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Engine Oil Filter Study

SPECIAL FEATURES: Mopar Filters, German Filters

 
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[ Warning | Disassembly and Measurements | SAE Tests | Mopar Conversion Table | Conclusions ]
[ AC Delco | AMSOIL | Car And Driver | Champ | Deutsch | Fram | Hard Driver | Mobil 1 | Motorcraft | NAPA | Pennzoil | PowerFlo | ProLine | Purolator | Quaker State | STP | Wix ]



PRINTING ISSUES:  If you have trouble with colors when printing this or any other page, use the color override option on your web brewer.  For more information, see the Printing On This Site page.  I have been pondering switching the site to a printer-friendly color scheme, but that would be a HUGE project, at his point.

UPDATE:  Please read the new Warning section now.

A few people out there are helping me by sending filters.  Many thanks go to them.  I am happy to cut open and evaluate filters of the same type for brands that I have not tested, but I really don't want to try to cover all of the types for other vehicles.  The scale of this project has already exceeded my original intentions, but I really want to finish it.

I have a special feature page for Mopar because that is why this page is here in the first place.  The Audi/VW special feature is in progress because I cannot compare the German filters to the Ford 5.0L filter (they do not manufacture a true equivalent).  The majority of those filters were sent by Rolf Mair, at his expense.  The VW/Audi/Volvo croud has been helping me out a lot, so I am featuring their coveted filters here.

I encourage anyone out there to repeat this study for their own type of vehicle.  Perhaps we can all network our studies together.  This may be the beginning of a a major wake-up call for oil filter manufacturers.  We're watching you!!!

I finally got a chance to run a spell-checker though this page.

NOTICE:  I have been getting flooded with email about this page and simply cannot answer everyone, so I apologize if your email has gone unanswered.  I have been very busy lately and so updates to this site have been scarce.  I have received many requests for other filter studies.  Some of the requested filter are on their way and I will hopefully be able to add them to this page soon.  Here is the list of filters I intend to add, assuming I can find them all ("?" means I don't know the part #, "o" means I now have this filter):

-- AC Delco PF2L
o Amsoil SDF-15 - acquired, ASF series has been discontinued
-- Bosch - no direct Ford 5.0L cross-reference (see VW feature)
-- Champ ?
-- Fram HP1 - acquired
o Hard Driver HD01 - acquired
-- Hastings LF115
-- K&N ?
-- Purolator HP1/L390001 - acquired
-- Mann - no direct Ford 5.0L cross-reference (see VW feature)

I have cut open all the filters I have acquired so far, but I have not torn them down completely because I need to take pictures.  I won't be taking pictures until I have acquired more of the filters listed above.  I do not intend to look into any filters for other types of vehicles.  I chose the Ford 5.0L filter because it can be used for several other engines and is quite large in size, which improves the relative surface area data between manufacturers.

I have had a couple of requests from people wondering what my qualifications are.  Quite frankly, I am just a concerned automotive enthusiast that is tired of being toyed with by these manufacturers.  In reality, I am an Electrical Engineer with no qualifications in the area of filtration analysis.  However, I have eyes and some common sense, which has proven to be enough to accomplish what I set out to do.

Feel free to link to this page.

Happy filtering!
Russ W. Knize
 

Warning!

These pages are NOT to be taken as gospel.  The primary motivation behind this study was to provide information about what oil filter brands are made by which manufacturers.  The secondary motivation was to uncover some of the obvious internal construction issues of these manufacturers.  This "study" is not a "test".  The SAE J806 and J1858 tests were designed to test the filtration capability of these filters, but unfortunately they have several short comings.  These include issues such as anti-drainback valve functionality (valve train noise, etc.), filter element containment capability (how long before it blocks and bypasses--related to surface area), and many testimonials that appear to point in the direction of certain manufacturers.  It has been my hope to shed some light in the direction of these issues.  While my infamous "two eyes and common sense" approach may not be the most scientific, it is the best I could do considering there was no personal return on the investment of time and money I put into it.

The primary shortcoming of this study is the small sampling size.  I only tested the Ford 5.0L filter.  It has come to my attention that some brand names use different manufacturers for different applications.  Another shortcoming is the lack of testing of the filter element media itself.  Unfortunately I have neither the time nor resources to do this.

