I always run oil around the rubber rim of the new filter, and screw it in by hand, maybe a couple of twists with an oil filter strap wrench.

But when it comes to removing it, it's a massive ordeal. It just wont budge. I've broken strap wrenches and claw sockets. Most times, I end up having to drive a thick screw driver through the filter, adding a breaker bar to it, and hammering or levering the damn thing.

Is there something weird going on here? Is there a trick to making it easier to come off for next time?

  • 2
    You obviously don't pump iron, lol....
    – Moab
    Aug 7, 2016 at 21:50
  • 4
    @Moab haha I'm a 30yo ex-boxer. I'm no body builder but not a slouch either. Believe me when I say this SOB is stuck.
    – MeltingDog
    Aug 7, 2016 at 21:55
  • 3
    – Jason C
    Aug 7, 2016 at 21:57
  • I always do a 1/2 to 3/4 turn after seal contact. Lubricate the filter seal and clean seal base prior to install.
    – Moab
    Aug 7, 2016 at 22:23
  • 2
    As with everyone else, I only ever tighten by hand. At that point my gloves usually have a thin film of oil as well so I can't get a great grip on it, but I still end up having to use a filter wrench to remove it. Aug 8, 2016 at 13:25

7 Answers 7


... and screw it in by hand, maybe a couple of twists with an oil filter strap wrench.

Don't over-tighten it. Tighten it by hand then at most about a quarter turn with a strap wrench or by hand (definitely not a couple twists!)

A good indicator is if you can unscrew your new filter by hand with just a minimal amount of initial strength. Go for this when installing a new filter. If the new filter you just installed requires a wrench or some serious muscle to unscrew, you've got it on too tight.

If you want a number for it, my vehicle calls for 16 ft-lb torque on the filter, others are similar. Fwiw, I've only ever hand tightened them.

  • 6
    Agreed ... just a 1/4 to 1/2 turn past seal touchdown is all that it takes. A filter is always harder to take off than the force it took to put it on ... or so it would seem :o) Aug 7, 2016 at 21:58
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    Several of the filter brands I've used have markings to indicate how far one should turn them past where the gasket makes contact. It's usually only about 3/4 of a turn.
    – Perkins
    Aug 8, 2016 at 22:26
  • I had 3 years of auto shop in high school, and did plenty of oil changes and yes, always hand-tighten only! Aug 12, 2016 at 2:05

Oil filter strap wrenches are made to remove filters, not put them on. Oil filters should be made finger-tight, not hand-tight and certainly not wrench-tight. The filter will go through expansion-contraction cycles with the heat from the engine, it will tighten itself up, as you've testified to.

If you only make it finger-tight when you install them, you shoud be able to wrestle it off using the full force of your hand and arm, strap wrench is supposed to be your last resort. I only need a strap wrench to remove the filter from one of my cars where the oil filter is in a bad place and I can't make a fist around it, and I ain't no former boxer. :)

  • 1
    What is the difference between finger-tight and hand-tight?
    – Jed Schaaf
    Aug 8, 2016 at 19:27
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    @JedSchaaf Finger-tight: you hold the thing like you are replacing a light-bulb and twist it tight. Hand-tight: you wrap your hand around the thing like you are making a fist and twist it tight. Making a fist allows you to apply way more strength because you are using a tighter grip. :)
    – tlhIngan
    Aug 8, 2016 at 19:36

Not sure this applies to your situation, but worth mentioning. I once had a car with the oil filter on the side of the engine. It was easier to replace the oil filter by reaching down from above. However, it was not easy to see the filter, so the work was by touch. This made it difficult to gauge the required 3/4 turn after the seal made contact when installing the filter. After over-tightening the filter a few times I learned to rest a finger on the indentations around the top of the filter and count how many passed by after the seal made contact to get the right tightness.


I always take the seal off of the filter and oil it completely. I don't really know if this helps but I would think it would create an additional possible "slipping point".

I have some silicone based grease I might try instead next oil change. Applied just lightly. Slippery stuff, with PTFE. It's called Super Lube (R) <-LOL :o )

  • 1
    I agree with oiling the gasket, but I would generally recommend against applying foreign lubes to the system. If the filter is installed correctly there is no need for it, so it really only introduces the risk that an excess chunk of lube will clog part of the oil system. Aug 8, 2016 at 15:21
  • I would recommend AGAINST oiling the gasket where it contacts the filter. The last thing you want is for the gasket to remain on the engine when you remove the filter. I've seen this happen a couple of times, and the result is always the same: the oil light comes on at the most inopportune time (like at night on a back road in a heavy rain) and you wind up with oil sprayed everywhere from the junction of the two gaskets.
    – TMN
    Aug 8, 2016 at 19:22
  • @TMN - Yah, you could get lucky and blow the dual gasket out on first startup ... but it will fail at some point, I think that's a given. Aug 8, 2016 at 20:36

You can buy special "wrench-off oil filters" which have a nut on top allowing you to remove them easily with a socket wrench. A quick search suggests they're not significantly more expensive than normal filters. This is probably the easiest solution.


It sounds like you're unintentionally overtightening the filter. When installing the new filter, oil the rubber gasket, then turn the filter onto the threaded mounting boss, just until the gasket touches the engine's sealing surface. Mark the side or the crown of the filter with a marker, or a dab of paint or correction fluid. Gently turn the filter further, by hand, until the filter has been tightened precisely to the specification listed on the filter. If necessary, use a band wrench or strap wrench to achieve that specification. Most filters are tightened 3/4 of a turn, past the point of first contact between rubber gasket, and sealing surface. Go no further than that specification. To remove a filter, use a steel band wrench, which self-adjusts to the correct size of the filter. For stubborn filters, use a cap wrench, which fits the fluted crown of the filter, and is driven by your 3/8" drive ratchet. In extreme cases, a large set of water pump pliers may be used, to grip and turn the filter off. Avoid generic filters. Their cases are made of thinner metal, and the filter media are substandard. Use a brand name filter, like AC, Fram, or Motorcraft.


I have found that if the engine is up to operating temperature the filter will be much easier to remove than with a cold engine.

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