tear of those parts.

You should change your oil every 12,000 km provided that you do not drive in extreme weather and bad road conditions. Changing the oil filter on every oil change is better, but you can use the filter twice- it is up to your discretion. Ensure that the oil filter is not clogged and in good health if you are reusing it.