I invite anyone with the means to take a larger sampling size and conduct a more complete study, which may include private SAE tests.  I also invite anyone to repeat a study similar to this one on other model filters.

With all of that said, please make your own judgements.  Use this study only as a source of some information that may give you a better idea about which filter brands to steer clear from.  It should be obvious that some manufacturers are not being honest about their product.  The next time you buy a filter for your car, buy two and hack one open to see what you have.  My intent was to give you some information and alert you to some little-known issues, not to tell you what to think.
 

Description

One weekend I set out to every auto parts store in my area and bought every brand of oil filter I could find.  I chose to get the filter for the early Ford 5.0L V8 engine.  The reason is that this is a popular filter, it is large so that I can unveil any fake miniature internal components, and it fits on most 2.2L and 2.5L engines.  Design-wise it is fully compatible with our oil systems and is an excellent replacement for the pathetic filter that was designed for our engines.  I was able to find 20 different filters spanning several brand names.  They are (in alphabetical order):




AC Delco Duraguard PF2
AC Delco Duraguard PF2L
AMSOIL SDF15
Car And Driver SF-1A
Champ
Deutsch D539
Deutsch D545
Fram Extra Guard PH8A
Fram Tough Guard TG8A
Fram Double Guard DG8A
Hard Driver HD01
Mobil 1 M1-301
Motorcraft FL-1A
NAPA Gold 1515
Pennzoil PZ-1
PowerFlo SL30001
ProLine PPL-30001
Purolator Premium Plus L30001
Purolator Premium Plus L390001
Purolator Pure One PL30001
Quaker State Q58A
STP S-01
Wix 51515

I hope to add more brands to this study as I can acquire them.  The analysis is sorted by brand name in alphabetical order.  In each brand section, I have broken the information down into the brand name models, sorted by price.  Pictures coming soon!
 

Disassembly and Measurements

Basically, I cut open each filter on a lathe and took measurements of many of their attributes.  Simply cutting them open revealed some very interesting (and disturbing) information.

The sections below detail each of the filters I tested.  A summary of the measurements I took can be found in a table for each.  I noticed that other filter part numbers for the same brand were designed a bit differently.  This is probably because of the shape of the can and the requirements for that engine.  Here is a description of each table entry:
 
Average Retail Price The average of all the retail prices I found for this filter (to the nearest $0.50)
Cartridge Length The length of the filter cartridge, including end caps
Cartridge Outside Diameter The outside diameter of the filter cartridge element pleats
Cartridge Inside Diameter The inside diameter of the filter cartridge inside support tube
Cartridge Pleats The number of pleats (or folds) in the element while in the cartridge
Cartridge End Cap Type The type of material used to construct the end caps
Anti-Drainback Valve Type The valve design and construction material
Bypass Valve Type The valve design and construction material
Element Type The type of material used to construct the filter element and the seam seal
Element Length The overall length of the element when removed from the cartridge and stretched out
Element Width The width of the stretched-out element
Element Surface Area The calculated surface area of the cartridge using the above two values
Shell Thickness The thickness of the metal used to construct the filter's shell
Backplate Thickness The thickness of the metal used to construct the filter's backplate
Gasket Type The type of material used to construct the backplate sealing gasket (O-ring)
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure The amount of pressure that the filter case can withstand for a short duration without failure.
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency See the SAE Tests section for more details on this test.
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency See the SAE Tests section for more details on this test.

The construction of the anti-drainback and bypass valves is an important feature.  Many are made of nitrile rubber.  As long as they have good sealing surfaces, they generally work fine.  However, nitrile rubber gets stiff in extreme cold and will likely fail to seal in those conditions.  Silicone rubber seals or steel valves are not prone to this.  Many bypass valves are spring-loaded steel and work well.  Some are spring-loaded plastic and are often not molded well enough to make a decent seal, allowing oil to leak passed them.

