Filter size: yesteryear vs today

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Jan 16, 2021
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The thread asking about your first filter purchase, and the looking-back responses, got me to thinking about filter sizes.

When I got started working on cars in the late 1970s, I was mainly working on Mopars from the '60s and '70s. They took these enormous filters which were about 6" tall by 4" in diameter. And the other manufacturers were pretty much the same. Ford filters were about the same size as that, and GM filters were a little shorter but still pretty big. When people said an oil change was four quarts plus one for the filter, that was pretty close to literally true.

Then along came the GM X-body cars with little transverse engines, and these new little oil filters to fit them started popping up in the parts store where I worked. They were itty-bitty by comparison to what we were all used to, and we called them "peanut" filters - does anyone else remember that? We made fun of them; couldn't take them seriously. Customers would balk the first time they bought a filter for their X-car, and some of them would ask if there was a way to retrofit a "normal" filter. And then GM started using them on other engines, and customers didn't like that either, but there was not much to be done about it.

Of course, today that "tiny" filter size is normal and accepted for many if not most passenger car engines. Turns out they work just fine, and if I saw one of those old Mopar filters today it would look freakishly large. Times change.
 

ZeeOSix

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Oil is a lot better these days, and engines are also a lot cleaner running. Hence, the smaller sized oil filters of today don't get exposed to as much debris, and still get the recommended service interval done with no real issues.
 
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My 2015 5.7 HEMI still uses a full size filter. I think this has more to do with manufacturers being cheap, than it does with engines all of a sudden being so wonderful and clean.

My 2018 Toyota Camry takes one of those cheap, tiny little, "mini filters". The can itself is so thin and cheaply made, I can crush it with a strap wrench removing it. This is all about cost. Now they are able to make 3 filters with the same material they used to make one out of. The dollars. Always the dollars.
 
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Still run yesteryear filters, :D

1648708851171.jpeg
 
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I too remember these LARGE filters. I used LEE Maxi filter aplenty on many a MOPAR. 🚔
At my Dad's gas station, were used Purolator filters exclusively in which I personally used as well when I worked with him.
I also remember when AC Delco filters were always White Cans(vintage today) however they're Blue today just like SuperTech.

Engines were LARGE back then. I mean, even a 6 cyl was BIG and 8 cyl were HUGE. I never saw a 4 cyl until the late 70s and they were all Datsun, Toyota or VW. Now, I prefer them and need nothing more. I like larger but I certainly don't need more. YES, less is more.
 
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"...enormous", "..."same size as that", "...a little shorter but still pretty big", "little', "...itty-bitty", "tiny", "...smaller", "...full size", "...mini filters", "...LARGE"; we're talking empiricism here.
 
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My 2015 5.7 HEMI still uses a full size filter. I think this has more to do with manufacturers being cheap, than it does with engines all of a sudden being so wonderful and clean.

My 2018 Toyota Camry takes one of those cheap, tiny little, "mini filters". The can itself is so thin and cheaply made, I can crush it with a strap wrench removing it. This is all about cost. Now they are able to make 3 filters with the same material they used to make one out of. The dollars. Always the dollars.
And yet I've gotten over 300,000 miles on my old ECHO by using the same oil filter as is on my standby generator. How is that possible? And pretty much a "tiny" filter on my Sienna with over 450,000 miles.
 
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The thread asking about your first filter purchase, and the looking-back responses, got me to thinking about filter sizes.

When I got started working on cars in the late 1970s, I was mainly working on Mopars from the '60s and '70s. They took these enormous filters which were about 6" tall by 4" in diameter. And the other manufacturers were pretty much the same. Ford filters were about the same size as that, and GM filters were a little shorter but still pretty big. When people said an oil change was four quarts plus one for the filter, that was pretty close to literally true.

Then along came the GM X-body cars with little transverse engines, and these new little oil filters to fit them started popping up in the parts store where I worked. They were itty-bitty by comparison to what we were all used to, and we called them "peanut" filters - does anyone else remember that? We made fun of them; couldn't take them seriously. Customers would balk the first time they bought a filter for their X-car, and some of them would ask if there was a way to retrofit a "normal" filter. And then GM started using them on other engines, and customers didn't like that either, but there was not much to be done about it.

Of course, today that "tiny" filter size is normal and accepted for many if not most passenger car engines. Turns out they work just fine, and if I saw one of those old Mopar filters today it would look freakishly large. Times change.
We called them "Tea Cup" filters. My first oil change that I can remember was on a 67 Chevy Bel Air, with the metal cartridge filter. This was pre-spin on style for small block Chevys of the day. Second oil change was on VW bug, with no oil filter and crude screen filter. I remember thinking "this is why" these little engines dont last too long....LOL.
 
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todays oils are surely better BUT are that much cleaner + dont forget DI a major source of contamination!!! COST + fitments are the main issue for sure. some smaller engines have bigger sumps like VW as more oil can safely be run longer + dont forget it acts as a coolant as well. small filters are just another cheep out IMO as pennies make lots of $$$$ when sooo many are made + of course the bean $$$$ counters are always trying to cut corners $$$$ its ALWAYS about the $$$$$ especially in our great USA where money hungry corporations ALWAYS want MORE $$$$
 
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And yet I've gotten over 300,000 miles on my old ECHO by using the same oil filter as is on my standby generator. How is that possible? And pretty much a "tiny" filter on my Sienna with over 450,000 miles.

