How did engines clean oil before oil filters?

Joined
Sep 5, 2021
Messages
1,423
Can anyone provide some insight on what any other types of filtration or oil cleaning was used before 1922, when the first Purolator canister filter came out. Below is a timeline I put together from some online reading but would like to see what the BITOG community can add.

Modern Spin on Oil Filter (50's to present)->

Cartridge filters (30's to present) ->

Sealed canister filters (20's to 30's) ->

Sump oil Screens/mesh used before filters? (?? to present) ->

Engine oilers / lubricators (total-loss system) were used to feed friction areas oil on 2 cycle engines (advent of the combustion engine to steam era?)

From what I could gather, screens and meshes were used on Brass Era wet sump engines. Not that those were serviceable, they were just catastrophic failure protection. Those engines that didn't have any protection, that was it, deal with the wear and change your oil often?

For example: The Model A didn't have an engine oil filter, just a screen in the oil pump. The 1903 Olds Runabout was a 2 stroke, used oilers, like hit and miss farm engines and steam engine cylinders.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 9, 2016
Messages
573
Location
Cheshire, England
My very first car had no filter, only a centrifugal oil cleaner and judging by the sludge it collected it seemed to work reasonably effectively.
I know that BMW motorcycle engines a few generations older than mine employed a similar principle. The secret for long engine life was to know that you had to periodically clean these devices because once they filled up, they ceased to work. On the car it was a relatively simple operation of removing a circular plate, but the motorcycle engine needed a substantial strip down.

One of the most successful motorcycle engines ever made relied on splash lubrication and had a coarse metal screen that figuratively speaking would only stop half bricks.
 

Owen Lucas

Thread starter
Joined
Sep 5, 2021
Messages
1,423
My very first car had no filter, only a centrifugal oil cleaner and judging by the sludge it collected it seemed to work reasonably effectively.
What kind of car was that if you don't mind me asking? I'm interested in seeing what a centrifugal system looks like.
 
Joined
Jan 9, 2016
Messages
573
Location
Cheshire, England
What kind of car was that if you don't mind me asking? I'm interested in seeing what a centrifugal system looks like.

It was the original fiat 500 back in the 60's. This was the plate that had to be removed to be cleaned out. The filter was built into the crankshaft pulley which was hollow to allow oil to enter in the centre and be spun out wards as the pulley rotated. Very simple really.

Coperchio-centrifuga-Fiat-500-126-small-23894-545.jpg
 

Owen Lucas

Thread starter
Joined
Sep 5, 2021
Messages
1,423
It was the original fiat 500 back in the 60's. This was the plate that had to be removed to be cleaned out. The filter was built into the crankshaft pulley which was hollow to allow oil to enter in the centre and be spun out wards as the pulley rotated. Very simple really.

View attachment 124898
Very interesting, a simple mechanical solution, just fling the oil against the wall of a container, let the sludge accumulate and then scrape it off. I don't think it would work on a modern engine though with all of the modern detergents unless you really never change the oil.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
3,599
Location
British Columbia, Canada
I remember the oil bath air cleaner on my Dad's '54 DeSoto Firedome. I believe "Firedome" was the name of the car model,
I assume the engine (a hemi) had its own marketing nickname.
My '63 Chevy II came with an oil bath air filter (or maybe it was an oil soaked filter - who knows with this old school technology). The first thing I did was replace it with a cylindrical paper air filter.
 
Joined
Mar 12, 2015
Messages
23,145
Location
In the shop
Can anyone provide some insight on what any other types of filtration or oil cleaning was used before 1922, when the first Purolator canister filter came out. Below is a timeline I put together from some online reading but would like to see what the BITOG community can add.

Modern Spin on Oil Filter (50's to present)->

Cartridge filters (30's to present) ->

Sealed canister filters (20's to 30's) ->

Sump oil Screens/mesh used before filters? (?? to present) ->

Engine oilers / lubricators (total-loss system) were used to feed friction areas oil on 2 cycle engines (advent of the combustion engine to steam era?)

From what I could gather, screens and meshes were used on Brass Era wet sump engines. Not that those were serviceable, they were just catastrophic failure protection. Those engines that didn't have any protection, that was it, deal with the wear and change your oil often?

For example: The Model A didn't have an engine oil filter, just a screen in the oil pump. The 1903 Olds Runabout was a 2 stroke, used oilers, like hit and miss farm engines and steam engine cylinders.


On the one navy ship I was in; the Waukesha engines uses a centrifuge setup. Oil fed into it and contaminants stuck to walls of the centrifuge. Every so many hours we removed the element and scraped the stuff off with paint scrapers and rinsed element with kerosene. We used Rotella T4 15w40 HDEO oil also
 
Top