Probably the most important value here is the element surface area.  This determines the amount of filter media that is available to trap particles.  The smaller the area, the sooner the filter will become plugged and will end up bypassing much of the oil instead of filtering it.  More pleats in the element does not necessarily mean more surface area (as you will soon see).  In fact, too many pleats can end up restricting the flow too much because there is not enough space between them to allow oil to flow.

The shell and backplate thickness are only relevant if your engine's oil system operates at unusually high pressures.  Even the cheapest filters have to be strong enough for stock oiling systems, or they will not pass SAE tests.

The SAE filtration efficiency tests are from the manufacturers, and are only available for the filters I could find the information for.

Other measurements and values are debatable and I will allow you to draw your own conclusions from them.
 

SAE Tests

All filters have to pass SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) tests to prove that they can truly filter out small enough particles.  There are two tests available for automobile engine oil filters.  All filters must pass the J806 test, but the new J1858 is much more meaningful.  Currently the J1858 test is optional.  Really, it's a way for high-end filter manufacturers to show off their great filters.

The SAE J806 test uses a single-pass test, checking for contaminant holding capacity, size of contaminant particles trapped, and ability to maintain clean oil.  As an amendment of the J806 test, the multi-pass test also looks for filter life in hours, contaminant capacity in grams, and efficiency based on weight.  The efficiency of the filter is determined only by 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.
 

AC Delco

Duraguard PF2

Some years ago, a study was done on oil filters that uncovered the Fram filter farce.  They named AC Delco's filter to be one of the better models.  Later, AC Delco changed their design and went to a cheaper setup made by an offshore manufacturer.  Even so, I definitely recommend this filter over the design of any Fram filter.  In fact, I even recommend it over the Champion and I (personally) prefer it over the Purolators.  However, the Wix filter is probably of a higher quality due to the AC Delco's mediocre anti-drainback valve.  Since the Wix is twice the price, I still recommend the AC Delco.

The filter cartridge has a large outside diameter with deep pleats, which gives the filter element the maximum flow possible.  At first glance, it appears to have little filter element media, but the surface area measure was surprising: 315 sqin.  The unit had a solid top end cap because the bypass valve is at the bottom, which is a well constructed spring-loaded steel with a nitrile seal design.  The nitrile rubber diaphram-type anti-drainback valve doubles as the seal between the bypass valve and the cartridge.  The only drawback to this design is that the bypass valve seats metal-to-metal against the backplate.  This could allow oil from the clean side of the filter to seep back into the oil pan, but it won't allow the dirty oil in the filter to seep back.  Oil that is in the main gallery usually leaks out through the main bearings anyway while the engine sits.  This is probably a better alternative to the high-end Wix, which can allow oil to seep from the dirty side of the filter to the clean side.  One disadvantage to the AC Delco is that the anti-drainback valve seals against a rough backplate.  I noticed that if I blow air through the oil outlet, air slowly leaks past the valve.  Even so, I have been getting testimonials that the AC Delco stops the valve train noise problems associated with the Fram filter, so it may seal fine once it has been exposed to oil.  The Wix and Purolator filters seal perfectly.

The telltale signs for an AC Delco filter are:  Five large holes for the oil inlet and 6 spot welds on the rim surrounding them.  There are no crimps holding the gasket in place.  When you look through the inlet holes, you can see the metal bypass valve with its 12 small holes and the black anti-drainback valve diaphragm around it.  Through the center outlet hole, you can see the spring for the bypass valve.

Exploded view:

 
Average Retail Price $3
Cartridge Length 4.625 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.375 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.375 inches
Cartridge Pleats 36
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped steel
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel
Element Type Paper media, glued seam
Element Length 70.0 inches
Element Width 4.500 inches
Element Surface Area 315 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.015 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.100 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

AMSOIL

SDF15

This filter has been acquired and is awaiting disassembly.
 
 

Car And Driver

SF-1A

This filter is a Champion filter with the one-piece filter cartridge and the fragile paper filter element.
 
Average Retail Price $3
Cartridge Length 4.000 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 54
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel, with bypass valve
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel, nitrile seal
Element Type Paper media, glued seam
Element Length 87 inches
Element Width 3.875 inches
Element Surface Area 337 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.012 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.102 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

Champ

?