Absolutely none of that equates, (or ever will for that matter), to a smaller oil filter being better.
 
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Absolutely none of that equates, (or ever will for that matter), to a smaller oil filter being better.
I thought the criteria was that it works “fine” not better.

But even then a smaller filter with a higher efficiency is better than a larger one with a lower efficiency. That doesn’t have anything to do with size. Even on my old Sienna when I cut open filters after 7500 miles there is very little to nothing in the pleats, so having a larger element doesn’t seem like a big deal at least in my application.
 

dnewton3

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todays oils are surely better BUT are that much cleaner + dont forget DI a major source of contamination!!!
True, but it needs to be understood in context ...
Soot particles in a gasoline ICEs start out so small that filters cannot do anything at all to abate the existence of soot. GDI soot starts out around 40nm in size (that's nano-meters, which is 1/1000th of a micron). A soot particle has to "grow" (agglomerate, or co-join with other soot particles) about 100x larger just to become 4um in size, and even at 4um in size, any "normal" full flow filter would pratically never catch that particle. The additives in oil (the anti-agglomerates) keep the soot in suspension and deter the soot from getting ever larger. Only after the additves were fully involved would the soot really start to become a big problem. The topic of soot is so incredibly misunderstood it's laughable at times. If you're using a decent API certitifed oil for your application, and your OCIs are not greatly extended, then soot control really isn't a thing to worry about. The filter is not controlling soot; that's the job of the oil addtives. There are other insolubles (oxidation byproducts) that are larger than soot, but those are not "hard" abrasive particles like soot is, and therefore most insolubles have a much lower propensity to damage the engine.

COST + fitments are the main issue for sure. some smaller engines have bigger sumps like VW as more oil can safely be run longer + dont forget it acts as a coolant as well. small filters are just another cheep out IMO as pennies make lots of $$$$ when sooo many are made + of course the bean $$$$ counters are always trying to cut corners $$$$ its ALWAYS about the $$$$$ especially in our great USA where money hungry corporations ALWAYS want MORE $$$$
Yes, cost matters. Profits matter. Most any large company which is successful and publically traded has to compete not only for market share, but also share-holder money as well. Share holders expect large returns on investment; hence squeezing every penny out of a product they can find.

And unless you fell into a bucket of money at birth, and never had to work a day in your life, there's probably some measure of profitt that paid your salary as well. And you likely got raises, too. Those don't come from thin air; they come out of the profit margin of the products/services you or your company provides. (I am excluding the topics of tax-based government and similar jobs, for the purpose of not discussing "politics" .... so let's leave that alone shall we?)
 

dwasifar

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Wow, guys, I didn't mean to provoke a fight. I didn't intend to take a stand about whether or not we should have bigger filters today. I only meant to observe that perceptions have changed along with the technology over the years.
 
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Companies "cheaping out" isn't part of it. Ever compare the cost of a smaller canister filter vs. a much larger one? The larger one is often cheaper and easier to manufacture. I think packaging and innovation are key factors. Small filters might not hold as much oil, but they can hold more contaminants with more pleats, etc. Smaller filters can also be used across more platforms due to their size, and in many cases take less time to fill up with oil over a larger filter.

5qt capacity vs 5 1/4 qt capacity won't make a measurable difference in engine life if the oil is changed at appropriate intervals, and if an engine is shedding so much material that it completely clogs a smaller filter in one OCI then that engine is done for anyway.
 
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Stop playing with words. You remind me of the same crowd who banters, "I only change my oil filter every 14th oil change, and my car runs fine!"

It proves nothing.
I read the OP's post and that's what I was responding to. You are the one who used the word "better" which neither I nor the OP had used.

I don't subscribe to the notion that a larger filter is automatically better, no. To me that is secondary to filtering efficiency. All assuming it is designed and constructed properly so that it does not fail during use.
 

OVERKILL

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Some engines (GM LSx, Mopar HEMI) still spec larger filters. These are also "dirty" engines compared to some of their peers. There's actually an AMSOIL TSB on the matter that reduces the filter OCI length on them because of that. The filters were loading up to the point of bypass with the longer 25,000 mile intervals.

The Ford and Mopar engines that spec'd the big FL-1A sized filter were able to do so because of where the filter was located IIRC. The Windsor had it on the side of the block, on an angle, as did the Mopar engines. GM put the filter straight down, at the bottom of the block, so they used a shorter filter, I assume due to vulnerability of location.

Interestingly, while some of the current canister filters are indeed pretty tiny, some of the cartridge filters are quite large. Often, even if smaller diameter, they are very long, and thus have a lot of media area when compared to the tiny canister filters.

The filter out of my S62 was actually larger than an FL-1A, and was a cartridge:
m5filter02.jpg
 
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