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Some oil filters have an o-ring and can definitely be removed/replaced multiple times. This is not about those...

How about the standard flat rubber gasket type oil filters? Specific example would be the 51394 for the '90's Toyota 5S-FE engine, but same general type is used on many cars I've worked on. The gaskets on the filters that come off the car appear to be compressed compared to the new gaskets.

Why do I ask? I just did an oil change on my car and have a mystery oil leak (nowhere near the drain plug or filter of course as that would make diagnostics too easy). My best guess is that it's seeping around the oil filter gasket, and running along something for a couple feet before dropping off as the drain plug is bone dry on the outside (and easily accessible). The filter's in a horrible location, there's no way to see the "top" half of the filter adapter even with the filter off (so cleaning it during the change is done by feel). With the filter on you can't see anything and are left trying to work around a hot exhaust and oil filter with a rag trying to determine if any oil is leaking. So, I want to know if it's safe to remove the filter (that only has 2 minutes of run time on it), re-clean surfaces, and reinstall. Or, will I have to buy a new filter?

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Re-using the filter as you describe should not be an issue. Clean the rubber o-ring off (paper towel or clean shop rag should do the trick without injuring it), then reapply clean oil to it and it should seal again. There is one caveat ... if it's the oil filter itself which is leaking, all bets are off. If you're going to pull the oil filter off, ensure the o-ring from the previous filter wasn't left behind when it was pulled during the oil change. Also, check the condition of the o-ring itself. If it was over tightened and crushed, it could be leaking.

  • Gasket from the previous filter came off intact and I could not feel anything on the filter adapter surface. This filter went on nicely with the specified 3/4 turn after contact (no excessive force required, went nice and smooth), so shouldn't be crushed. I'll give it another run and see if the leaking continues (just in case I managed to spill in some manner that went totally unobserved) then pull the filter, inspect, and potentially re-clean/reinstall! – Brian Knoblauch Dec 24 '17 at 13:19

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