This filter is manufactured by Champion Laboratories, Inc. (NOT the same guys who make the spark plugs), and is sold under several other brand names.  Champion admits some of these outright, and they are: Lee, Lee Maxi, and STP.  Though they claim the Lee Maxi is a higher quality filter, they make no claims as to why.  It sounds more like a marketing scheme to me, but I have yet to prove it by buying the filter.

The Champion design has metal end caps on the filter cartridge, with the bypass valve stamped right into the bottom end cap like the Purolator.  I refer to this as a one-piece filter cartridge.  Though definitely not the same design as the Purolator, it does use the same type of leaf-spring-type spacer at the top of the cartridge and the nitrile anti-drainback valve, which doubles as the cartridge-to-backplate seal, at the bottom.  The drawback to this one-piece cartridge is the rather fragile filter element paper media.  It is a thin, brittle paper that rips fairly easily.  It was difficult to disassemble these cartridges without destroying the filter element.  One other issue is that I sometimes noticed was some rust on the backplate of these filters.  Since the rust is usually around by the inlet holes, any loose rust would be caught by the filter.

The telltale signs for a Champion filter are: 6 large holes for the oil inlet, one of which is larger than the others.  Only the black anti-drainback valve can be seen through the inlet holes.  There are 6 large crimps holding the gasket in place.  Through the center outlet hole, you can see the bypass valve spring.  Usually, the backplate metal is dull, or even rusty.
 
 

Deutsch

D539

This filter is a Champion filter with the one-piece filter cartridge and the fragile paper filter element.
 
Average Retail Price $3
Cartridge Length 4.000 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 55
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel, with bypass valve
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel, nitrile seal
Element Type Paper media, glued seam
Element Length 88.5 inches
Element Width 3.875 inches
Element Surface Area 343 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.012 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.102 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

D545

This filter has not yet been acquired, but is apparently a heavy-duty version of the D539 (Champion).
 
 

Fram

Years ago Fram was a quality filter manufacturer.  Now their standard filter (the radioactive orange cans) is one of the worst out there.  These filters are manufactured by Allied Signal, Inc.  Please do not buy these filters.  By boycotting it, we may be able to cause some change.  I have personally had one if these filters fail and actually cause engine damage due to bits of paper and glue floating around in the engine.

For some inside dirt on Fram filters, see this email from an Allied Signal production engineer.

Fram Extra Guard PH8A

This filter cartridge has a small outside diameter with a rather low filter element surface area (193 sqin), and features cardboard end caps that are glued in place.  The rubber anti-drainback valve seals the rough metal backplate to the cardboard end cap and easily leaks, causing dirty oil to drain back into the pan.  If you have a noisy valve train at startup, this filter is likely the cause.  The bypass valves are plastic and are sometimes not molded correctly, which allows them to leak all the time, but they may leak anyway.  The backplate has smaller and fewer oil inlet holes, which may restrict flow, and is made of thin material.

The telltale signs for a Fram Extra Guard are: It has 8 small holes for the oil inlet and a thin, cheap looking backplate, and is currently stamped with a "2Y".  There are 5 very small crimps holding the gasket in place.  If you look into the center hole all the way to the top of the filter, you will see a kind of "button" in the end cap of the cartridge (which looks like it's made of metal from there).  This is the plastic bypass valve.

Exploded view:

 
Average Retail Price $3
Cartridge Length 4.125 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.000 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.375 inches
Cartridge Pleats 34
Cartridge End Cap Type Cardboard
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded plastic
Element Type Paper media, stamped metal seam
Element Length 47.5 inches
Element Width 4.063 inches
Element Surface Area 193 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.015 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.089 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

Fram Tough Guard TG8A

Even with all the problems of the other Fram filters, this one is not too bad.  Aside from the filter cartridge, it is a very good design.  Too bad Fram can't get passed the cardboard end caps.

It has an improved filter element with more surface area (248 sqin), a heavy silicone anti-drainback valve with a good sealing surface, the same plastic pressure relief valve but with an integral screen to keep out large particles, and enough inlet holes for good flow.  The only real drawback to this filter is that it is capped on each end with cardboard instead of metal.

