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Stuck oil filter

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Douglas Johnston12/09/2019 09:23:38
672 forum posts
32 photos

I thought I would do an oil change on my 4 year old Ford Fiesta now the car is out of warranty. The oil filter is half way up the back of the engine with limited space around it. Got the ramps out and got the car up on them and drained the oil. All going well so far, then tried to remove the oil filter and found that a trained gorilla at the last service had put the filter on.

Try as I might the filter just could not be budged with all the weapons I threw at it. My final attempt was with one of those claw type filter removers that get tighter as you try to turn it. It did not slip but started to distort the casing and threatened to puncture it.

At this point I was well and truly stuck since I could not drive the car having emptied the oil so I did the only possible thing and added the new (expensive ) oil and left the old filter in place.

I wonder how wise this was but since I only do around 4000 miles a year I hope there will be no problem. Does anybody know of a good removal tool or technique for removing bashed filters since I will have to get it off next time.


Steve Skelton 112/09/2019 09:32:54
44 forum posts
2 photos

I would be very wary of starting the engine if you have distorted the spin-on filter as it may have been internally damaged and bits of filter or rubbish could get into the oil system with dire consequences.

I have had similar expeeiences removing oil filters and perseverance has usually worked. Metal band/strap rype removers usually work for me. I tend to put a rubber strip beneath the strap for extra grip without distorting the filter.

Good luck


RMA12/09/2019 09:58:09
225 forum posts
4 photos

It might have been put on without oiling the seal first, and as you say, tightened by a Gorilla! Whatever you do, don't start the engine if the distortion is bad. I would spray liberally around the seal with a good penetrating oil and give it time. I would then try and nip it a bit tighter and see if the seal can be broken, and then try and unscrew it. In the long distant past I've even drilled into the filter near the engine and put a bar in to get it to turn. These days though you have a job to get your hand anywhere near, let alone any tools.

Good luck, and let us know how you get on.

David George 112/09/2019 10:00:10
1058 forum posts
333 photos

You can get a chain wrench to wrap round and give it a bit more force.


MichaelR12/09/2019 10:05:13
350 forum posts
64 photos

Years ago when I did my own oil and filter changes if I had a stubborn filter housing I used a Chain Wrench Here my car at that time was a Ford Cortina, If you get the filter off smear the sealing ring with a bit of oil before screwing the new filter up tight this helps to stop the sticking problem.


David beat me to it 

Edited By MichaelR on 12/09/2019 10:06:03

AJW12/09/2019 10:09:48
278 forum posts
117 photos

I always use my chain wrench, works every time and even though I smear oil on the seal sometimes they still end up tight.

If the can gets crushed/destroyed it's not a problem as it's being replaced and I would second the caution regarding dislodged filter innards be on the loose!


RMA12/09/2019 10:20:52
225 forum posts
4 photos

Yes, I always use a chain wrench but they will distort the filter if it's on tight, newer filters seem to have thinner cases these days as well . Can you get a grip with something on the front of the filter where it meets the engine? This is the strongest part of the filter. Without seeing the location, it's difficult to comment further, but it's the rubber seal that's the problem. Break that at some point, lubricate with penetrating oil and it should come free.

jann west12/09/2019 10:21:14
53 forum posts

As the filter is to be replaced it can be destroyed ... i have previously hammered a screwdriver through an inaccessible filter to aid in purchase and hammered it gently to apply turning force . Ymmv

David Davies 812/09/2019 10:40:57
71 forum posts
8 photos

I have done the same as Jann, more than once. Don't get too close to the engine block with your screwdriver in case you hit the nipple that the filter screws onto. This method is not very pretty and a little messy but it works.



larry phelan 112/09/2019 11:17:12
578 forum posts
11 photos

I often wonder do the people who position these things ever try to remove them later ?

In order to get at the fuel filter in my van,one would need to be deformed.

And the oil filter is not much better placed, and yes, you would need a hand like a gorilla.

Grotto12/09/2019 11:30:13
124 forum posts
71 photos

I've used these type...


work well in some really tight spaces if you can get an extension on.

Screw driver through filter also works well but in some cars you don’t have enough space to get in.

Bazyle12/09/2019 11:42:44
4903 forum posts
195 photos

The problem starts with the designers. Nobody who actually has ever serviced a car would position the filter on its side or even worse facing up but invariably going back 100 years the head of the DO will have had a company car and free garage servicing.

I'd really like to see the programs like 'top gear' ambush a top car exec and have him do a service live on telly to teach them a lesson. However the TV presenters are also overpaid prima donnas who don't do real work either.

Bill Chugg12/09/2019 11:56:32
1004 forum posts
7 photos

It was nice and simple in the old days with a central bolt to hold them on.