The telltale signs for a Fram Tough Guard filter are:  It has a better backplate that is usually shiny, with six larger holes for the inlet and 6 spot welds around the them.  There are 6 large crimps holding the gasket in place.  When you look through the inlet holes, you can see the orange anti-drainback valve.  If you look into the center hole all the way to the top of the filter, you will see a kind of "button" in the end cap of the cartridge (which looks like it's made of metal from there).  This is the plastic bypass valve.
 
Average Retail Price $5
Cartridge Length 4.125 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.000 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 50
Cartridge End Cap Type Cardboard
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Silicone rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded plastic with integral screen
Element Type Paper media, stamped metal seam
Element Length 61.0 inches
Element Width 4.063 inches
Element Surface Area 248 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.015 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.187 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber, PTFE-treated
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown


Far Left: extra guard cartridge.  Left: Double Guard.  Right: Tough Guard

Fram Double Guard DG8A

This is a frustrating filter.  Please do not buy it.  It is one of the most expensive filters you can buy and it is junk.  Inside is a basic Fram Extra Guard (PH8A) filter element that has larger diameter holes at the end and has been pre-oiled.  You can see this in the picture above (far left).  I assume this is to hold the Teflon particles in the filter element before the unit is installed.  Don't put Teflon in your engine.  It does not belong there!  DuPont does not recommend using their Teflon product in internal combustion engines.

Although it has the worst filter element possible (193 sqin), it does have a clever spring-loaded nitrile rubber anti-drainback valve and bypass valve combination.  Too bad the rest of the filter is worthless.  Please don't buy this filter!

The telltale signs for a Fram Tough Guard filter are:  It has a better backplate that is usually shiny, with six larger holes for the inlet and 6 spot welds around the them.  The backplate should be stamped with a "1K".  There are 6 large crimps holding the gasket in place.  The anti-drainback valve diaphragm behind the inlet holes is black.  If you look into the center hole all the way to the top of the filter, you will not see the "button" in the end cap of the cartridge (which looks like it's made of metal from there).
 
Average Retail Price $10
Cartridge Length 4.125 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.000 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 38
Cartridge End Cap Type Cardboard
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Nitrile rubber, integral
Element Type Paper media, stamped metal seam
Element Length 47.5 inches
Element Width 4.063 inches
Element Surface Area 193 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.015 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.187 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

Hard Driver

HD01

This filter has been acquired and is awaiting full disassembly.
 
Average Retail Price $8.50 + $4 shipping
Cartridge Length ? inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter ? inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter ? inches
Cartridge Pleats ?
Cartridge End Cap Type ?
Anti-Drainback Valve Type ?
Bypass Valve Type ?
Element Type Synthetic media
Element Length ? inches
Element Width ? inches
Element Surface Area ? square inches
Shell Thickness ? inches
Backplate Thickness ? inches
Gasket Type ?
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure 200 psi
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency 95% at 10 microns
98% at 20 microns
98% at 30 microns
98% at 40 microns

 

Mobil 1

M1-301

Like the Champ filter, this filter is made by Champion Industries.  However, it uses a unique end plate and a thicker can that make it the strongest filter available for wide distribution retail sale.  It also does not use the fragile paper media of the Champion filter.  I'm happy to say that this filter is NOT a fake.  It is definitely a unique design.

It uses a synthetic fiber element that can filter out very small particles and is much stronger than the fragile, Champion paper media.  It is rated just under the Purolator Pure One as far as filtering capability, but is still very much above conventional paper filters.  It also has a very strong construction to withstand high pressure spikes during start-up.  Given the choice between the Purolator Pure One and the Mobil 1 filters, I would choose the Mobil 1 because of the restriction concerns of the Pure One and that pesky assembly string.  However, as with all Mobil 1 products, expect to pay 2 - 3 times as much for this filter.

Exploded view:

 
Average Retail Price $10
Cartridge Length 4.250 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 52
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel, with bypass valve
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel, nitrile seal
Element Type Synthetic media, glued seam
Element Length 85 inches
Element Width 4.125 inches
Element Surface Area 351 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.022 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.138 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure 600 psi
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Single pass: 98%
Multiple pass: 95%
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

Mopar

This section has moved to it own page:

Oil filter Study Special Model Feature: Mopar
 

Motorcraft

Long Lasting FL-1A

This is an interesting filter.  Basically, it is a Purolator Pure One filter cartridge in a Purolator Premium Plus case.  Don't be fooled by the differently shaped holes cut into the oil inlet.  This is the only difference.  This is a good filter design and if you want to get a Purolator Pure One filter, get this one instead: it is cheaper.

Like the Purolator Pure One, this filter cartridge features a very large element surface area (400 sqin), but with many pleats (64).  This packs the filter together rather tightly and may restrict flow somewhat.  I could identify the Pure One element media by a purple dye they use at the seam.  It also has the mysterious assembly string wrapped around the outside of the element.  Like the Purolators, it features a spring-loaded metal bypass valve and a nitrile rubber diaphram-type anti-drainback valve.  The bypass valve is stamped right into the bottom end cap of the cartridge, so it is all one piece.

This data is taken from the Purolator specs and are not from Motorcraft:
 
Average Retail Price $3
Cartridge Length 4.125 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 64
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel, with bypass valve
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel
Element Type Paper media, stamped metal seam
Element Length 100.0 inches
Element Width 4.000 inches
Element Surface Area 400 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.011 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.120 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Single pass: 99.7%
Multiple pass: 96%
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

NAPA

1515 Gold

This filter is a Wix filter with the two-piece filter cartridge.  As with the Wix filter, the metal bypass valve seats on the metal cartridge end cap with no gasket of any kind.  Some small amount of oil probably leaks through there.  It also has the tougher paper filter media of the Wix.
 
Average Retail Price $5
Cartridge Length 4.000 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 59
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel, nitrile seal
Element Type Paper media, glued seam
Element Length 87 inches
Element Width 3.875 inches
Element Surface Area 337 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.014 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.104 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

51515 Silver

This filter is a Champion filter with the one-piece filter cartridge.  As with the other Champion filters, it has the fragile paper media for a filter element.  This is based off of my observation of the filter's case.  I did not purchase this filter to tear down, but may do so in the future.
 
 

Pennzoil

PZ-1

This filter was a big disappointment, but I knew what I was in for the moment I took it out of the box.  It is a Fram Extra Guard (PH8A) in every way, shape, and form.  The only difference is the yellow paint and Pennzoil logo.  As with the Fram, please do not buy this filter.

All the measurements were exactly the same as the Fram Extra Guard PH8A.
 
Average Retail Price $2
Cartridge Length 4.125 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.000 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.375 inches
Cartridge Pleats 34
Cartridge End Cap Type Cardboard
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded plastic
Element Type Paper media, stamped metal seam
Element Length 47.5 inches
Element Width 4.063 inches
Element Surface Area 193 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.015 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.089 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

PowerFlo

SL30001

As you may suspect by the part number, this filter is a Purolator Premium Plus.  There were no manufacturing differences, but the cost was an average of $2 instead of $3.
 
 

ProLine

PPL-30001

Yet another Purolator Premium Plus.  All measurements were the same.  The cost was $2.  One thing I noticed with this particular example was that the mysterious assembly string was tied too tight and had damaged the filter element.  Although only this one had the problem, I am suspicious of this filter design as a whole (including all of the Purolators).

<- With String - String Removed -> 

As you may be able to tell, the string did not rip into the filter element, it only crushed it.  There was no evidence that the element had been compromised.  Out of the 8 Purolators (and clones) tested, this was the only one with a problem.
 
 

Purolator

Premium Plus L30001


Left to Right: Motorcraft, Purolator Pure One, Purolator Premium Plus

Here is a fairly well designed filter, especially for the price.  One odd thing about Purolator's filters is a string that is always wrapped around the filter element.  I assume that this is there to hold the element in place while the glue in the end caps cures.  Of all the Purolator-based filter I tested, there was one (the ProLine) that had filter element damage from this string.  Although it was one of five tested, I am weary of this design.  Even though the element was crushed a bit, it was not ripped.  I will take apart a used one at my next oil change.