Robert Atkinson 212/09/2019 12:37:13
500 forum posts
21 photos

A particular issue with modern filters is that the can is very thin (presumably to save cost and weight) so will not withstand removal forces. If you can get access, try applying impact force in the unscrewing direction to the rolled bead at the base of the filter. use a punch or blunt cold chisel. It's the strongest part of the filter I've had success with this when all else failed. If going for the punch-through method an old wood chisel is the best tool the flat side distributes the load over a bigger area than a screw driver.

Robert G8RPI.

Ian S C12/09/2019 13:02:14
7468 forum posts
230 photos

A few years back a neigbour had a similar problem changinging the filter on his partners car, and after about 4hrs into the evening he was just about to take the engine out, I went over with a big screwdriver and 10 minutes later the new filter was on.

Ian S C

RMA12/09/2019 13:14:09
225 forum posts
4 photos
Posted by larry phelan 1 on 12/09/2019 11:17:12:

I often wonder do the people who position these things ever try to remove them later ?

In order to get at the fuel filter in my van,one would need to be deformed.

And the oil filter is not much better placed, and yes, you would need a hand like a gorilla.

The problem these day's is the necessity to get the car assembled as quickly as possible. Engines have their own assembly track, sometimes in another part of the world and arrive at the car build track complete with filters and all! Thay are dropped in within seconds and they don't care about removing it! I always have my doubts when taking my car to the main agent for a service, that the filter is ever changed, as you can't see much from under the bonnet! For what I can't do myself, I use an independent garage which specializes in the make of car I own.

I expect the OP has removed it by now and is running again. If he hasn't, don't do the new one up very tight. Just a nip by hand will suffice after putting a thin film of oil on the seal, however it's always prudent to check for leaks at first start up.

RMA12/09/2019 13:23:18
225 forum posts
4 photos
Posted by 34046 on 12/09/2019 11:56:32:

It was nice and simple in the old days with a central bolt to hold them on.


Simple yes, but not without it's problems. I know of many ( me included) who didn't fit the loose rubber seal correctly, or it misplaced when offering up the filter. Result, oil everywhere on start up. They also had a small seal at the top of the bolt, and you didn't have to over tighten the thing. The modern canister is far better........if you can get to it!

Douglas Johnston12/09/2019 13:32:18
672 forum posts
32 photos

Thanks for all the replies, here are my thoughts,

(1) Too late for those that said don't run the engine. Before I changed the oil I had a good look inside the new filter I had bought as a replacement and was pretty certain that the distortion of the old filter could not have caused any internal damage. The bottom part is just empty space.

(2) The modern filters are definitely made of thinner metal. I also remember older ones being much sturdier.

(3) I did consider the screwdriver through the filter idea,but that creates a problem. What happens if it does not work; you have the car up on ramps and a punctured filter which means you can't run the engine. Apart from that the limited access would make it difficult.

(4) Yes the lack of oil on the rubber seal when fitted seems to create this problem, but you don't expect professionals to omit this during an expensive service.

(5) The only answer is probably to pay up and let another professional gorilla do the next oil change. If I do that I will look for a place that does fixed price services in case they take a while to remove the bashed filter!


ps  I will report back in a year after the next oil change If we are all still here!

Edited By Douglas Johnston on 12/09/2019 13:38:16

SillyOldDuffer12/09/2019 14:07:10
5138 forum posts
1074 photos

You could always part exchange it for an electric car! However, brutality works once it's accepted the filter is a write-off. The main problem is access, but if you can bash a screwdriver clean through the metal case it provides a lot of leverage.

Garages cheat - fit young men who have had plenty of practice equipped with a selection of good tools and a hydraulic lift.

Sam Longley 112/09/2019 14:19:07
732 forum posts
26 photos

Get some strong cord about 4-5 mm diameter. Double it over in half so one end has a loop. Wind the cord round the filter so each wind covers tightly over the last. When at the end of the cord put a stick through the loop & position the stick so it also sits on end of the cord windings to jam the cord. .The action of the stick in the loop tightens the cord round the filter

Slide the cord & stick to a convenient position.You may have to re wind starting at a different point once you know where the loop finishes up.

Jiggle it all tight then lever the stick to undo the filter.

You can do it with the cord singly & a loop tied in the end & keep winding the turns over themselves.Pull the end of the cord to get the loop in the right place then tighten up & turn with the stick.

I also have a length of webbing that fits in a half inch extension bar. I wind that round & then turn the extension bar with a ratchet handle so it tightens the webbing then turns the filter

Edited By Sam Longley 1 on 12/09/2019 14:21:20

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