The filter cartridge has an impressive surface area of 316 sqin, which is very close to the AC Delco Duraguard.  The difference is that Purolator's filter element is compressed into more pleats (51) than the AC Delco.  This may restrict flow somewhat, but not as much in this model than the Pure One.  It features a spring-loaded metal bypass valve and a nitrile rubber diaphram-type anti-drainback valve, which doubles as the seal between the backplate and the cartridge.  Like the Champion, this bypass valve is stamped right into the bottom end cap of the cartridge, so it is all one piece.

The telltale sign for a Purolator filter are: 8 medium-sized holes for the oil inlet and nothing but a black (or orange for the Pure One) diaphragm to be seen through them.  There are 6 large crimps holding the gasket in place.  Through the center outlet hole, you can see the spring for the bypass valve.

Exploded view:

 
Average Retail Price $3
Cartridge Length 4.125 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 51
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel
Element Type Paper media, stamped metal seam
Element Length 79.0 inches
Element Width 4.000 inches
Element Surface Area 316 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.011 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.115 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

Pure One PL30001

This filter has a few improvements over the Premium Plus.  It has a denser filter media to filter out smaller particles and more surface area to make up for the flow restriction.  Aside from those the cartridge is the same construction as the Premium Plus.

The filter cartridge has an even more impressive surface area of 400 sqin.  The potential issue is that this filter element is compressed into even more pleats (64) than the Premium Plus.  This may restrict flow more than it helps relieve it.  It also features a spring-loaded metal bypass valve and a silicone rubber diaphram-type anti-drainback valve, which doubles as the seal between the backplate and the cartridge.  The bypass valve is located at the base of the cartridge, not at the top.
 
Average Retail Price $5
Cartridge Length 4.125 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 64
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Silicone rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel
Element Type Paper media, stamped metal seam
Element Length 100.0 inches
Element Width 4.000 inches
Element Surface Area 400 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.011 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.115 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber, PTFE-treated
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Single pass: 99.7%
Multiple pass: 96%
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

Quaker State

QS8A

Yet another Purolator Premium Plus.  Who are these people fooling?  Cost was a bit over $2.  If you like Purolators and you like the color green, buy this filter.
 
 

STP

S-01

This filter is the Champion Industries filter with the one-piece filter cartridge and the fragile paper element.
 
Average Retail Price $3
Cartridge Length 4.000 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 58
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel, with bypass valve
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel, nitrile seal
Element Type Paper media, glued seam
Element Length 93 inches
Element Width 3.875 inches
Element Surface Area 360 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.012 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.102 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

Wix

These filters are manufactured by the Dana corporation, who also manufactures all of the Wix clones.  These include NAPA and many OEM filters.

NOTE: This section of the page was incorrect in regards to the "low-end" and "high-end" Wix concept.  What I thought was a "low-end" Wix is actually manufactured by Champion Industries.  My thanks to those who pointed this out to me.  If you see any remaining references to low-end and high-end Wix filters, let me know.  Hopefully I found them all.

This filter has metal cartridge end caps, but has a separate bypass valve that rests against the bottom end cap, like the AC Delco.  I refer to this as a two-piece filter cartridge.  Like the Champion, it uses an anti-drainback valve that doubles as the bypass valve-to-backplate seal.  Instead of the leaf-spring-type spacer that most filters use, these use a stiff coil spring at the top of the cartridge.  Like the Purolator, the filter element paper media is stronger than the Champion media.  The only drawback to this design is that the bypass valve seats metal-to-metal against the bottom cartridge end plate.  This could allow dirty oil to seep from the dirty side to the clean side of the filter, bypassing the element.  The design will not allow oil to seep back into the pan, though.

The telltale signs for a Wix are: 6 large holes for the oil inlet with only the black anti-drainback valve to be seen through them.  There are 6 "notches" that hold the gasket in place.  Through the center outlet hole, you can see the bypass valve spring.  Usually the backplate metal is shiny.

51515

This filter features a good surface area, but a lot of shallower pleats.  This makes it similar to the Purolator's pleats.


 
Average Retail Price $5
Cartridge Length 4.000 inches
Cartridge Outside Diameter 3.250 inches
Cartridge Inside Diameter 1.625 inches
Cartridge Pleats 61
Cartridge End Cap Type Stamped-steel
Anti-Drainback Valve Type Nitrile rubber diaphragm
Bypass Valve Type Spring-loaded steel, nitrile seal
Element Type Paper media, glued seam
Element Length 90 inches
Element Width 3.875 inches
Element Surface Area 349 square inches
Shell Thickness 0.014 inches
Backplate Thickness 0.104 inches
Gasket Type Nitrile rubber
Hydrostatic Burst Pressure Unknown
SAE J806 Filtration Efficiency Unknown
SAE J1858 Filtration Efficiency Unknown

 

Conclusions

All of this information can be a bit overwhelming.  When it comes down to it, all of the lower-priced filters ($5 or below) have their ups and downs.  In reality, there are only five different manufacturers available.  Here are the low-cost filters that I feel safe using, based on all this information (in alphabetical order): AC Delco, Purolator, and Wix.  Here are my reasons for each:

I like the deep pleats of the AC Delco's filter element and the fact that it is not weak like the Champion.  I also like the way that the anti-drainback valve diaphragm makes a positive seal to the filter cartridge and to the bypass valve, which sort of "snaps" into the diaphragm.  The fact that the bypass valve seats against the backplate metal-to-metal is not a big deal.  It probably doesn't leak anyway, but if it does, only clean oil can get back into the pan.  In case you haven't noticed, I like this filter.  :-)  It is the best filter that you can buy for $3.

The Purolator is a very solid design.  It seems to have the toughest paper filter element of them all and the bypass valve is built right into the cartridge.  There are no internal sealing problems with this filter at all.  I wish the inner diameter of the cartridge was smaller so that the pleats could be fewer and deeper.  The Premium Plus version looks like it flows fine, but the Pure One or Motorcraft versions seem to be packed a bit too tightly.  That assembly string still bothers me somewhat, but not enough to avoid these well-made filters completely.  My '88 Shadow ES (as of 2/24/99) has a Purolator Premium Plus in it right now.  I plan to cut it open and see how it holds up at the next oil change.

I don't care for the Champion filters.  The filter elements are way too fragile to give me much confidence in them.  That, along with the rusty backplates, makes me shy away from them.  Some decent filter material and a little oil used during assembly would make this into a fine filter.  Like the Purolator, I like how the bypass valve is built right into the filter cartridge.  This filter has no internal sealing problems, either.  Even so, I won't be using them.

The Wix filter is a very well made filter.  My praise goes to Dana for putting some effort into it.  Aside from being a stronger case, it also uses a much better filter element (about the same as the AC Delco).  Like the AC Delco, it also has a minor internal sealing problem.  In this case, the bypass valve has a metal-to-metal seal to the filter cartridge.  It probably doesn't really leak either, but if it did, dirty oil could get to the clean side of the filter.  Otherwise it is a good filter.  Given the choice between the Wix and the AC Delco at the same cost, I'd pick one while blind-folded.  However, the Wix is about twice the price, so...

If money is no object, I would go with the Mobil 1.  Although it has Champion internals, it has a really tough synthetic fiber filter element, which is the Champion's only major downfall.  The element is stronger and thicker than the Purolator, but they claim that it flows just as good as paper.  As with the other Champion filters, it has no internal sealing problems.  The $10 price tag is a bit steep, but it is the best filter you can buy retail.  Watch for "Mobil 1 Oil Change" sales, which includes 5 quarts of Mobil 1 synthetic oil and a Mobil 1 filter.  Granted, there are probably better filters available through mail order, but I haven't tested those yet...

I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time.  It could easily change if another filter (or one of the filters I am waiting on) comes around and is better.

It should be clear that Mopar filters are really nothing special.  Unless you are trying to have a perfect restoration and need that Mopar logo, there is no reason why you should be buying Mopar oil filters.  Most of them seem to currently be Purolators or Champions, but that could change at any time.

See the AC Delco, Champion, Fram, Purolator, and Wix sections for information on how to identify these manufacturers by looking at the backplate.  The tell-tale signs are always there.
 
 
 
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This page was written and is maintained by Russ W. Knize and was last updated 05/25/99. Comments? Questions? Email rknize@interaccess.com.